How Couples Can Make Confident Money Decisions By Balancing Data, Emotions and IntuitionMay 18, 2023
Let’s take a both and approach.
All he does is use spreadsheets to explain why we will be okay Danielle exasperately explains. She is so tired of being spreadsheeted. For Nathan, spreadsheets are the best way to make a financial decision, and he doesn’t see what is the big deal. He remarks that “the numbers don’t lie.”
Doing money in intimate partnerships can be challenging when each partner has a different way they approach life and money based on their psychological makeup. Looking through a simple lens, some people love data and numbers to guide their decision-making. For others, they use their intuition, emotions, and feelings to guide them.
This doesn’t have to be a problem when both people can recognize, embrace and expand their ways of knowing and processing financial information. On the journey of financial planning, we often need to return to understanding and respecting both our way of making decisions and our partners.
The Value of Data In Financial Decision Making
When it comes to our financial lives there are two broad categories, there is financial information about how we are doing at a larger group level and there is how we are doing in our own personal finances. My wife recently forwarded me these statistics about retirement from USAFacts.org that reminded me of how much we struggle with our finances as a group.
Approximately half of U.S. citizens have no retirement savings. The median retirement savings is $25,000, and the 95th percentile is $690,000. Looking at these types of numbers is likely to evoke some difficult emotions as you start to reflect on your position relative to these numbers.
I would encourage you to check out USAFacts.org and some of the other available data and take some time to reflect on what this means for your financial life.
Beyond the group data, there is your own personal finance data. These are the numbers in your checking, savings, retirement, home value, mortgage, etc. From these base numbers, some projections into the future can be made mathematically. The reality is that many of us also make psychological projections about what our numbers mean that may or may not align with the mathematical projections.
While I am not a major statistics nerd, I have come to appreciate and respect that statistics and personal finance math, like compound interest are invaluable for checking my emotions, feelings, and intuitions about the status of my own financial life. Staying in contact with the objective data of our financial life helps to balance the intuitive, emotional, and feeling side of our financial life.
As a financial planner, I learned to highly value; I would argue overvalue the financial math and data side to guide my financial decisions to the exclusion of my emotional, feeling, and intuitive side.
Sometimes we use our financial data, spreadsheets, and financial projections to protect and hide ourselves from our financial emotions, feelings, and intuitions.
It can be as simple as I have X amount in my savings account. Everything is okay. When in reality having X is only a small percentage of the emergency fund you need. And you need to be working towards retirement savings, but you don’t want to see that financial information.
It can be as complex as having a full financial plan showing you are well on your way to retirement, being tax efficient, and having all the proper estate and insurance products in place. Objectively everything is great, but it hides your fear that you still won’t be okay financially.
The Value of Feelings, Emotions, and Intuition in Financial Decision Making
Some of you reading this are likely ready to stop reading now. You think there is no place for emotions, feelings, and intuition in financial decision-making. I hear you on that. I would like to invite you to consider the valuable role that emotions, feelings, and data can play in financial decision-making. Think of emotions, feelings, and intuition as their own form of data that can be understood with some study and introspection.
For my readers that are deeply connected to feelings, emotions, and intuition, let’s find some balance in their role in your financial decision-making. You likely appreciate the heart and belly centers, as some would say.
When we look at or even begin to think about any aspect of our financial life, emotions, feelings, and intuition are active, whether we are aware of it or not. This is foundational to the human experience. Let’s remember there are different philosophical, psychological, and spiritual traditions that all teach about what the role of emotions, feelings, and intuition should be in life. Beneath these teachings I hope we can agree that feelings, emotions, and intuition are part of the human experience.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.
What parts of your financial life evoke joy, delight, and pleasure? Can you experience these emotions as you connect with different parts of your financial life?
What about relaxed shoulders, open chest, soft stomach connected with your finances? These are the feelings in your body. How do these feelings help you approach your financial life?
Now consider how dread, anxiety, shame, and fear play a role in your financial life. When do these or other uncomfortable emotions show up around mone?
Now consider how collapsed shoulders, bubbly stomach, and pounding chest show up in different areas of your life related to money. How do these physical feelings affect your approach to money?
Our intuition builds on emotions and beliefs and guides us toward what we feel is good and, hopefully, away from what is bad. As much as we want our intuition to be right and helpful, we are sometimes misattuned to our intuition. Fortunately, with practice, we can recalibrate our intuition.
Sometimes we hide behind our feelings, emotions, and intuition, avoiding what the larger financial data is telling us and what our personal financial data is telling us, leaving us at risk of not accomplishing our more significant and meaningful goals. Both financially and relationally.
My training as a therapist trained me to become highly attuned to using emotions, feelings, and intuition to help my clients. We would pay less attention to objective data, especially as it relates to personal finances.
The Synergy of Data, Feelings and Emotions, and Intuition in Financial Decision Making
After years of study, self-reflection and work with countless clients, I am convinced that there is a deep synergy between data, feelings and emotions, and intuition. When we become overly focused on one of these elements, we miss out on the other elements that help us to complete a full picture.
From this place of deep integration, I was able to talk recently with my wife about buying a single ticket for the 2024 Olympic Swimming Finals. We are planning a larger family trip to France for the summer of 2024 to see both the Tour de France and the Olympics.
As we reviewed ticket options for the swimming events, they were much more expensive than some of the other events we wanted. I could hear her discomfort with spending so much money. Emotion, feelings and intuition were pulling her away from going for the ticket. Emotion and intuition was pushing me towards encouraging her to go. Swimming is the sport my wife loves the most. There is a deep history here. The objective financial data is that we have a savings plan for the total trip cost and can absorb this expensive ticket. Once we worked through the conversation and she bought the ticket, tears came forward a bit unexpectedly.
The tears represented a mix of excitement, relief, and gratitude. Buying this ticket represents something far deeper for my wife. It is a symbol of achieving financial security, using her “hard-earned money” to buy something specifically for herself. It symbolizes that we are out of the woods of some of tough places in the past of our relationship.
Why This Matters For Financial Intimacy
As a couple you each bring a lot to the table. The ways you connect with financial data, emotions and feelings, and intuition will be in different ratios. That is not the problem. The reality is that each of you can work with each of these elements of being human.
Your task as a couple is to expand your capacities to engage and integrate each of these essential elements of being human as they help you navigate your shared life and finances together.
Getting to know yourself and your partners patterns with data, emotions and feelings, and intuition will foster increasing financial intimacy. Leading to your increased ability to manage your shared resources between the two of you.
If you need help navigating data, emotions and feelings, and intuition, then I would like to invite you into my Fee-Only Financial Planning practice, where I help couples get organized, work together, and develop a financial life that works for both of them. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation here.
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