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What does Financial Independence Mean to You?

What do you think of when you hear the phrase financial independence?

Do you think of being able to afford to move out of your parents’ house and pay for your own things? Do you think of living in your dream house, going on great vacations, and doing what you want – when you want. Or, do you think of not working at all, and instead spending your days on the beach sippin’ something sweet? Maybe for you the “independence” part of the phrase just means being able to find a decent home, put acceptable food on the table, have fun with your friends, and live a happy and comfortable life.

The point is that financial independence means different things to different people.


And it may mean different things to the same people at different points in their life. Sarah Newcomb, Director of Behavioral Science at Morningstar, found that people are more likely to have a satisfying life if they choose reasonable role models.

For example, the Kardashians probably are not the best role models to help you feel like you’re living a satisfying life. They have an unusual situation that most people can’t attain. If you choose to spend like the Kardashians and have 0% ability to earn the income they do, you will be miserable.

Warren Buffet on the other hand, is not a bad role model. He has lived in the same modest (depending on your definition of modest) home for decades. He has spent less than he makes and invests a lot for his future. If you follow his lead, you may not live as successful a life as he, but probably just as satisfying.

Even better would be your Aunt Sue who has a good job that pays a middle-class wage. She spends less than she makes and invests the rest for her future. She’s apt to retire at some point with an adequate nest egg to maintain her lifestyle for the rest of her life.

Aunt Sue has an emergency fund to take care of those unexpected issues that come up like someone crashing into her two-year-old car. Yes, she has insurance but they don’t pay for 100% of her replacement car. She has to make up for the difference from her emergency fund.

Her vet bill for her dog never taps her emergency fund because she plans for two emergency visits to the vet a year. Often that line item in her cash flow rolls into her opportunity fund at the end of the year because her dog has been well every year after the first year. (That first year as a puppy used up all of the money allocated for her baby.)

She has an opportunity fund that allowed her to take six months off from work to travel when she turned 30, her dream after graduating college. She came back with a little left in her opportunity fund and her emergency fund full.

Aunt Sue has lived a full life. She’s done what she dreamed of, live in a home that’s very comfortable, and was able to retire from work when she wanted to and maintain her lifestyle. Aunt Sue is a great role model for how to do life successfully and reach financial independence. Nothing fancy, but she found comfort, happiness and had little heartache and disappointments.

Looking into your future, how do you want to live your life? What does success look like? What would disappointment look like? How realistic are you? Who do you know that is living a “good life” in your opinion? What are they doing “right”? How can you apply that knowledge to your own life so YOU can live your amazing life?

Taking some time to reflect on this will set you up not only for financial independence but for a fulfilling life. And everyone here at South Bay Financial Partners want to help you live your AMAZING life!


Because life is too short to not spend it doing the things you love, and your finances should support that.

So, we’ve created a community for passionate young adults to master the intimidating world of money, simplify confusing financial decisions, and manage their expenses all while hanging out with fun, like-minded people working towards one common goal (the best goal in our opinion): living an AMAZING life.

To do this, our community, Your Amazing Financial Life, features…

  • Access to the SBFP team’s advice, guidance, and support
  • Monthly topics (with conversations, learning, and planning)
  • Monthly Q&A video calls with the team
  • Monthly wine and cheese events
  • Special access to courses, office hours, challenges, and events
  • A book club
  • Personalized ADVICE from us and STORIES from others that can’t be found anywhere else
  • And so much more!

Our mission is to provide financial advice and information to as many people as possible, at as low of a price as possible, and we’ve finally found the best place to do it. We do hope you’ll join us over there!

And even better? This month we’re talking all things financial independence (and how to reach it) in the group!

>> It’s time you start living Your Amazing Financial Life!! Come join us! https://yafl.southbayfinancialpartners.com <<


admin March 5, 2020 No Comments

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry want to be financially independent — here’s what that means

Alizah Salario Published Thu, Jan 9 20205:09 PM EST
This article originally appeared in Grow Acorns.

