Magazine article Ebony

HOW COUPLES CAN AVOID Fighting over Money

Magazine article Ebony

HOW COUPLES CAN AVOID Fighting over Money

Article excerpt

Experts say communication is the key

IT's all about the Benjamins," baby. "God Bless the Child" who's got his own. "First I look at the purse."

From Billie Holiday to Puff Daddy, with some Motown stops in-between, African-American couples have money on their minds. And the word on the streets and in boardrooms is that without adequate finance and, more importantly, without joint decisions on how the household finance is earned, distributed and invested, romance becomes very rocky indeed.

In order to make sweet music together as a couple, experts advise new partners to take stock of their financial compatibility. While opposites may attract in the bedroom, financial opposites who join together for better or worse will find the worse much sooner than the better.

"It's really important for couples to assess what their partners' money personality is," says Kelvin Boston, author of Smart Money Moves for African Americans and host and executive producer of PBS' Moneywise with Kelvin Boston television series. Specifically, he says, you should know whether your partner is a "saver or a spender; someone who likes to share or someone who doesn't."

Examining early attitudes at)out money can help get to the heart of many financial issues, he says. "Because many people just assume the savings and investment and money management habits of their parents," Boston adds, "a good place to begin is the partner's family background. Do the parents own their own home or business? Do they invest in the stock market? These are the types of things you should discuss."

It's absolutely vital to the relationship to establish an open communication about money matters, say clinical psychologists Derek Hopson and Darlene Powell Hopson, authors of Friends, Lovers and Soul Mates--A Guide to Better Relationships Between Black Men and Black Women. The couple have been married for 14 years, have two children, and are currently working on a book about team-parenting.

"Inevitably we're going to have conflicts about money," Hopson says. "It's really about how do we resolve them and how do we communicate about it."

In their practice, the Hopsons often begin counseling by asking couples to examine their financial backgrounds and those of their parents. Early experience sets the tone for how most people handle their money and how they are reacting to money issues in their relationship.

And often what the couple is fighting about, experts say, is not about money, but control, intimacy and trust--and other psychological problems masquerading as financial management issues. Some of the issues have to do with security and with deprivation, others with people becoming materialistic as a way of boosting their self-esteem.

"Basically we think that underlying the issue of financial management is really your level of intimacy, trust, openness and communication," says Powell Hopson.

The money relationships between affluent couples can turn into a control issue. "Some men feel they should have more to say in the relationship because they are bringing in such a big paycheck, and that's an unfortunate thing because it does set up this power struggle where one person does feel valued less," says Hopson.

The problem can be acute when the woman earns substantially more than her mate. "It's not always fair to say we'll split things 50-50, regardless of whether it's the man or the woman earning more," says Boston. "Couples should use a percentage; this year someone might be doing 40 and someone else 60; next year it could be reversed and they have to make adjustments every year."

Some celebrity couples who have large sums of money use money as a power and control issue in their marriage, the Hopsons say. "Some people feel like if I have the power then I can dictate what you do, and I can treat you in ways that are condescending or inferior," Powell Hopson adds. …

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