Overspending, underspending. Spending on the wrong things. Saving or not saving for retirement. Often, the money issues in a relationship are fixable, but they can result in divorce and financial ruin if identified too late.
Certified financial planner Jeff Motske has written a helpful, very readable money book to help stave off these problems. In The Couple’s Guide to Financial Compatibility: Avoid Fights about Spending and Saving — and Build a Happy and Secure Future Together, Motske does not get into great detail about any one financial aspect — and that may be part of the book’s appeal. Instead, Motske provides helpful, fundamental information for all stages of life, whether the reader is younger, older, or retired. The guide could be especially helpful for those who don’t consider themselves to be financially savvy or those who are wary of the world of finance.
Motske has the credentials: a successful company, Trilogy Financial, founded in 1999 and now with more than 150 employees and multiple offices. One of the points he repeats throughout the book is the importance of regular and open conversation among couples about financial matters. He writes that he and his wife have a “date night” once a month to do that just that. While this may sound boring to some, it seems to work for them. The when and where aren’t as important as simply making money a regular topic of conversation, not just a topic that comes up in a crisis.
The introduction alone is worth the price of the book. Motske provides a quiz with thirty-four questions to help determine the financial compatibility of a couple. Because open communication is a must, Motske writes that the reader should share and discuss the quiz results with their partner.
Motske helps the reader think about their lifestyle and values — what they want to use money for; risk, meaning investing and debt; trust — how one shares one information and is honest with one’s partner; and planning, including saving, budgeting, and retirement.
The book goes somewhat in chronological order, starting with topics aimed largely at younger couples (though much of the information is applicable at any age for those who have not paid much attention to money and plans). Debt is an important topic. What are good debt and bad debt, and how should one find balance? Motske covers investing, though in a surface-level way. With so many books available on the topic, this is only intended to help to provide an introduction to get started.
Housing preferences, life insurance, having children and college planning all come up, too. They would each be great topics for lengthy conversation between spouses.
Motske discusses the challenges of the “sandwich generation” and delves into retirement. Although he doesn’t create a retirement template, he does offer important questions to ask in developing a plan. Estate planning comes up in a final chapter, including why a plan is critically important for anyone with money, possessions, or children.
Because Motske addresses money topics for so many different age groups, there may be better options out there for people looking for greater depth for their particular stage in life. But The Couple’s Guide to Financial Compatibility would be a good place for anyone to start.
The Couple’s Guide to Financial Compatibility: Avoid Fights about Spending and Saving — and Build a Happy and Secure Future Together
Da Capo Lifelong Books, March 2015
Paperback, 256 pages