This week, actress and activist Meghan Markle and her husband Prince Harry announced that they intend “to step back” from their duties as “senior” members of the royal family and “work to become financially independent.” In a break from tradition, the couple plan, going forward, not to receive funding from the Sovereign Grant, which is a lump sum of taxpayer money used for official royal duties.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have an estimated net worth ofbetween $30 million and $45 million. So in their case “financial independence” appears to mean relying more on their own funds in exchange for the freedom from the expectations and obligations of public life, as well as more flexibility around where they live and the work they do.

For the rest of us, though? It varies. “Financial independence means different things to different people,” says Tara Unverzagt, a certified financial planner at South Bay Financial Partners in Torrance, California.

Here are three kinds of financial independence and strategies experts suggest to help you achieve them.

1. The means to pay bills and cover basic expenses

For young adults, the core of financial independence often is self-reliance. “Some people just out of college are trying to get financial independence from their parents,” says Unverzagt. “They are working towards getting out of the family house and paying for all of their bills themselves. That’s financial independence for them.”

Striving to be more financially self-sufficient in your 20s is smart, but being fully independent, in practice, can be harder than it seems. The majority of Americans say young adults should be financially independent by age 22, but only 24% of them actually are by that age, according to a 2019 analysis from the Pew Research Center.

Among those who still rely on at least some financial help from a parent, 60% say that the assistance is related to basic household expenses such as groceries or bills.

If you’re working toward more self-sufficiency, start by getting a better understanding of what’s going on with your money, including both how much you’re making and how much you’re spending. The “first step to getting your financial foundation laid is tracking your expenses” using a budgeting app or a spreadsheet, says Unverzagt.

That can help you get a sense of where you are financially, she says, and knowledge is power: “If you don’t have a handle on your cash flow, you’ve relinquished control of your financial situation.”

2. Freedom from family expectations

If you rely on financial assistance from a family member, it’s not unusual to feel bound by obligation to them. That can mean having to make minor adjustments, like limiting your data usage if your parents pay your cellphone bill. Or it can mean compromising on major decisions, such as picking a college major or career in line with someone else’s expectations instead of your own desires.

“The primary benefit of financial independence is that you cut many of the emotional strings that tie you to family money,” says Justin Pritchard, a certified financial planner and the founder of Approach Financial in Montrose, Colorado. “The things you do in life can become more of a choice, as opposed to obligations that you might feel as a result of your good financial fortune.”

If you’re lucky enough to be in a position to receive “financial scaffolding” from your parents as a way to develop your skills or build a business, feel free to “take advantage of the window of opportunity” when you’re young and accept some financial support, says Michael Caligiuri, a certified financial planner and the founder of Caligiuri Financial in Columbus, Ohio.

The primary benefit of financial independence is that you cut many of the emotional strings that tie you to family money.Justin PritchardCERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER

It can help to weigh the short-term compromises against your long-term goals. For Julia Peña, who graduated from Syracuse University in May 2019, living under her parents’ roof over the summer allowed her to achieve her goal of saving the majority of her $3,500 in earnings from her summer job.

“I basically put about 90% of what I made into my savings account, so typically I went back to school with about $3,000 to last me through the fall,” Peña told Grow last year.

The privilege of financial support from a loved one may come with compromises, but it can also have a positive influence on your long-term financial health. If you live at home in order to save up or pay off debts, for example, you may be even better poised to get a lucrative job or build a firm financial foundation when you do strike out on your own.

3. Increased flexibility and options

At advanced levels, financial independence is “having enough money that you can quit your current job any time you want,” says Unverzagt. “You could go part-time, change jobs, change careers, take a year off, etc. They can’t stop working forever but they have enough money to have a lot of flexibility.”

Typically, getting to this stage requires a combination of time and effort. FIRE devotees, or members of the Financial Independence, Retire Early movement, tend to set aside huge portions of their income, for example, and have extra streams of income.

But even with just a single paycheck, if you make contributions to your retirement fund consistently, you can stay on track to meet your financial goals. Consider setting up automatic withdrawals from your pay that go directly into a retirement account or a targeted savings account to make investing and saving even easier.

