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Relationships benefit from financial training

By Linda Breazeale
MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE – Different priorities, philosophies and background experiences are among the reasons many couples cross swords over family finances, but several options exist to help reduce some of this conflict.

Bobbie Shaffett, family resource management specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, said programs, newsletters and publications are available to help couples address finances in a healthy manner.

“Conflict over family finances often start soon after couples get married, and this can eat away at the relationship over time if not addressed in a healthy, productive way,” Shaffett said. “Discussion aids range from simple printed materials that are available online to 12-week lessons to work through with other people from the community.”

Extension area family resource management agent Charlestien Harris, who is based in Quitman County, said faith-based and nonprofit organizations often invite Extension agents to conduct the Marriage and Money Program as part of healthy relationship seminars. The program teaches how to discuss money when couples have a difference of opinion.

“Since these discussions often sound more like arguments, we offer tips on how to argue about money,” Harris said. “The first tip is to choose words carefully with clear meanings that cannot be misunderstood.”

If possible, avoid financial discussions when one or both spouses are angry or distracted.

“Sensitive or difficult topics are best discussed when you both have a reasonable attitude. You cannot force an opinion on someone else. Be willing to negotiate,” she said.

Harris said the primary moneymakers often feel they should have more control over financial decisions, but in a healthy relationship, those decisions should be made jointly.

“Each person needs to be willing to negotiate and make compromises in the best interest of the family budget,” she said.

As with other debated topics, couples should stick with “I” messages and not resort to “you” messages that blame the other person for problems. Stay focused and avoid dragging other topics into the discussion.

Harris said it helps if couples give each other clues that financial frustrations are building.

“Don’t blindside your spouse by letting an irritation grow and grow until you explode one day. Most issues are easier to address when they are minor irritations rather than major problems,” she said.

In addition to the Marriage and Money program, Extension also offers Healthy, Wealthy and Wise newsletters and a Financial Fitness checklist that can prompt effective discussions. Those publications can be found on the Extension Web site at http://msucares.com/pubs or by contacting a county Extension office.

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Released: Jan. 14, 2010
Contact: Charlestien Harris (662) 326-5521 or Dr. Bobbie Shaffet (662) 325-7317