Authors: Scott and Bethany Palmer, 2013. (Thomas Nelson)
"It all starts with the vows: for richer or for poorer. . . . Every marriage starts with big hopes and dreams. . . . And then life happens." (p.3) The authors Scott and Bethany Palmer, experienced financial planners known as the Money Couple, begin their new book with these words that ring true. For those of us who have been married for some time, we can understand this. The authors go on, "And over time through no fault of your own those dreams you had for your life together get put on the back burner and, one by one, they start to dry up and disappear." (p.4) Then they follow up this opening section with this intriguing claim: "If you've lost track of the dreams you used to have, we believe you can get them back. We believe you can reclaim the life you envisioned, one dream at a time." (p.6) When I read this excerpt I decided I wanted to check out their claims.
This is no Dave Ramsey tome, though. The Palmers are patently clear about this in their introduction:
"Before you jump in, we want to be clear about something: this book is not a guide to managing your money. You won't find tricks for creating a balanced budget or tips on saving money. . . . This book is about you and your marriage, It's about the way your money and your relationship combine to create a Money Relationship. That's right -- you and your spouse have a Money Relationship, just like you have an emotional relationship, a spiritual relationship, and a physical relationship." (p. xiv)So, if you are looking to make or manage money, stay clear. This book won't help you. But if you want to understand this Money Relationship and reclaim your dreams, this book might hit the target.
The heart of the book focuses on the 5 Money Personalities: the Saver, the Spender, the Security-Seeker, the Risk-Taker and the Flyer. According to the Palmers, we all possess a primary money personality and a secondary one. These contribute to our unique money DNA and determine how we see the world.
Further, they posit that every decision in our marriage relationship is impacted by money, whether it relates to spending or saving, affording or dreaming. Whether we like it or not, money is there, an ever-present undercurrent impacting how we get along. Buy money, like religion and politics, is something we rarely discuss with others, even spouses. By discovering our own two money personalities and then those of our spouse, we can then see how they interact and lead us into financial arguments. With this knowledge and self-understanding we can begin to build a plan, not a budget, for how we approach money and spending. In so doing, the Palmers argue, we can recapture our dreams.
The book is short, at 180 pages, and is written in an approachable and easy-to-read manner. There is little of academic depth here, and that is one criticism. It could stand some references, or support for theses, like why are there 5 money personalities and not four or six (or even more). Yet perhaps this is nit-picking, since most readers will come to this for help, like visiting a counselor. Such people don't really want chapter and verse. They trust the expert and simply want tools to function better in their own lives and situations.
That said, the authors introduce us to several tools. The first is "the reveal," where we find our two money personalities and share with our spouse. They even offer a free yet simple quiz on-line to help with this. Even though I had correctly pegged my two money personalities, when I took the on-line quiz I was surprised to find they were reversed in terms of primary and secondary, and this helped me understand some of my financial worries. This tool is foundational to the rest.
So, too, is their concept of financial infidelity, where we keep some financial secrets, big or small, from our spouse. This forms the root of the financial arguing that often leads to divorce ("money has become the number one cause of divorce in the United States"), but can be nipped in the bud with the use of transparency and their other tools.
The final three tools are the Money Dump, the Money Huddle, and the E.N.D. The first is an exercise of looking at the pros and cons of your finances and then sharing one con with your spouse. The second is an intentional monthly connection point for 45 minutes, focused on your Money Relationship not your specific bills and budgets. And the third tool describes how to Huddle. The first 15 minutes is spent on Evaluation two simple numbers: "how much debt you have and how much you have in savings" (p.135). The second 15 minute focuses on Needs, those that relate uniquely to our own money personalities and impact our mutual Money Relationship. The tool allows us to be vulnerable and build trust. The final 15 minutes winds up with Dreams. Here is where we share our dreams and plan to make one or more happen.
These tools seem so obvious, almost common sense. They center on communication. But in our busy society, with differences between husband and wife, we may find it difficult to open up with our spouse, either through time or temperament. The beauty of these tools is that they encourage us to make the time and take the opportunity for such sharing. And for good measure, they give us the Stop (reacting out of anger), Drop (your financial assumptions), and Roll (up your sleeves and work it out) technique for fighting fair in financial arguments.
Note: I received a free copy from Thomas Nelson Publishing but was not influenced to provide a positive review