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Couples and Relationships: 4 Things Couples Should Shape Up Their Mutual Finances

Handling your finances is one of the biggest metrics that determine when you’ve reached adulthood in the eyes of society, your parents, and potential romantic partners. Not having your finances in order is also something that can cause unwanted tension in a relationship, Living paycheck to paycheck has a sort of grunge appeal for those who like the starving artist lifestyle, but anyone who’s been on that diet for a while will recommend getting your act together in a big hurry.

So, whether you’re just starting a relationship, or you’re thinking about popping the question, here are 4 finance basics every couple needs to have on lockdown.

#1: Banking

Unless your wages are so low that you use check cashing services exclusively (which is a reality for a lot of people out there), you probably use a bank. And while you might think, “what’s the big deal? A bank is a bank,” they really aren’t all the same. For starters, ask if your bank requires a minimum balance to keep your account open. Look at the kinds of overdraft fees they charge, and ask if there’s an annual service fee. Lastly, if you have a money market account, or a savings account, look at what sort of interest your bank is giving you. You might be getting screwed without even thinking about it.

#2: Bills

We all know how bills work. They show up in the mail, you send them a check, and everyone’s happy. However, you might be paying a lot more for your bills simply because you’re not looking at them. For example, if you are paying a monthly car insurance or medical insurance bill, see how much money you’d save if you bought your insurance in 6 month intervals instead. That can take a chunk out of your savings for right now, but that hole will fill in pretty quickly over the next six months. Ask your power company if they give you a discount for enrolling in an automated bill paying plan, and see if your Internet provider can cut you a deal on your package. A lot of the time you can spend less just by asking.

#3: Budgeting

If you had economics in school, you know how budgeting works. You sit down, figure out how much money you make a month, and then figure out how much you spend. If you know your gym membership is $19.99 a month, you put that in your budget. If you know your Internet is $39.99 a month, you put that in your budget. Fill out all the things that are a solid fee every month first.

Once you have your known values, you assign the variables. For example, sometimes your power bill is $25, and sometimes it’s $50. You’re better off assuming that it will be $50, because that way you have money left over at the end if it’s low. The same goes for your fuel costs, and any other costs that are central to your life. After that’s figured out, you assign a value to everything else. That’s food, clothes, savings, entertainment, etc.

A word to the wise; don’t budget down to the penny if you don’t have to. A flexible budget is a forgiving budget, and you should be able to cover costs as you need to. Small costs, like a hike in gas prices or needing to get a new pair of shoes for work, anyway. Bigger costs will have to come out of savings.

#4: Plan Long-Term

This one doesn’t start with a B, but it’s no less useful. One of the keys to financial success is being able to plan for long-term goals in your life. For example, rather than buying a cheap $20 pair of work shoes every two months, buy a $60 pair of work shoes that will last for several years. Rather than buying fast food for lunch every day, buy bulk food you can eat for weeks.

A lot of this seems like common sense, but it’s surprising how much money we save once we start knuckling down on our in-the-moment pleasures, and keep our eyes on the long-term prize.

Discussing personal financesAttempting to broach any serious conversation with a loved one can lead to major anxiety depending on the topic at hand. Over the years, it has become more accepted to have frank discussions regarding a litany of subjects that were, at one time, considered too sensitive to approach.

The money discussion seems to have remained the steadfast untouchable topic among some. However, open and honest discussion about money issues with friends and family doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable chore.   Here are some easy-to-follow tips on opening up the lines of communication about money with those nearest and dearest to you.

  1. Start Slow – You may want to ease into the money conversation, especially with regards to older family members who may not be as open to frank money discussions. Maybe bring up a recent news item that is topical and could lead to a deeper discussion about money matters.
  2. Remember You Are Not Alone – Money stress and worries are very common. It may surprise you to find that issues you are grappling with are issues for those you love as well. Finding common ground can help the discussion stay friendly and useful for all involved.
  3. Stay on Point – When discussing something as personal as finances, it can be easy to veer off topic or begin to accuse or object. You may find that breaking the talk up into smaller talks held over a longer period of time is more effective.
  4. Comparison is the Thief of Joy – Try to avoid comparing your financial situation with that of your loved one. We all have our own stories and we may be only receiving one side. Focus on your own situation in the midst of money discussions. If your discussion is one of concern or an attempt to help your loved one, try to remain focused on their current financial fitness and your role as listener.

The goal in any potentially awkward discussion is to remain focused, calm, and reasonable. This is important even in the face of a discussion partner who may not always approach things the same way. If a discussion begins to go “south” it is probably best to take a step back and attempt to address the issue at a later date.   Money discussions do not have to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. If you concentrate on the purpose behind the discussion and the connections you have (and want to maintain) with those involved in the conversation, the result can be win-win for everyone.

How Traditional Male-Female Roles Affect Men After a Divorce

male-female roles affect men after divorceTraditionally, men have been breadwinners while women have taken care of the home. However, nowadays, things are changing within the system. And although it’s rare to find a situation in which the man stays home and looks after the kids while the woman goes out to work, it’s at least become quite common to see both partners working and having careers while they’re also raising children. Still, the fact that men tend to spend more time out of the home affects them when it comes to a divorce.

How Overworking Leads Into a Divorce

First of all, you may often find that overworking is the cause of a divorce. Men feel so much pressure to provide for their partners and children that they push themselves to the point of overworking, thus spending very little time with their families.

The precipitating event which leads into the divorce may be something more dramatic like infidelity but the underlying reason is often that men just don’t spend enough time with their spouses, fulfilling their emotional and physical needs. And, as a result, they may feel that their own physical and emotional needs aren’t being met either.

Both partners are starved for love and affection by the time a divorce comes around. The situation has become so dire that there’s no way to remedy it and a further split becomes necessary.

Feelings of Loneliness After a Divorce

Of course, there’s going to be intense feelings of loneliness after a divorce—something which men may not expect because they’ve lived alone before and they think that they can go back to it in a snap. But the absence of a partner and children, the absence of noise within a home, the absence of family meals no matter how noisy and irritating they seemed earlier is difficult and makes them feel isolated.

The fact is that children usually go with the mother after a divorce; the father only sees them on the weekends. So whereas women might lose the presence of one person in their life, men often lose the presence of more than one.

Practical Adjustments After a Divorce

Men may also have to adjust to a new living situation—possibly a smaller house or apartment than they had before. Additionally, they start realizing that they relied on their spouse to do certain things within the house, such as, possibly, cooking. Often, it’s only after a divorce that they realize how much thought goes into the preparation of a meal. So in addition to an emotional upheaval, men also have to adjust to the practical issues surrounding living alone.

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