Caligiuri adds, “Financial independence to me is when you’ve created a situation where, whether it’s through support or not, you’re getting to where you’re doing what you want to be doing.”

admin March 5, 2020 No Comments

‘Being objective is incredibly hard’: top financial advisers reveal their strategies for 2020

Published: Jan. 6, 2020 at 10:01 a.m. ET

Andrew Keshner

This article originally appeared in MarketWatch.

Experts discuss inflation rates, investment ‘wish lists’ and the perils of market timing based on the 2020 presidential election

Self-care, simplified finances and unemotional investing choices are some of the ways financial advisers are planning to better themselves in 2020.

Despite their differing goals, the advisers who answered a MarketWatch question about their New Year’s resolutions repeated a common theme in their replies. 

They all want to achieve 20-20 vision on their personal and financial well-being in the New Year, regardless of all the noise and distractions out there. 

An estimated 99 million Americans are making financial New Year’s resolutions this year and the top goal is saving more, according to a WalletHub survey. 

Like regular consumers, many advisers also want to save more. They just might have different approaches on the annual rite of attempted self-improvement, talking about inflation rates, investment wish lists and the perils of market timing based on the presidential election.

Financial advisers make a living doling out money and investment advice, so here’s the recommendations they want themselves to follow this coming year: 

Taking care of yourself (and those around you)

Advisers said they wanted to take better personal care of themselves this year. “2020 is the year I’m making sure to take care of myself and my relationships, face to face, not online,” said Tara Unverzagt, founder of South Bay Financial Partners in Torrance, Calif. 

She spent five years building up her firm and “2020 is the year I start riding my bike regularly, do my yoga every week, and take a few moments every day to meditate and clear my mind. I expected my financial life will be no worse off and who knows, my business may thrive even more because of it.

2020 is the year I start riding my bike regularly, do my yoga every week, and take a few moments every day to meditate and clear my mind

Sometimes, the self-care entails spending some money to show gratitude for the support of others.

Ian Bloom, the owner of Open World Financial Life Planning in Raleigh, N.C., plans to keep building his business with a growing client list and his visibility with a forthcoming book in a series. But he’s also going to get his wife the new couch she’s been eyeing. 

“As an entrepreneur’s wife, she’s gone without a few of the luxury goods she’s been wanting in order for me to start my business,” he said. “It’d be cool to be able to give her a significant item that she’s been interested in over the last year and relieve a little of that ‘belt-tightening’ feeling that is required when one launches a new business.”

See also: All the ways your burnout is costing you money

He also hopes to sneak some more vacation time with her and pour more money into his retirement account. “Given that we didn’t buy the couch, you can imagine we also haven’t been saving as much as we’d hoped over the last year. Again, that was a calculated decision. Starting a business requires capital and going without for a while. But it would be nice to get back to growing our net worth instead of just breaking even next year,” he said. 

Ron Strobel, the founder of Retire Sensibly in Nampa, Idaho, is planning on buying cars. That’s not going to be as easy as it sounds. “I’ve always been a proponent of buying cheaper used cars. I’ve repeated that advice hundreds of times to clients and friends,” he said.

The 12- and 13-year-old vehicles he and his spouse drive are now on the fritz and he’s worried about an unsafe breakdown in a remote spot. A new Toyota TM, -1.980% RAV4 and 4Runner would cost a combined $1,300 monthly payment, he said. That’s without insurance costs, too. 

“We can afford it, but I just can’t stop thinking about what else I could do with that $1,300 each month. I could save more, I could make an extra payment on my mortgage, I could buy a rental property. I could take several fairly luxurious vacations each year,” Strobel wrote. “I suppose you could say that my goal for 2020 is to stop being so frugal and treat myself occasionally, especially when it comes to my own well being.” 

Simplify, simplify, simplify!

Leibel Sternbach, the founder of Yields4U in Melville, N.Y., knows money matters can be complex and emotional. That’s why he’s going to hire a financial adviser to grow his own money in 2020.

