#3 Getting On The Same Page With Your Spouse About Money with Adam H. Kol, J.D.

September 3rd, 2019 · 30 mins 11 secs

About this Episode

Get the advice and tips you need to get on the same page as your spouse about money. It's so important to examine your individual money mindsets then come together for a common goal. This can lead to a greater understand of each other's points of view which can lead to better communication and money management.

Adam H. Kol, J.D. is a Couples Financial Counselor. He helps couples who love each other make sure that the money conversation doesn't get in the way, allowing them to experience greater peace and love. Adam draws on over a decade of experience as a Certified Mediator, Communication Coach, and a former Tax Attorney and Financial Advisor. Adam received his law degree from Duke and a Master's in Tax Law from NYU. Through working with Adam, couples have gone from the verge of divorce to being best friends, all while making huge financial progress. Adam’s work is informed by perspectives of equity and social justice. He is an experienced community organizer, as well as a lifelong musician.

You can find Adam's amazing resources at www.ahkcoaching.com and follow him on social media at @ahkcoaching or on Linked in at Adam H. Kol, J.D.

Resouces mentioned in this episode:

The Essential Money Conversation Checklist: http://eepurl.com/gbTPc1
To schedule a complimentary Financial Harmony Consultation with Adam: http://bit.ly/financialharmonyconsultation
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/moneymarriage/

Favorite nonfiction books:
The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts
Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Juhn

