According to the Daily Mail, a recent study showed that divorce filings spike by 40% around Valentines Day. One of the biggest contributing factors leading up to divorce are money and financial issues. Couples often come to relationships with different philosophies and attitudes about money that later become structural flaws in their relationship. Landmark Forum Leader Josselyne Herman-Saccio was interviewed on the subject on Virginia Public Radio, offering insights and suggestions on how couples can create power and harmony on the subject of money.
Listen to the segment below:
Kerri Furey: All right, it’s 12:32 on a Thursday afternoon. I’m Kerri Furey in for Cath Lewis on Hearsay Today, and despite what you just heard about the importance of the microorganisms on your body, in your body, we know lots of people will be putting on that cologne, putting in a mint, getting ready to go out on the date for Valentine’s Day. And especially in a new relationship there can be some awkward territory there over finances. Who’s going to pick up the check for dinner and then later on down the line, whose name is going on this lease or this mortgage, or how are we going to handle the credit card debt that we brought into this relationship?
Josselyn Herman-Saccio joins us. She is a communication and relationship expert who specializes in how couples interact over finances. Thanks for joining us on Hearsay Today.
Ms. Herman-Saccio: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Kerri Furey: So what do you think is the biggest – why do you think that money is one of the biggest issues that causes problems in a relationship? With so many other things going on, sickness and other issues that affect us, why is money one that’s so tough and so tough to talk about?
Ms. Herman-Saccio: Well, I think that people don’t deal with the reality of their money as much as their story about their money. And it’s one of those areas where people have a lot of stories about their finances. They have stories about oh, I can’t afford this, I can’t afford this or I have too little money or I’ll never get out of debt. Those are all stories. None of those are actually facts. So one of the things that we recommend at Landmark, where I do a lot of coaching with people, is to clarify exactly what’s going on with the facts of your finances versus the story of your finances.
Let’s hear about how much money you have. Most people don’t know. Or how much money you owe exactly and how much money does it cost you to live? Most people live in a swirl about those things. When you live in a swirl about something you have no power with it and you’re forced to get crazy.
Kerri Furey: And then often until something’s really wrong you don’t often pay attention. You’re not looking at these things realistically in small doses on a daily basis; forming those habits, I guess.
Ms. Herman-Saccio: Yes. Well then, reality hits you in the face. If you don’t want to deal with reality, at some point it will just hit you in the face, right?
Kerri Furey: Yes. So let’s talk about this in the context of relationships because you said everybody’s got a different story. I’ve found in my experiences that finances tend to be very personal. One person’s idea of enough money could be very different than someone else’s idea of enough money. So if you’ve got two people in a relationship and one thinks the other is a reckless spender and the other has a very different view of what’s financially comfortable, how are they supposed to work it out when both sides have their merit and a history of why they feel the way they do?
Ms. Herman-Saccio: We have what we call the three C’s recipe when it comes to finances and relationships. And given it’s Valentine’s Day we’re going to add a fourth C just for Valentine’s Day. The first C is to get clarity, which is, again, separating the facts from the story. So having a story about your partner that they’re a reckless spender, what does that mean? What is the line between responsible and reckless in reality? Is it this much per week, this much per month, this much on these things, this much on these things? You’ve got to get into reality about it and get a line on what’s actually happening versus your interpretation about what’s happening with regard to finances. That’s the first C, is clarity.
The second C is commitment. Once you figure out what’s actually the facts versus the fiction regarding your financial situation, you can ask yourself the question what am I really committed to? And in a relationship that’s a very important question to ask each other because some people might be committed to taking vacations and some people might be committed to saving money for retirement and those two things might not necessarily combine very well unless you’re dealing with the reality of how much do you have to put away for this or how much do I have to put away for that? So be clear about the commitment.
And then the third C, which is critical and most people skip it – that’s why it falls apart – is put it in your calendar. If you really have a commitment to get out of debt and have X amount of debt, you have to plan it out in reality how much every week you have to pay off or every month that you have to pay off to accomplish that goal and then schedule it in your calendar so that it’s a real thing and not just a ‘let’s do lunch someday’ kind of non-specific commitment. And then, of course, the fourth C for Valentine’s Day is eat some chocolate, because this is Valentine’s Day and that will make you feel better no matter how much money you have.
Kerri Furey: Well, there you go. It is Valentine’s Day. We want to know who would you like to wish a Happy Valentine’s Day woven into our conversation today? It’s your chance to call us up, tell us who you love, why you love them, 440-2665; 1-800-940-2240. If you’re just joining us today, Josselyn Herman-Saccio joins us today and she specializes in helping couples talk about money. The four C’s that you brought up – the three and then the bonus C; we all caught that last one.
Ms. Herman-Saccio: The bonus C is the most important one.