‘One of the hardest lessons for me to learn was that when it comes to yourself being objective is incredibly hard.’

“One of the hardest lessons for me to learn was that when it comes to yourself being objective is incredibly hard,” he said. Despite his education and expertise, “as I sit here helping my clients get their end of year finances in order, I realize how much I have missed for myself over the year.”

He wants “a financial adviser who can help keep me in line and check with my own finances, just like how I work to help my clients stay on track.”

Don’t miss:This financial planner racked up $12,000 in credit-card debt — ‘I went a little overboard’

Jennifer Weber, vice president of financial planning at Weber Asset Management in Lake Success, N.Y., said one might assume that because she’s a financial planner, she abides by a strict budget. “I wish I could say this was true! In reality, it’s much easier to give advice than follow it,” Weber said. 

She and her husband have their financial goals like saving for retirement, travel, home improvements and college savings for their kids, she said. “To help keep things in perspective, and keep ourselves on track, I plan to go back to advice I give and want to follow: The simple 50/30/20 rule. 50% of take-home pay on necessities. 30% of take-home pay on wants. 20% of take-home pay on savings and debt repayment,” Weber explained.

‘To help keep things in perspective, and keep ourselves on track, I plan to go back to advice I give and want to follow.’

She’s going to go through the household budget and re-automate accounts as much as possible to meet the 50/30/20 rule.

David Haas, owner of Cereus Financial Advisors in Franklin Lakes, N.J., is taking a simple, but crucial step. He’s compiling a list of all his personal financial accounts and making sure his wife can access them if Haas becomes incapacitated or dies. 

“It is so important that loved ones can have access to your accounts and information when bad things happen, but increased security means this can be very difficult. Like everyone, I put these things off, but I really need to do it in 2020,” he said. 

Others say it’s critical to plan ahead for all sorts of account access. For example, one grieving man needed a court order before Apple AAPL, -1.944% would give him access to cloud-stored photos on his dead husband’s account.

Investing wisely 

For Mike Silane, the founder and managing partner of 21 West Wealth Management in Irvine, Calif., the holiday season means a review and update of his “investment wish list.” These are the companies, funds and ETFs he wants a share of, but are too expensive right now. “I check it twice too!” he added.

Silane also says around this time, he’s reviewing liquidity needs “so that I’m not letting cash sit around uninvested, earning close to zero.”

To make all his money work for him, Silane starts by thinking about how much cash he might need quickly and then considers putting money in a money market fund, a certificate of deposit or a short-term bond or ETF. “For longer term investing, I of course consider if I want to add to equities at this time. With constant inflation, even very low inflation, uninvested cash is always a money loser.”

Don’t miss:This strategist picked two blockbuster stocks in 2019 — here’s what he likes for 2020

Some advisers are already thinking how they will handle the hard-fought presidential election in November 2020 and vowing not to mix politics with investing choices. 

Money on the side lines does little in the context of achieving long term goals, no matter the party that gets elected.

It’s understandable why they’d want to think it through. President Donald Trump’s impeachment for his alleged pressure on the Ukranian government so far hasn’t rattled investors based on expectations that any trial in the Senate wouldn’t result in removal.

Democratic challengers, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders are vowing more taxes on the super rich and the effects could be tough on the stock market, some well-heeled observers argue. 

Far from the political fray, Ashlee deSteiger, the founder of Gunder Wealth Management in Birmingham, Mich., said she is trying to educate her clients — and remind herself — about how important it is to keep money in the market and have a long-term focus despite any volatility.

“Money on the side lines does little in the context of achieving long term goals! No matter the party that gets elected, tactical portfolio changes are likely to be made based on emotions versus fundamental investment principles,” she said. “For that reason, I’m a proponent of reminding my clients about staying the course and not letting the election alone change their investment allocations in 2020.”

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Advisors’ Advice: 10 Biggest Tax Mistakes Clients Make

By Ginger Szala | March 04, 2020 at 10:50 AM
This article originally appeared in ThinkAdvisor.

