Why financial 'fairness' can be a losing game in your marriage

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Striving for 50/50 fairness in your marriage—especially when it comes to money—can be an unfortunate approach, according to a new book. 80/80 Marriage: A New Model for Relationships.

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Reflecting on moments from their own marriages and interviews with couples across the country, co-authors Nate and Kelly Klemp provide several examples of how the search for “equality” in various domestic domains—from child-rearing to From meal planning to money management — more often than not it’s score-keeping and frustration.

As an alternative, the co-authors encourage readers to strive for “radical generosity” and “shared success,” where each person goes above and beyond to contribute more than their fair share.


The Clamps recently closed so money To share insights from his book. Below, they provide specific steps for mastering the money matters in your relationship using their new framework.

Values ​​before roles

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Radical generosity suggests that when you give more it will prompt your partner to give more, leading to a reciprocal habit of over-delivering, which will ideally be almost contagious. This will make you feel “on par” with your partner. But it is important to verify that you are delivering something that is important.

For example, you may believe that dedicating time and effort to managing your accumulated investments is useful. You review your portfolio for hours a month. But could outsourcing that task to a robo advisor free up your time to support in-house other areas that both you and the partner consider of high importance? A Passive Investing Strategy Can Be Even More Profitable (According to Some) studies)

Before assigning yourself a special financial role in your relationship, it’s worthwhile to have a conversation about shared values, expectations, and priorities.

“That way you’ll know you’re winning together,” says Nate.

From there, assigning each person specific roles — from budgeting to managing monthly bills — can help you stay organized and accountable, and ensure that both people feel they have a voice. and contributing to a shared financial life.

Beware the ‘reluctant partner’

Do you like to be in control? Do you sometimes fail to complicate your partner in financial matters? This sort of thing can cause some people to be reluctant to check out and contribute. “The fundamental problem of modern marriage is that there is often one over-contributor and one under-contributor—and the under-contributor in the form of this reluctant partner, who is reluctant to contribute or work on the marriage in the same way, “Says Nate.

And it can lead to resentment, as the Klemps discovered in their marriage.

“Cali ran our family’s financial show,” Nate continued. “In the beginning she was not only the primary earner, but she was the one who knew all the numbers and all the checkbooks and accounts and things like that. She resented me for not helping, but there was also this weird dynamic where I didn’t really get a chance [to play a role],” he said.

One key to avoiding this is to catch yourself in the act. Schedule monthly check-ins to review your financial goals and make sure someone who is “over-contributing” asks for help before resentment or stress builds up.

fall back on the structure

One of the key principles we learned is that, when it comes to power imbalances arising from money, the key tool you can use to bring it back into balance is structure,” says Nate. .

Structures will vary between relationships – but this may include working with a financial planner who can facilitate dialogue and keep the two of you on the same page and moving toward your goals. Is. Delegating responsibilities, holding recurring meetings and automating bills are all healthy ways to incorporate structure into your shared financial system.

Working together can also help. “Many couples, for example, find that creating a budget, where both partners play an equal role in structuring it, helps neutralize these power dynamics,” Nate says.

Open at least one joint account

Whether one is a big earner or not, one way to work towards a mutual sense of financial success is to have a shared savings account.Here are a couple we recommend) You can take what Kemps calls an “all-in” approach or a more incremental approach, where you share some accounts but leave others separate. You can also experiment with a “shared pot,” which you both pay proportionately, assuming you have a dual-income household.

Salary should not overpower

We compare money to power in the business world. But in a personal relationship, that kind of thinking can be counterproductive and unhealthy. As the earner in my own marriage, I have fallen victim to some of my own unconscious biases about what money means. I used to believe that making final decisions on big financial decisions meant doing more. That’s how my father, who was the main breadwinner in my family, finally got the operation done. But that mindset was based on archaic gender norms—and I literally had to take myself out of it. All this is to say, the sooner you let go of assumptions about “the meaning of money” in terms of your power, status, or control over your relationship, the faster you can work toward a level playing field. can do what seems appropriate.

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