Kerri Furey: Very important, but Josselyn when do you have this conversation? Do you have this conversation on your first date? Do you wait until you’re about to make a major purchase together? Do you wait until you’re talking about a relationship commitment with another person? How do you kind of find out where this person that you’re evaluating as a life partner stands with finances and when is it kind of too late?
Ms. Herman-Saccio: Well, I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rules with that and it really is case-by-case. There are some first dates that get very in-depth in conversation about people’s financial ideals and standards as well as their financial situation. So again, you kind of have to dance with whatever person you’re dealing with at that particular time, but for sure if you’re going to go on your first vacation together or you’re going to make a major purchase or move in together, at that point if you haven’t had this conversation that’s a mistake because then you’re just living in some Disney movie about your relationship rather than the reality of how to deal with finances.
That’s a very real thing in life and if you’re not on the same page, if you’re not committed to the same thing or at least aware of what the other person is committed to and get behind it, then you’re going to end up with clashes in terms of your commitment. I mean I know that this happens for my parents. My mother loves to shop and my father loves cars. They’re two totally different commitments, but they’re aware of each other’s commitments and so they can empower each other’s commitments rather than go, “You’re spending too much money on shopping.” “You’re spending too much money on cars.” They can get a line on what they’re committed to and the reality of it in their budget.
Kerri Furey: All right. Then again that’s why this often comes up like politics and religion. It’s hard to speak about someone else’s situation and what they’re okay with. If they have the resources for the shopping and for the cars then they’re all set. If people are going hungry because of the shopping and cars then that’s a problem. All right, let’s get to Kim. She’s calling us from Chesapeake today and she’s actually got a wish for someone just in time for Valentine’s Day. What did you want to say Kim?
Caller: I was just going to wish Paul a Happy Valentine’s Day because he’s my valentine.
Kerri Furey: Aw.
Caller: And I just wanted to tell him how much I love him and how grateful I am to have him. He’s an excellent, excellent boyfriend. Top of the line.
Kerri Furey: That’s very nice. Do you have special plans for Saturday?
Caller: Yeah, we’re going to do the chocolate fondue at Royal Chocolates and then he’s actually cooking dinner for me. Cornish game hen; I’m very excited.
Kerri Furey: So the fondue – the chocolate fondue’s coming first.
Caller: Yeah, absolutely.
Kerri Furey: So he’s down with desert first.
Kerri Furey: Good night, everybody. You’ve found him.
Caller: That’s the plan. That’s the plan. Thank you so much.
Kerri Furey: Thank you, Kim. Thanks for calling. Of course if there’s someone you want to wish a Happy Valentine’s Day on the air today. We’re leaving our phone lines open for you, 440-2665; 1-800-940-2240. You can also leave your comments on Facebook. And also by all means, while we’ve got Josselyn Herman-Saccio here, if you’ve got questions, if you’re kind of in a spot with somebody that you really care about over finances now’s your chance to get a little advice on how to have that conversation. So it’s not an easy conversation to have, Josselyn, so putting the topic aside, what are some good habits going into a conversation like this that, you know, maybe it’ll go fantastic. Maybe it’ll get a little testy. So what are you bringing to the table here if you really want to have a productive conversation about finances?
Ms. Herman-Saccio: Well, I think one thing you want to do is be authentic about any concerns you have about having the conversation, because if you pretend that you’re fine about having this conversation and you’re just going to mow through it, then it can tend to be kind of a fake conversation. So to be really up front about “Listen, I have a concern about talking about this because it’s kind of uncomfortable for me. I don’t know how the conversation’s going to go, but I think it’s important that we get on the same page here,” that helps to kind of ease having to pretend everything’s fine or pretend that you are in their game when you really have a whole other set of concerns. It really does always work to tell the truth.
Kerri Furey: All right, and try to let that person know that you’re feeling vulnerable and not ready to pounce and get in there and start criticizing their line of behavior.
Ms. Herman-Saccio: Yeah. You’re trying to get them to see things your way. I mean they may not see things your way, so creating an open space for you to have the kind of conversation where you actually discover what each other’s commitments are with regard to finances or what each other’s facts are because sometimes people pretend they’re fine with their finances and then you find out they have a lot of debt.
Kerri Furey: Sure. Maybe you’re not as compatible as you thought and part ways or something when you get – you can’t make those decisions without the information. All right, line one. Ty in Portsmouth, thanks for calling Hearsay.
Caller: How’s it going?
Kerri Furey: It’s going all right.
Caller: I was going to mention that one of the things that I found when I got married about 15 years ago or so was my wife and I had very different ideas about how to manage money and that she was a bit of a freewheeler and I was not. But we determined that if we could agree on what was important moving forward, for example do you want to drive a used car and live in a trailer or – live in a nice house – do you want to drive a new car and live in a trailer?
