5 ways a financial advisor is just like a marriage counsellor

couple holding hands

American actress Mae West reportedly said that love conquers all things except poverty and toothache …

“It was time to get things sorted”

While it’s fair to say that dentistry has improved since she first uttered these words, it remains true that money concerns can put a strain on any loving relationship.

Recently my husband and I decided to see a financial advisor. We have gone through our own fair share of financial strain and stress – and it had its impact on our marriage. It was time to get things sorted. I was expecting it to be dry, boring and difficult to understand. The experience itself was very different, and more like counselling than any lesson in financial management.

Here’s how our trip through fiscal planning worked as marriage counselling for us:

1. We had to articulate our joint values

When Daniel and I first fell in love, we didn’t nut out our core values. We were in our thirties, having a good time and getting to know each other. We also didn’t talk about our values before we got married, or had kids (both optimum times to talk about such things, according to psychologists everywhere).

We’ve recently discovered that our joint values are essential to financial planning. Once you articulate what’s important to you in life, it becomes clear where your money needs to go to support those values.

It only took sixteen years for us to talk about our values, but we got there eventually!


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2. We had to seriously consider the future

When your kids are small, it can feel like you’re living day-to-day. Who considers what will be happening in 20, 30 or even 40 years time when you’re dealing with poonami’s and sleepless nights? A financial advisor forces you to lift your head above the clouds and imagine what the future might look like.

Suddenly we were considering retirement and the legacy that we’ll be leaving our kids. It made us realise that our marriage is for the long haul, and that if we put in a bit of planning and hard work, the future can look bright.

Couple sitting in front of sunset

3. We don’t always need to agree, but we do need to communicate

My husband and I don’t value the same material things. He’d spend a wage on guitars if given the chance. I’m more a haircut, clothing and present-buying kind of girl.

He doesn’t spend much money. I do. You can see the problem here.

The advisor made us itemise what we spend money on, without judgment. He said the solution was to manage our cash flow. Part of this process is agreeing on an equal fortnightly stipend for each of us, and having a joint account that deals with all the bills.

Now my money will be mine again, to spend as I see fit. Neither of us will be in a position to complain about the other spending too much money.

One recurring fight is now resolved.

4. It gives you each time to speak

Much like couple’s counselling, when you’re speaking with a financial advisor, you each get your chance to speak.

It may be the first time you’ve been able to articulate why planning an annual holiday is so important for your mental health, or why you only want to return to full time work once the kids are at high school.

We enjoyed talking about what was important to us, and why. Then together we were able to work out our priorities and come up with a plan.

5. It’s a cliche, but hard work does pay off

I was hoping that a financial advisor would be like waving a magic wand and all the financial ‘stuff’ in our lives would be sorted. And while we did get great advice, and a plan to put in place, none of it will work without concerted effort.

We both need to be able to communicate clearly about what’s going on, and what’s important to us.

Seeing the plan through is going to take work. There is no room to be lazy, we can’t file things in the back of our brains to look at later.

Which is bit like … marriage.

And while Mae West had her own, complicated relationship with the institution of marriage, there is one quote of hers that sums up my experience of financial advice, and how it relates to marriage: “You only live life once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

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