Full transcript:
It's exciting and I'm grateful to be able to share what I do. Uh, which is, I specialize in working with couples who as you said, I mean they're in a relationship, things are going pretty well. Um, just money is a difficult topic for them. I mean I've also worked with couples who are having more avoidance or fights around money. Um, I've even had couples come to me on the verge of divorce, as intense as that and I've been able to help them get back to being best friends again while also paying off a ton of debt and getting businesses restarted and all kinds of wonderful outcomes. Uh, my goal is to help people and couples come together, get closer, more intimacy, more connection, more love and more partnership. And I actually do that through working on their money stuff, helping them talk about money, helping them understand their own relationship to money. And I like to use art as well to help people kind of draw out their own interrelationship to money so that they can use that to further their partnership with their significant other.
Yep. That's great. Because, you know, we each have to work on our own money mindsets, but then when you're with a couple of, you know, you, you have to work, you both have to work on the individual mindset and then work together. So that's a pretty, um, pretty big task to try and work on your own mindset and then drain other on it. So, so what is the number one thing that couples can do to work together on their finances?
Yeah, I mean, the number one thing is, is talk and listen, right? Like, um, the money is an area of life and relationships. Just like so many others in our minds, it's, we kind of separate it and make it as if it's somehow really distinct. Maybe because we're afraid of the numbers and maybe because we didn't grow up talking about money. It's a taboo topic. We're afraid of it. There's some shame around it. All of which is very common. Um, but the biggest thing is to talk, so your partner, share your thoughts, share your fears, share your hopes and dreams and ask them about theirs and listen to theirs. Right. And, um, a lot of times what I see is that couples will get caught up in, uh, some something on the surface level. Like, oh, we shouldn't have spent $45 on this item. And what's really missing is that they are not align, they're not on the same page. And the way to get there is through that talking and through that listening.
And so I always tell people to, you know, dream together. So just like you said, you know, make sure or work on your goals and have the same like big goal. Um, and you know, a lot of times, and um, correct me if I'm wrong on your aspect and how you see things with working with couples is, um, I totally where I was going with that. Oh, compromise. You know, sometimes you just have to compromise a little bit because you know, especially if both people think that they need to be right or their way is the right way. Um, and it is just kinda like compromising a little bit, giving a little bit both of them so that they can come together and work on the [inaudible] bigger picture. And so like you said, you know, worrying about like the smaller amounts but focus on the big things.
Yeah, absolutely. And of course each situation is different. And for some couples, the, you know, the smaller things may be important if you're living paycheck to paycheck or really struggling. Um, and that happens a lot to families in the u s uh, but it's like about having that, like you said, those shared dreams. And um, I once said like, there's not right or wrong in relationships. There's just intimacy and you know, there's this point where you're like, well, what is right? What is wrong? Like, who, not to be all philosophical, but it's like, is that really what matters? Right? We get caught up in it because we're human and we have an ego and it's our blessing and our curse. And yet like to be able to step back and say, okay, is how I'm showing up right now in service of the kind of partner I want to be in, the kind of relationship I want to have.
Right? And it's okay if the answer's no because again, you're human and we all have times where we show up, not the self we really want to be. However, to be able to be in that inquiry, that self reflection, notice it and then step back and be able to be like, whoa, take a breath. Go to your partner and be like, I'm sorry I was kind of being a butthead. Right? And, um, can we revisit this? Because you love your partner, you have shared, you want to live your best lives individually and as a couple and as a family if you have one. Right? So the point is to get over there, right? Not to necessarily be right or wrong. Um, and that just the best way to get there, like I said, is just to take a breath, step back, take a look at your behavior. As I once saw someone say like, am I in like a space of love right now? Am I coming from love or am I coming from like fear? Right? And if you, the more you can come from love, the better your is going to be. And then by the time you get down to the budgeting, then it'll be seamless to implement the expertise of whatever you're doing in your budget or someone like your programs. Because if you're on the same page and there's no resistance, now it's just a matter of doing the work.
Absolutely. So where, where should couples start when they can't agree on how to manage their money or their budget? Like when they're just butting heads. Like what is some advice that you would give a couple that comes to you and they just cannot seem to agree on how to handle their money?
Yeah, it's a great question and it's very right. And this is something that cuts across the income and like class categories, no matter how much people are making or not, they will often still have this struggle. Um, and the first place that I like to go with couples is to have them each do a little bit of digging into their own money mindset and then share that with each other because it's a safe entryway to the money conversation. See, a lot of people are used to either not having money conversations or when they do, they're like super awkward, super uncomfortable. They may lead to a lot of arguing or tension. And so I like to get it started by getting a healthy conversation under your belt. And when you're just talking about your own history with money in your own past, there's not really anything to argue about.
It's just kind of like, here's how it was for me growing up. This is some of the messages I internalized about money based on Xyz, based on my family, based on my gender or my race or whatever, and the societal norms and stuff like that. You know, I find that to be a pretty safe conversation for people to get started with. Um, and the other thing is to just have the courage to ask for a conversation with your significant other. And to frame it in a constructive way. Like it's not like, hey, we need to talk about our budget. Right? It's actually like, you know what, I love you. I want to have the best possible life together. We can. And money I know is an important part of that. And I'm a little bit anxious because we haven't been talking about it or are actively managing it.
So like when can we have a conversation about that? Right. Something like that that actually frames it. So they see that your teammates, right. Cause a lot of times, like you said, they're having trouble managing their money together. It starts to feel like they're in opposition to each other. Like they're kinda not rowing in the same direction and just reasserting like, hey, we're talking about this because we're teammates because we're looking to both have great lives. Like, I want a great life for myself and I want a great life for you as my partner who I love. Um, so really just creating that context is powerful.
Yes. I love that. That's really great advice. So what tips, um, just to kind of flow into the next topic, this is kind of related then, is what tips would you have for couples to kind of goal plan together? So once they get like on the same mindset or they, you know, maybe understand each other's mindset a little bit better and then moving forward to the next step, you know, goal planning so that they are working together toward the same goal.
Yeah, just like be inside of like love and curiosity within four and about each other. Like, because it's very common for people to not even, we don't even know what we want, knowing what our partners want. Um, and that's an inquiry that is ongoing and changes over time. Um, so just really creating the space to have that conversation. If you've never had it before, you know, it doesn't have to be painful or exacting. It's just like whatever intimacy looks like for you and your partner, you know, do that. Some people, it's light a candle or open a glass of wine or have a nice meal or just cuddle on the couch, you know, whatever it is, create that space where your care for each other as present for both of you. And then just talk about it. Um, and one thing I've been playing with and just kind of an idea that I've had that I tossed out to my girlfriend recently came out of one of my coaching calls, um, is to play with different scenarios.
Like be like, what if we did this? Because sometimes I feel like we have this pressure that we have to just somehow magically know what our top choices, like what we want. And it almost like we have to call Alessa out of thin air versus being like, okay, what if we like worked 50 hours a week now and then retired when we were 55 versus like, you know, working 40 hours a week now and like retiring when we're 65. Like how do you think about those two? Right? And it's not that life is necessarily gonna go exactly that way, but it's always powerful to have a plan and you can always adjust. But like, you know, actually kind of sketch out some different ideas or scenarios and then talk through what are your thoughts on something like that. How does that make you feel? What would be not so good about that?
What would be really awesome about that? Right. And ask these like, I like to call them, well they're called open ended questions where it's not like a yes or no question because it's like you want to retire at 55 is like a yes or no answer and that's fine sometimes, but it's like, what are your thoughts on retirement? Or like, tell me about how you think about when you want to retire or like what are the important considerations for you around retirement, right. You give the other person this like expansive space where they can really think for themselves and, uh, get a richer response.
Yeah. And just kinda dream together. You know, my husband and I, um, you know, with building my business and really wanting to make this like a fulltime thing possibly even for both of us and you know, we sit and we dream about what if we got an RV and just traveled out west and just traveled the country and you know, just having the freedom to be able to do whatever we wanted to because you know, with, with my job in podcast and a blog and all that, I can, you know, as long as I have a computer and Internet I can go anywhere. So, you know, just being able to like dream with your partner about different ideas of what you might want to do or do want to do in the future and Kinda like how to make that happen. I think that is great.
Absolutely. I love what you're visioning as well with your husband and you know, I encourage listeners, I give yourself and your your significant other like complete latitude, like even ideas that might seem ludicrous or like, oh I don't know, we can't do that. Just dream. Just let them just let the words flow, let the ideas flow. Even if all you get is a temporary feeling of excitement and like that excitement and nervousness and the liveliness, right you've been, that is a beautiful thing to experience. But um, just let the ideas flow. You never know. I mean, I was, I have a couple I'm working with. They came to me like their relationships great, but money is uncomfortable for them. They've been slacking on tracking it. Um, and so they wanted some support in that area. And where the conversation actually flowed was too, that each of them is underpaid in their current jobs.
And in having them examine that and uh, get coached to the point where they can go have a conversation with their boss. It's just like transpired. All these different things have transpired and now the wife is like, I actually don't know if I want to stay at this job. I might even want to change careers. There's some interest in starting my own business or even going back and taking some classes and then, yeah, that's true. We're not tied to the bay area anymore. If I'm not gonna work at that job, we could go wherever we want, like our husband's job. There's opportunities for him everywhere. And now they're just like thinking, right. They're like, maybe we're gonna get like a beach house in Monterey and go live there and like, awesome. And I don't know where it's going to go. It's up to them. Right. But they have now seen so much of what's possible doing this work.
Yeah. And they're excited about it now where when they came to you, they were, you know, stressed out and fighting and now they are dreaming together and seeing what's possible for their future. And that's, you know, that's what I want for people. That's so exciting.
Yeah. In fact, like, you know, there's folks like, you actually were like the budgeting experts and while I budget with my clients, my expertise is really on that emotional communication mindset, coaching piece of it. And like what tends to happen with my clients is like, I'll send them a budget template to fill in, but then they just do it themselves. And like with this couple that I was referencing though, I was like, yeah, now like when I do the budget, I'm, I'm super excited. It's not like stressful anymore. I just do it cause it's like I know that it's helping us achieve our goals. I'm like, okay, awesome. Great.
Yeah. Cause the, you know, it's really just the foundation or the stepping stone to getting, you know, what their big picture, their dream, you know, and that's, that's awesome that it's not stressful and overwhelming now because they have something to look forward to and something that they're working for. That's awesome.
Yeah. Yeah. I love it. They're awesome.
So what, um, so I get this a lot. Like even when, um, you know, somebody, they come to me, we're working on managing their money. Um, they get the budget done. They, they are excited about it, but then their spouse just is so reluctant they won't get on board with the budget. They sabotage it. Like they still take the debit card and they go to the gas station. Like they're still spending, even though you know, they need to work together. What is your advice for somebody that's like working really hard to do what they've done? The ground work, you know, they've laid it all out, the PR, you know, the spouse may be like, okay, I'm good with that. But then they turn around and they sabotage the budget anyway. Like what is your advice for a couple that is, that is dealing with that they're just one, one partner is just completely sabotaging it or not. I'm not, they're not on the same page, but they're just recklessly spending still. While one is trying really hard to manage the money better.
Yeah. Yeah. Great question. And I mean there's almost like a couple of questions in there. Um, but if the, you know, I guess I'll, I'll answer kind of like two questions that I heard. The first one is if one partner is struggling to have like the other person's not on board in general, then that's really where some of the things I've been talking about through this call and some of the other things I talk about, like on my youtube videos there are just really helpful for getting the conversation started. Because my recommendation is always, especially if you share funds with your partner, if you two live together, if you're planning a future together, then have like get them on board, right? These are conversations you should be having with both of you as far as creating your goals and your visions and your budget to implement that.
So that, you know, that's really the first place and that's just where getting in their world, understanding what's going on for them. And even if you have to, like I said, that framing of, look, I want to have a great life with you and I know this is an important part of it. Um, so when's a good time to have the conversation? Not like, do you want to talk about it? Like we need to talk about it. And you know, there's, I was at a, on a panel earlier this week and, or I guess it was technically last week now I got asked a very similar question to this and I said, you know, we need to expect our partners to be on board for these conversations just because it's been a taboo topic and past generations that doesn't work because we're missing out on our opportunity to thrive.
And it's creating anxiety and resentment and fear and worry and tension and fighting. It's number one cause of fights and relationships. It's the number one or number two cause of divorce in every study I've ever seen. Uh, at least for like us marriages. And this is a country with a huge divorce rate. So this is not some small beans, small potatoes, whatever you want to call it, kind of issue. This is something that needs to be tackled. And so you like, you got to come at it with that, right? The same way you come at it with like talking about where to live or where to have children or if there were challenges in your like intimate life. Like if those things, the same degree of seriousness with which you take those because of how much they matter to the integrity of your relationship, I think money's the same way.
And you know, there's no one way to do it, but holding your partner to account, like, look, we gotta be talking about this. This is an essential issue that touches every aspect of our lives. You want to buy a home? How are we going to do that without being on the same page financially? You want to have kids, how are we going to do that without being on the same page financially? You want to retire? How are we going to do that without being on the same page, financially start a business, et Cetera, right? It is that important. Um, and of course every day we're spending money. Every day we have bills to pay. Every day we buy lunch or groceries or whatever. So my, it's like we need to be holding our partners to account like, we need to talk about this. Right? Um, and you know, if they're hesitant, of course you want to bring compassion and love, you know, like why, you know, what comes up for you around this?
Why, you know, where do you think your hesitancy comes from? Or like, why don't you like it? Um, you know, and there's, that's where having them do some mindset work and understanding their money story can be really powerful because there's a reason they don't want to talk about it. You know, like for example, men, we're socialized that our value is in providing for our family. And so if we feel like a conversation is implying that we're not doing that job well, um, not at a conscious level even, but like unconsciously, it just triggers like a sense of shame. Like, we're not good enough. We're not doing what we're supposed to do as a man. And that becomes like an existential crisis. Even though the man may be completely unaware that this is what's happening for him, it's nevertheless often what's happening. And so, you know, to be able to traverse that bridge and get to the other side is not always easy, but it takes some listening, some questions, some empathy, some understanding and some patients, um, and uh, of course women have their own ways that they're socialized about money.
And that's like I said before, it's not just about gender, it's about race and sexual orientation. All of this stuff plays into how we see ourselves and how other people see us money. And so, uh, it takes a nuanced approach to really break through those barriers. Um, but the number one thing is to keep bringing your love, your empathy, your curiosity to that person. And it's honestly the same answer as if they're sabotaging the budget even if they agreed to it. Right. Cause if you just got them like you agreed to this budget and now you're sabotaging it, I mean you can, you know how that's going to go. It's not saying you shouldn't hold them accountable right in that spot. It's more like, hey, you know, I feel really like you want to kind of own your feelings. Like, I feel really anxious when I'm ICU using the debit card because we had agreed not to and this plan is really important for our future.
So I get scared. We're not going to be able to have the life we want. I'm like, can you tell me what's going on there for you? Right. Like, ask an open ended question again. Like, can you tell me what's happening there for you? Like, or you know, like in a non accusatory way, just as much as, as neutrally as possible. Right. Because there's a reason they use that debit card. They may not know it, but there's some sort of reason that they did. Right. Um, maybe they just don't like being told what to do. Right. And again, that's an unconscious thing. And so they're acting out kind of like a teenager, but that's cause it's like, you know, childhood crap that, Ooh, excuse my language, but childhood that hasn't been, uh, hasn't been dealt with. Right. Um, and so there's a lot of important work to do around mindset, which is a lot of the work you're doing, which is why it's so great. It's really important to examine that stuff.
That's great. I hadn't even thought about some of the subconscious things like that, so I'm really glad that you mentioned that. Um, so do you have any resources that you would recommend for couples? Um, either your stuff or you know, stuff that you highly recommend to kind of maybe help them work together to get on the same page? Books or workbooks or anything like that?
Yeah, absolutely. So, uh, one place that you can find me is I have a Facebook community. It's totally free and there's, we're having all kinds of conversations like this all the time. It's called money and marriage, but instead of the word and it's not written out, it's the like symbol, the ampersand, some money and marriage a and for sure if you go and join there, let, let me know that you heard about me through this podcast and uh, that'll be exciting to see. And I partnered there with another financial coaches and expert with couples and she's more the tactical and practical expert and I'm the more emotional and communication experts. So we provide a real full spectrum of content there. Um, and I have, uh, another thing, uh, that I put together and perhaps we can link to it in the show notes or something like that is a, I call it the essential money conversation checklist.
And so it's just eight steps that you want to take in each money conversation and you know, they're not what you'd think up front. You might kind of have a feel for what they are after listening to me speak here. But it's about like getting connected to your partner, making sure you're hearing and validating their feelings and then sharing your own and making sure that they understand where you're coming from. And then from there, once you two are actually on the same page emotionally and you're actually in partnership, that you really from there start to look for what compromise might be like, um, rather than trying to jump to it. You know, that's the number one thing I see couples want to go straight to the action items. And a lot of times there's some work beforehand that could really make it more powerful and more long lasting.
So I'll definitely put that link out there for you all. You got the money and marriage Facebook group and if there's anybody listening who's like, you know what, I'd really love to work with Adam directly. I work with couples in a wide range of situations. Like I said, even people come to me where it's a really serious challenging topic that's leading to a lot of fights, intention, happy to work with you. Also couples who are like our relationships, great. Money's just a kind of difficult topic. We don't know a lot about it. Um, also work with those couples and uh, have specific content for engaged couples to plan the wedding, make sure that they are sticking to their budget, talk to the family about the spendings and families usually chip in and uh, also to help them merge their finances with their fiance. And then I have also a specific content for a first time home buyers to be able to get on the same page with their partner for what's gonna be the biggest and longest purchase of your life. You know, you want to make sure that front end. So I help people get on the same page with that and get on top of their finances.
Oh, that's great. I will link to all those in the show notes as well. And just one last question. I like to always ask people what their favorite nonfiction book is. So whether it's, you know, related to couples of money or just something, um, you know, some kind of self-help improvement life improvement book. Uh, I probably should've warned you before so you could think about it.
In college I took a course, I minored in philosophy and I took a course on the philosophy of science and I read a book called the structure of scientific revolutions. I think it's Thomas Kune and it was such like an incredible study of how scientific theories, uh, evolve and become the accepted theory. And then when the data starts to not, uh, fit, then how there's like this kind of interesting process that seems to repeat itself. And uh, then they eventually get replaced by a new theory that fits the data better. And I don't know, something about the way the world works and the way humans operate and like how there's like the zealots of the old theory and they try and cling to it even though the data's no longer fitting it and they try and change it to fit the data. And it's like, it just is a fascinating study of human psychology for sure. Um, but also right now I'm like reading, let's see how far into it I am. I just picked it up off of my table like maybe a quarter of the way through this book called the wisdom of insecurity by Alan Watts. And it's a remarkable piece. Like I can only read a couple pages at a time. It's just such a, so much depth of [inaudible].
I don't even know the book. It's really, it's really just about the nature of how life is fundamentally insecure and like, and uncertain and how we grasp for certainty and how that actually causes so much of our pain and suffering and about that we can actually live in love live in the moment live now if we relinquish that desire. And for me, someone who has dealt with a lot of anxiety and desire for security, that's a big, a kind of growth edge as they call it these days, like a place for me to expand. So I'm really getting a ton every time I pick up that book.
That sounds really interesting and we're going to have to check that out. Yeah. Well thanks for coming on today.

Do you have any last words of wisdom?
You know, um, my pleasure. Again, thank you for having me. Um, what I really want to impart to the world is that having these dialogues can bring you closer in your relationships and people kind of stay away from the money conversation because they think it's going to go poorly and, um, they're going to just end up uncomfortable or fighting. And the truth is right. Like if you don't talk about it, that's what's going to eat away at your intimacy in your relationship, let alone your finances could very well be worse off. But it's by having these conversations and having them in a constructive, productive way, which is what, of course I am to support people in doing that, you can actually have a better life, stronger relationships, more freedom financially, and actually live in a line, a way that's more aligned with your values and your goals.
That's awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming. It was such a pleasure to talk with you. My pleasure as well. Thanks, Ashley. Thanks.