And then when kids come along it’s like okay, do we send them to public school or do you want them to go to Catholic school? How much is this going to cost? Just kind of come to terms on what the common ground is and then the rest of it you can kind of negotiate.
Kerri Furey: When you were having those conversations, how did you make sure that they didn’t dissolve into just a huge fight? Because you said in the beginning that you felt like she was a little bit – maybe didn’t think about money on the same level that you did. So going into it knowing you feel differently, how do you keep it from being a war?
Caller: Well, being that it’s Valentine’s Day, I guess it’s apropos to say how much do you love the person and how much do you love your money? So I realized when I took her on that I was going to – that she was going to come with a little bit of debt that she’d accrued through keeping up with the latest fashions and then I was going to have to cut back on my toys of brand new golf clubs every couple of years. But we eventually figured it out, so it’s a commitment you make to each other and then just like I said, find the common ground and go from there. I wonder if Congress could do it? [Laughs]
Kerri Furey: Oh, wouldn’t that be nice? They may not love each other enough, Ty. That may be the missing ingredient.
Caller: Probably not. Have a great day.
Kerri Furey: All right. Thanks so much for the call and thanks to everybody’s that’s called on this Thursday Hearsay, 440-2665; 1-800-940-2240. Call in. Tell us who do you love, how come? Is it a teacher, is it a spouse, is it a child? Let us know who’s on your heart today as we go into this Valentine’s Day weekend. Also if you have a question about talking to a significant other about finances, Josselyn Herman-Saccio is our guest. She’s on the line today to talk about those three C’s, the clarity, the commitment and the calendar. And you said this is a very important step to plan and kind of have a schedule. It may not sound very romantic. It doesn’t sound romantic at all to kind of plan it out, but where do you see the payoff to doing that, being in other areas of the relationship?
Ms. Herman-Saccio: Well it’ll take the stress out of the relationship because if you have it on paper, pay this bill or this amount on this day, then you don’t have to worry. A lot of our worry is did I, should I, shouldn’t I, and then you end up in a story when you’re not dealing with the facts. Your calendar actually brings you back to dealing with the reality of the situation versus your interpretation of the situation. And the calendars are very powerful things, not just with regard to finances but anything that you really want to accomplish in life. It doesn’t happen by wishing it or hoping it, it happens through actions and actions need to be happening in a specific time and that’s your calendar.
Even if you’ve got a physical calendar, you have a calendar on your refrigerator or your iPhone or whatever you do to schedule yourself, you want to make sure that you have those actions in reality. Otherwise it just goes into the swirl of story that we all get sucked into every day.
Kerri Furey: What do you mean when you say couples who don’t talk about this stuff or don’t have their plan or are not straight with each other about their finances they can commit financial infidelity?
Ms. Herman-Saccio: Yeah, that happens. It’s very funny. What do people lie about? T hey lie about money. They lie about sex. They lie about, what? Those are two of the biggest things, right? So if you’re not open in your communication about your finances then people start to operate from a world of avoiding being caught or shame. They do things and then they won’t tell you because they think it makes them look bad or you’ll somehow not value them as much as you did before you found that out. Then it becomes this perpetual inauthenticity or pretense in your relationship.
No relationship is going to fly on top of pretense, so it’s almost like poisoning the relationship when you end up doing things and then not telling yourself about them because you’re afraid of what they’re going to think.
Kerri Furey: Yeah. Do you feel like time is making this easier for young couples getting together today and about to navigate their romantic and financial future? Do you think younger folks are better about talking about finances than previous generations? For example, I’m 43 years old and the talk of finances in my household with my parents was – the three children were told money doesn’t grow on trees and that was pretty much it. That’s all we really knew, not necessarily balancing a checkbook –
Ms. Herman-Saccio: Yeah, well I understand that because I’m 47 and my daughter said to me, “It actually does. It’s made of paper, mom.” [Laughter] So I got schooled on money doesn’t grow on trees.
Kerri Furey: Right. It was impolite to talk about family finances. It was not polite to talk about how much money you made. I carry some of that stuff with me. I’m not always comfortable discussing things. And I still feel like there should be some real boundaries there, but I also feel like folks that are younger coming along have less of a problem being more direct and I kind of like to see that, especially in young women as time and tradition and traditional roles change.
Ms. Herman-Saccio: That’s why there’s been role changes. The people that we coach at Landmark – and we’ve coached over 2.2 million people – and a lot of it has to do with their finances, their careers, but I will tell you that you might be surprised to know that no matter how old somebody is they really are still susceptible to falling into those stories about money and being embarrassed about that or being embarrassed about not being able to let their spouse or partner know.
So I’ve found that it isn’t cultural or generational so much that even the 22-year-olds that I coach fall into the same kind of traps that the 50 or 60-year-olds that I coach will fall into. So it seems like stories don’t escape any generation.
