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Money Matters with Nimi: Discovering Financial Intimacy



27 year-old Kemi is a lawyer. She works in a Lagos based law firm.  She is engaged to 32-year old Emeka who recently returned to Nigeria after having worked in the United States for 4 years. He is “into oil and gas.” They had a whirlwind engagement and a lavish wedding; the wedding planner considered even the minutest detail. However, there was one crucial piece of planning that they completely overlooked; that was planning for their financial future together.

Emeka had booked a wonderful honeymoon at a five-star resort in Dubai. The first sign of trouble was when his card was declined in a bookstore at the airport; for the rest of the holiday Kemi had to pay for everything with her card. Sadly, Emeka hadn’t disclosed that he owed $35,000, had not paid overdue rent on his Lagos apartment and had just received quit notice from his landlord, car payments on his jeep had lapsed and he faced repossession, and his company had a non performing loan with a local bank. The honeymoon was over.

How do you define financial intimacy?
We are all in one form of a relationship or the other; a relationship with a parent, spouse, partner, child, friend, sibling, employer, employee; we all know how important money conversations can be and also how awkward they get if not handled well. There are various reasons why money conversations can put us under some strain; reasons include – loss of income, one person spending too much, different attitudes toward money.

Financial intimacy is about having the ability to be open and trusting about money matters in your relationship. Unfortunately, many couples do not enjoy this experience; in fact many feel vulnerable and unsafe and tend to be secretive and hide the true picture of their finances from their partner. So many couples have serious and recurring arguments about money; indeed money issues have been cited as being a leading cause of marital and relationship palaver.

What is your attitude to money?
Money has been a subject that has traditionally been swept under the carpet and it was considered improper to talk about it. Attitudes to money are formed very early on in life; you may not even realize the full effect of your childhood experiences, circumstances, and your parent’s attitude towards money. Was money a highly sensitive topic? This could make you very reticent about talking about money. Were your parents frugal, disciplined savers, or were they spendthrifts?

Are you dating?
Before you commit to a life long relationship, try to determine how your partner handles the bigger issues of real life, including their financial matters and lifestyle. Discuss your dreams and goals. If your individual goals coincide, it makes it much easier to accomplish them. If they are in conflict, see if it is possible for you to accommodate the differences assuming that there are enough common goals to build a solid future together. Money will be involved in almost everything you aspire to do in your lives together, so it is important that your goals are in synch or at least are compatible.

Are you engaged?
Don’t go overboard with your wedding costs and certainly don’t go into debt over the wedding. It is more important to focus on your lives together than on the lavish party. If you can’t afford a huge wedding now, have something simple and tasteful; you can always celebrate again when you can afford it.

Set aside as much as you can from your monetary wedding gifts to invest in your future plans to raise a family, own your own home or business. You will probably need to review your investments as your goals come together. With the assets your partner brings into the relationship, you may achieve some investment flexibility that you could not have otherwise achieved while you were single.

Merging your financial lives
Every couple must find a structure that works for them. Be guided more by what suits your individual personalities, talents or skills and not by gender. You must decide who will be responsible for paying certain bills, taking the lead in the family finances and so on.

Remember, you are two different people with different attitudes. One of you might be a saver whilst the other is a big spender. If you like to manage your own money and be in control of your financial affairs and you are very focused and success oriented and are in a relationship with someone who is financially immature or maybe even irresponsible with money, this could lead to conflict.

Will you have separate or joint accounts or a combination of the two? Having a joint account to cover routine household expenses combined with individual accounts for personal expenses is a good compromise as each partner takes some responsibility for the household budget, yet is still able to retain some autonomy.

Have you remarried?
Money matters may well have been one of the major problems in your previous marriage. As far as possible or appropriate, share those differences with your new partner so they have a better understanding of your concerns. It is important to discuss in advance how responsibilities will be shared regarding any children from previous marriages that might live with you and how their expenses will be handled. Prenuptial agreements might be considered in some circumstances.

Difficulties with communication lie at the root of some of the distressing financial issues that couples face. Just being able to communicate about money in an easy, healthy way can help ease tensions. Remember however, that each relationship is different and it is important for you to understand the vagaries of your own relationship in informing your actions and what is best for you.

Valentine’s Day and Money Matters
Did you know that Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas when it comes to spending your hard earned money? The societal pressure surrounding Valentines Day is mounting and starts even before we have recovered from the Christmas excesses. Valentines Day is big business: the day has become a day that is filled with pressure and obligations to overspend. The truth is that you can celebrate your relationship without breaking the bank.

Whatever your status, do not feel pressured into disrupting your finances this Valentine’s Day. Match expectations to your budget and indeed to the stage of your relationship. If finances are stretched, try to build into your social life, activities that don’t involve huge expense. Cooking a special meal at home, going out for a walk, having a picnic in the park or at the beach, watching a movie, playing a board game, are just a few ways of enjoying quality time without spending a lot of money. You can give gifts and cards that are thoughtful and precious without them being expensive.

Our society tends to put excessive pressure on single people, particularly women, to be married whether or not they are single by choice or by circumstance. Many single women are thus left feeling left out on Valentines Day. Remember that this is just another day to celebrate with those you love, not necessarily romantically.

Valentine’s Day has become so brazenly commercial that it has lost some of its essence. The day should not be all about money; it should be about thoughtful and kind gestures, as well as spending quality time with loved ones where possible. What matters most every day of our lives and not just on February 14, is that you feel loved, protected, and respected by those that you love, and that you show them that they are loved and cherished in return.

Happy Valentines Day!

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Atholpady

Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private wealth management. She seeks to empower people regarding their finances and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance.