Happy Valentine's Day and Our Musings on Love...


What is it? Are you in it? Have you lost it? Have you given up on it? Or perhaps you’re still looking for it? Given that today is Valentine’s Day, I am going to ask your patience as I take a rambling musing on the topics of love...and money. At The Property Mentors, much of what we do could be described as financial psychology. We spend a lot of time working with our members helping them to better understand their relationship with money, their partners, and their life goals. According to research group McCrindle, nearly 120,000 Australians will choose to get married every year — and divorces have dipped below 50,000 per year. 1 And that is just using the currently official, narrow definition of marriage, excluding all the same sex couples who would like to marry, but can’t. Despite their optimism, one in three marriages still don’t make it, and one in five people will marry multiple times trying to find their ideal partner. 2

Knights In Shining Armour & Stepford Wives…

Fairy tales like Snow White and Cinderella have contributed to societal norms that have us believe in “The Dream”. If we can but find our ideal partner, all the problems in our lives will disappear...and we will live in eternal happiness. And please don’t get me wrong — I don’t want to sound cynical here — there are couples who find each other and live happily ever after.

But are they in the majority, or the happy minority?

Is being married, or in a de facto relationship, the key to personal happiness? And should the fantasy of the “fairy tale marriage” be the implicit social contract that we all sign up for? Or does that set us up for false hope and bitter disappointment? Interestingly, a 10-year survey of marriages and de facto relationships in Australia conducted by Household, Income and Labour Dynamics has concluded that women are less satisfied with their relationships than men are. Overall, on a scale of zero to 10, married men rated their relationship 8.5 and married women give it an 8.2. Granted, that doesn’t seem like such a difference — but with a large sample group, that becomes pretty significant. For de facto couples, the ratings are slightly higher at 8.6 and 8.3, respectively About 90% of married couples are still together after four years — compared to 74% of de facto couples. After 11 years, about 80% of married couples are still together — while only 60% of de facto couples were still together. Reading through the list below of what makes men and women happy or unhappy, it would seem the keys to happiness are:
  • Don't smoke (both sexes)
  • Don’t go to university (both sexes)
  • Don’t have kids (both sexes)
  • Be in good health and emotionally stable (both sexes)
  • Stay at home (for females)
  • Don’t live past 40 (for males) or 50 (for females)
Not too many options open, are there? Certainly not the standard choices, at any rate! 35

The Statistics on Marriage & Divorce: 100% of divorces begin with marriage

According to research conducted by legal firm Slater & Gordon, the most common age to get a divorce is between the ages of 40 and 44. But an average couple will spend up to 24 months thinking about divorce before pulling the pin. 9 Interestingly, according to the 1000 people surveyed by Slater & Gordon, money problems ranked as only the #10 reason for divorce. This is at odds with other research which has shown for example that:
  • Disagreement over finances is a stronger predictor of divorce than other commonly cited causes of marital disagreements.
  • 7 out of 10 couples report that money causes tension in their relationships.
  • Couples fight about money twice as much as they fight about sex, according to a "Money Magazine" survey.
  • 1 in 5 Americans in a relationship say they have spent $500 or more and not told their partner, and 6% maintain secret accounts or credit cards.
Yet no marriage ends because of money. 7

Money is never the disease; it’s always a symptom that a relationship is not working properly.

If you believe that money is the root of all evil, then by default you must also agree that money is the root of all good, as they are just opposite ends of the same spectrum. Money may be best thought of as a magnifier. That is, if you are by nature a good person, having more money allows you to do more good and vice versa. Therefore, the better order your personal finances are in, the less likely you are to stress about the things you can’t do. Also, the more time you have to focus on all the good things you can do! When we start speaking with couples for the first time, one of the things we need to bring to light, is who is actually in control of the purse strings. For example, issues like:
  • Does one partner earn significantly more than the other? What emotions can this bring up: dependence, power, resentment?
  • Who makes decisions about how the income is spent? Are your spending habits similar? Who controls the family budgets and rules about big ticket items?
  • Are investments a joint decision, or made by one partner only?
  • Are your financial goals even compatible? Do you want the same things? Have you discussed this in a real way and set financial goals together? Is a compromise required?
Borrowing from the teachings of Stephen Covy in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we advise all our members to look at both independence and interdependence:

Independence is The Paradigm of I

  • I can do it
  • I am 100% responsible
  • I am self-reliant

Interdependence is The Paradigm of We

  • We can do it
  • We can cooperate
  • We can combine our talents, energy, and abilities to create something greater together.
Interdependence is a choice only independent people can make. Interdependence must be chosen willingly. It all starts with the belief that the synergistic advantages of coming together for our mutual benefit far outweigh any adaptive challenges that we will face by coming together. However, simply coming together is not enough. All sorts of groups come together, but that alone is not a precursor to success. For example, we may aspire to be more like a professional sports team, rather than an under 12’s recreational team. Each part of a professional sports team must work together like a Swiss watch in order for everyone to gain the maximal benefit. And whilst each “player” should be independently great in their own right, it is only by working as a team that the very best results can be achieved. So this Valentine’s Day, if you are in a relationship, we urge you to:
  • communicate with your partner
  • consciously re-affirm your commitments to each other
  • realign your goals together.
If you are not in a relationship (and strive to be), then ask yourself this: “What am I doing on a daily, weekly, and annual basis to make myself more attractive to my ideal partner?” Setting goals, both personal and financial, can be challenging for some people. If you would like help redesigning your life, improving your financial position, and generally being happier, then why not give us a call? We are here to help! References: http://mccrindle.com.au/the-mccrindle-blog/marriages-in-australia http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-survey-says--women-are-less-happy-with-their-relationships-than-men-are-20150714-gibxpj.html https://www.relationships.org.au/what-we-do/research/online-survey/august-2015-impact-of-financial-problems-on-relationships http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2553103/Spike-divorces-triggered-couples-rowing-money-recession.html http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/25/divorce-survey_n_5029740.html https://www.relationships.org.au/what-we-do/research/online-survey/august-2015-impact-of-financial-problems-on-relationships http://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/09/marriage-killing-money-issues.asp http://www.kevinathompson.com/people-get-divorced-money/ http://www.cnbc.com/2015/02/04/money-is-the-leading-cause-of-stress-in-relationships.html

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