Kerri Furey: Okay, so no matter what, we all have to make sure that we’re living in the facts and the reality. And maybe realizing, too, again in the context of that relationship, that it’s not about buying one more blouse. It’s about what your partner could perceive as disrespect if you’ve just talk about kind of curbing spending on things that maybe are not important purchases right now.
Ms. Herman-Saccio: Yeah, and you’re right. It isn’t about the extra pair of shoes or the whatever – extra dinner – it’s about integrity. It’s about what did you guys give your words to each other? What is your promise to each other? What is the agreement in your relationship and honoring that agreement whatever it is. There’s no right formula here, you know? It’s just that if you have an agreement to not spend over a certain amount without advising your partner then don’t do that because if you do that and you said you wouldn’t then that will be a break in your integrity and your relationship.
Kerri Furey: But we’ve got another question from a listener. Rose in Norfolk just wanted to know how would you counsel a couple on finances and faith and how do you deal with that as kind of a financial coach when you have couples coming and they’re bringing not only their past stories from their family and the way they were raised, but maybe they have very significant religious beliefs about who should handle the money or how that money should be spent? So how would you counsel somebody – and can you do that – if they need faithful financial counseling?
Ms. Herman-Saccio: Well again, I’m not a pastor or a rabbi, obviously, so I’ll speak from the communication expert perspective. I work with people of faith all the time as well as people who that is not their primary concern and it’s the same conversation in terms of being in communication and being clear about the facts and then what you’re both committed to. And if you’re in a relationship where you’re both people of faith, your commitments will likely be in line with that faith.
I’ve worked with people where they’ve decided to give a percentage of their income to their institute of faith because that supports them in expressing what they’re committed to in the world. So it really just depends on the people, but it’s all the same rules, basically. Get clear about what’s happening, be clear about what you want, and then put it into reality through action.
Kerri Furey: So it could be two conversations. Maybe you come to agree on what do you believe your faith says about finances, make sure you’re on the same page there, and then delve into the actual numbers and the planning and the budgeting.
Ms. Herman-Saccio: Yeah, in terms of principals to guide you.
Kerri Furey: Our guest this half hour is dealing with relationships and money. Josselyn Herman-Saccio is a communication and a relationship expert. She specializes in how couples interact over finances. Bob in Virginia Beach, thanks for calling Hearsay. What did you want to say today?
Caller: Well thank you very much. My wife passed away last month and going over some old things in our home I found a Valentine that I had given her in 1994 saying, “Today, tomorrow and for the rest of our lives be my valentine.” And it’s on the back of a Gustav Klimt painting that we had purchased and had framed. I just thought that was so interesting to find that yesterday and it kind of helps me stay connected to her.
Kerri Furey: Oh, I thank you so much for calling and sharing that story. I don’t believe there’s any coincidence there, Bob. I think that’s really, really neat that you happened to come upon that just a couple of days before Valentine’s Day.
Caller: Yeah, I thought so too. Thank you.
Kerri Furey: Thank you so much. Love that. Love to take a break from the microbes and the money conversation to hear something so romantic as that; love that transcends time and space and even both being physically present at the same time. We wish Bob a wonderful day of remembering his Valentine this weekend. If there’s somebody that you want to send a special message today you’re welcome to call, 1-800-940-2240 and 440-2665 if you’re right here in the local area. If there’s someone that you love today and you want them to know it and you want to say it on Hearsay, our lines are open.
Again, we’re talking to Josselyn Herman-Saccio about some of those things that can sabotage a good romance like incompatibility disagreements over money, how to get through those trying times of disagreements or maybe not having them at all. Valentine’s Day is coming. This can be kind of a high-pressure date night and a lot of people are going to spend money they don’t really have to try to impress another person. Josselyn what do you have to say about that? And maybe it’s not Valentine’s Day.
Maybe it’s that engagement ring that is just more than a young couple can afford, but folks are doing it anyway because they think, “You know what? I’m just going to make this impressive gesture at this moment and it’ll all work out later down the road.” I mean that’s gotta be a story you see over and over again.
Ms. Herman-Saccio: Yes, over and over again. And again, it goes right back to that is some interpretation you have about how you should be or how it should look or where you should take them or what kind of diamond you should get them. It’s all a story and it’s not dealing with the reality. It’s much more impressive to be responsible than to be romantic if you’re going to go beyond your means, because it’ll end up costing something later that you’re not dealing with right now. So it doesn’t cost a lot of money to be romantic. You can take somebody to a dinner that doesn’t have to cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars and still provide that kind of intimacy and romance and specialness that you’ve created versus inherently in the circumstances.
Kerri Furey: Good advice for sure. Thank you so much, Josselyn Herman-Saccio.