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Politics of money: ‘Honey, my money is mine, but yours is ours’

Joint accounts do not necessarily mean there will be harmony in the union. [iStockphoto]

When two people come together as a couple, it is almost automatic that such a relationship brings down their boundaries to ensure they commit to each other. But such boundaries cannot be brought down without discussing money – a thorny issue in many romantic relationships.

While many couples have joint accounts to minimise conflicts or show how willing they are to jell, experts note that such a move does not necessarily mean there will be harmony in the union.

It is not about just jelling together per se but also respecting each other’s money boundaries. First, before even money is discussed as a couple, they need to determine how serious the relationship is.

Noni Kihagi, founder Mirror Wealth Coaching says how you view money differs if one is in platonic relationship or one that is leading to marriage.

When one is in plutonic one, there are some money behaviours that may not be as necessary compared to when the couple is intentional about marriage.

During the dating phase, Kihagi advises that you should pay attention on how much your partner is spending. For a platonic relationship, each person may foot their own bill and this should not be an issue. If you are looking into a long term partnership, and your partner volunteers to pay, it is important to observe if they are comfortable footing the bill.

Perpetual borrowers

You should also watch out if your partner is the kind that sends texts requesting for money promising to pay back. These small behaviours, Kihagi says, should be noted and addressed slowly.

“For instance, if you notice your partner is always asking you for money, but then they are also living a particular lifestyle, taking you to a five-star hotel; that is a red flag,” says Kihagi.

“Ideally, if you are in a relationship, you are looking at it long term, if you do not address such, you will have to address it in the future when there is more at stake,” she adds.

Failure to observe money and spending traits and addressing them may lead to a more complicated relationship.

"A lot of relationships when it comes to money do not go wrong, they start wrong,” says Amos Ngahu, a financial coach.

Ngahu says at the initial stage of the relationship, the couple should hold simple discussions.

“Not complex of how much you earn or even your mobile money statements,” explains Ngahu.

“I want us to discuss if we started to date on serious note, I can afford Sh6,000 for a plan this month, and her she can afford like Sh3,000 so in total you have Sh9,000. How do you plan with that for a date? Who is more excited about going out who can plan for it better?”

Start with small steps

"You start with small steps: can we agree on the Sh9,000. As you advance you realise over time, you are now doing things in agreement,” he says.

Ngahu notes that there is this notion that as a couple, you must do things together.

“…you may have a joint bank account but that does not mean you are doing things in agreement. I think it should start with “do we agree on the smaller amount of money that we want to spend?” and I feel that should be the foundation for any couple that wants to date,” he says.

Not a competition

When it comes to making money decisions as a couple, Kihagi says it should not turn out to be a competition that if one partner has to lose in order for the other to gain.

“One of the things couples need to do is dream together. What exactly are these things that we want to achieve as a couple? What are our aspirations? Where do we see ourselves in five to ten years?” Kihagi poses.

"If we agree on the path, it is very easy to let certain things go,” says Kihagi.

For instance, if a couple has agreed to start a business which will be doing XYZ, it is easier for them to make money decisions towards that goal. She says such a scenario will no longer be a discussion of ‘my money’ but ‘our money’.

“It will not be a case of I want this, so you have to compromise but (that of) are we are all pulling or pushing towards the same direction,” she says.

"If compromising is becoming an issue, it is good to address the main problem.”

If a couple is working towards the same direction, chances are it will be more of a team work.

Individual push to be independent

Yet Kihagi acknowledges that despite the coming together of a couple, there is still the individual push to be independent.

This may happen if one of the partners feels they are always the ones compromising on their needs while the other has their way.

Instead of having a joint account, Kihagi says a couple can have individual accounts known to each of their partners where they can source funds to do what pleases them as long as they are in agreement.

"Instead of compromising things that are important to you, how about we fund what is important for each other but not necessarily important to both of us so that everyone still enjoys,” she explains.

She says there are relationships where one partner does more than the other but they are in agreement.

"You will find some men who actually prefer that their money caters for everything which gives them sense of pride. For them, whatever money the woman gets is hers. For some people, that is not going to work,” she says.

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