Valentine festivities: Personal finance for lovers

When you are newlyweds, it is easy to relax and spend extra income on luxuries but before you know it, the family will grow and subsequently the financial obligations too

Every year, the February Valentine festivities seem to cause a stir in social discourse in our nation. Businesses capitalise on this “love holiday” and inadvertently add to the social pressure by running Valentine-themed sales.

By Shalom Govero

With social media being used for business and pleasure, a social discourse ensues which brings interesting issues to the surface. Thankfully, the social media hashtags have led to so many conversations around money in relationships. It’s an interesting conversation because there are many assumptions that both men and women have when approaching money decisions.

One of the reasons why money conversations between men and women in Zimbabwe bring out extremely different perspectives is rooted in two things: culture and the colonial heritage.

Firstly, one of the reasons for the cultural practice of lobola is to show if the man can take care of the wife that he is marrying. This sets up the man as the breadwinner with considerable responsibility to take care of his family’s financial needs.

Then urbanisation during colonial days saw many black men living in the towns while the women lived in the village taking care of the children.

Therefore, most men provided the family finances in their totality and by default, set the tone in terms of how money was spent in the home. However, our society and the global economy have shifted considerably.

Men and women now live together in cities, compete in the marketplace and earn money meant for family needs.

I have several friends that have fully taken care of the family’s financial needs after their husbands lost their jobs. This means we have to learn money management together as couples if we are to see progress in our family finances.

Notably, money is a complex and unnerving topic for those in romantic relationships. However, it’s a crucial conversation to have. In married relationships, finances can cause stress, discord, and even divorce. The strain of managing finances coupled with the external influences of family and society can take its toll on married couples.

Firstly, understand that you come into marriage carrying money traumas, differing money habits, and money philosophies.

Most of us will marry or be in love with someone who comes from a different financial background and this has implications on how we approach money matters.

This means we should be extremely cautious in the tone we use when we discuss finances. Knowing each other’s levels of financial knowledge and money beliefs will help us to be patient with each other when we approach money decisions.

Secondly, there are practical things you can do to reduce money induced conflict.

Expose each other to personal finance learning platforms.

You can do this in many ways — depending on your learning methods.

You can attend a money talk or financial management workshop together. These days, you can organise a money talk with your church or community group facilitated by a financial trainer. Furthermore, the internet is awash with short courses, quizzes, and online seminars that you can participate in together.

As you listen to a more knowledgeable and neutral person tackling money issues, you can deal with sticky money issues from a pragmatic perspective. Back in 2017, my husband and I did a money management course. It helped us to establish structure in our finances.

It helped us to develop family goals and come up with projects to finance them. When you get married, you are building a life that is beyond just yourself. This is why it is important to embrace similar values when it comes to money. These values are learned as you expose yourself to expert financial knowledge. The knowledge you receive will formulate the foundation that you can build practical money habits.

Make an annual date — at the start of the year preferably — where you talk about your dreams and goals for the year.

If you want to plan your finances together, you need to start by dreaming together. Agree on what you will focus on as the year begins.

Your power is in your agreement. I have labelled this “a date” because it’s meant to be a non-threatening conversation.

Due to the pressure of life around us, it’s easy to neglect to dream together. Intentionally set aside time for this because planning finances together becomes difficult if you have not bought into a similar vision.

Before you spend, plan!

I know life is hectic especially if you have children and family responsibilities. Sometimes the month ends and you cannot wait for the salary to hit your account.

However, you need to purposefully set aside time to discuss your budget. Even if you split how payments are done, do the budget together. It will encourage transparency and accountability in your spending.

Walk into a bank (once lockdown is over) or go online to check banking products available for family finances.

Information and financial advice is freely given. It’s your right as a consumer to ask for it.

Have conversations around securing your financial plan from life’s eventualities.

Death and sickness can ruin your finances. So what plan do you have in place for covering medical expenses or death? Furthermore, is your property secured in a Will or Trust in the event of either of you dying? This is a necessary conversation especially if you have children.

Start early in marriage.

This is important for those who have just gotten married. When you are newlyweds, it is easy to relax and spend extra income on luxuries but before you know it, the family will grow and subsequently the financial obligations too.

So start working on building your financial capacity as soon as you are married. Save, invest, start a project, buy land, start building wealth early — do not wait until you have children to wake up to financial responsibilities.

Bring money conversations to the kitchen table, including your children.

Many of us grew up in homes that did not talk about money besides the typical statements such as, “there is no money for such,” or “money doesn’t grow on trees”.

Furthermore, due to the massive losses that many endured in the economic meltdowns of yesteryears, money conversations can uncover traumas that require courage to face.

However, our children are living in a fast-changing world with various opportunities to earn, save, invest and trade on a global scale.

Let’s expose them to as much as we can through games, books, podcasts, and simple video explainers. They will have better outcomes if they learn about money early.

After one of our money management workshops, one man decided to start budgeting with his children. It helped the children to see how money decisions are made practically.

There are numerous benefits of harnessing combined finances towards wealth building. Depending on the parties involved, the accountability that is found in married relationships can make it easier to secure credit for projects or mortgages.

Pooling resources together can also make it faster to achieve big goals.

◆ Shalom Govero is a financial literacy trainer at www.thefinancewiz.co. You can contact her on +263 776372317.