Money Talks: 10 Steps to Financial Harmony

Physicians already have enough stress in their working lives without having to worry about finances at home. Talk openly and regularly with your spouse or partner about finances, acknowl­edging different styles, says Olivia Mellan,1 money psychologist and author of Money Harmony.

Follow Mellan’s 10 suggestions for successful conversations about money:

  1. Pick a low-stress time to talk. Never broach this topic during a fight.
  2. List motivations for fixing your money problems. Is it for your family, for your future?
  3. Discuss how you were raised to use (or abuse) money, and how this influences the way you spend now.
  4. Don’t interrupt. Support your partner and listen attentively.
  5. Share worries about your spouse’s spending style, but praise it too. If you say overspending scares you, follow up by explaining that you also appreciate your spouse’s generosity.
  6. Focus on the positive. If tension grows, go back to number five and brighten the mood.
  7. Discuss and set goals together. Go over ways to tai­lor your spending tendencies to meet future expectations.
  8. Make separate lists of the expenses you each want merged or combined, and then diplomatically merge your lists.
  9. Everyone—married or single—should develop a “spending plan,” which is, in effect, a budget cloaked by a name that overspenders won’t automatically resist.
  10. Reward yourselves appropriately for any progress. If the spending plan is a success, splurge a little. But don’t go crazy and fall off the bandwagon.

Creating a habit, such as agreeing not to make purchas­es over a certain price, is a good start, Mellan says. Make decisions together, and revisit your financial situation reg­ularly. Meet with a fee-only planner for an annual money checkup, she adds.

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