With tax time upon us, we tapped our best resources — advisors themselves — to learn about how they’ve helped their clients correct some big tax mistakes. Many were willing to share their horror stories, but here are 10 of the top mistakes by clients.

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How to Teach Delayed Gratification to Kids

By Donna Freedman — Jan 7, 2020

This article originally appeared in Fabric.

In the famous “marshmallow experiments” of the early 1970s, researchers at Stanford University gave preschoolers a choice: Eat one marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes and you’ll get twomarshmallows. (Spoiler alert: More than half of them couldn’t wait.)

You might be thinking, “Ha! My kids wouldn’t last 15 seconds!”

That’s totally normal. Take it from Sigmund Freud: Your kid is driven by id. When kiddo sees that new brand of cereal or an awesome Lego playset, the rest of the world ceases to exist. The craving must be satisfied. Now.

As parents, we need to teach our kids to tame their impulses—and not just because it’s annoying when they keep pleading for more Legos. It’s to help them become competent, successful humans, rather than little gremlins driven solely by their desires.

Learning to control our immediate impulses means the ability to pause and figure out whether a purchase is really worthwhile. Taming that id also helps us understand that we can have (almost) anything we want, but we can’t have everything we want. 

Teaching your kid to tame that voice that says now-now-now is important, as long as the lessons are age-appropriate and consistent. Certified Financial Planner Tara Tussing Unverzagt calls this “a series of practice decisions.” 

Here are some ways to pull it off.

1. Give Kids Their Own Money

One of the most fundamental ways to teach a kid how to make smart decisions is to actually let them make decisions. Often, this means encouraging your kid to manage their own money . . . within a parent-defined framework. 

Unverzagt  used the “three jars” concept with her kids, splitting the funds among saving, spending and giving categories. “I was surprised how quickly they learned to save for what they wanted,” says the financial planner, who’s based in Torrance, California.

If you have older kids, you might give them a debit card. Two years ago, retail expert Trae Bodge started a bank account for her 11-year-old’s allowance and gift money. While Bodge takes care of necessities (clothes, new shoes), her daughter is responsible for buying everything else. “She has to make very thoughtful decisions. And sometimes that means she has to wait for things,” Bodge says. 

If you want a higher level of control, companies like Greenlightgohenryand FamZoo say that their cards let adults observe and guide their children’s spending. Parents can create a virtual three-jar setup or specify a percentage of money to go to charity. They can also set limits on withdrawals or the types of places where the cards can be used (for example, ATMs and stores but not online). FamZoo and Greenlight let parents opt to pay “interest” on their children’s accounts, to incentivize saving. 

Unverzagt notes that she doesn’t think kids younger than 10 should have debit cards. First teach them what money is—how it’s earned, how it’s spent—and gradually introduce the idea of cards.

2. Help Them Learn From Their Successes and Failures

No bailouts, ever. Unverzagt suggests a hands-off approach to letting kids manage their own money. Instead of, say, setting a “no more than $5 per day” boundary, let your kid figure things out on his own. Suppose he spends everything on the first day before finding out his friends are going to the movies on Saturday. Guess he’s staying home.

“Let them make those mistakes,” she says.

Fabric’s editor-in-chief Allison Kade remembers when she forgot her lunch in elementary school and her mom refused to bring it to her: “It seemed pretty hardcore at the time, but you can be sure that I never forgot my lunch again.” In the end, forcing her to own up to her own mistakes changed her behavior over the long haul.

Celebrate successes, too. Let your kids know that you’re aware of how tough it can be to resist all those bright and shiny objects in the store in order to get that one toy they actually wanted.

3. Do the Math Together

Personal finance writer and author Emily Guy Birken has two sons, ages 6 and 9. Each one has not just a piggy bank but also a physical ledger for keeping track of money. 

“We’re hoping that the combination of the loss of physical money in their bank and the numbers in their ledger getting small will help them recognize that money is a finite resource,” Birken says. 

Her older son seems to be catching on. His school created a book of student poems and made it available for sale. When Birken asked whether he wanted a copy, his first question was if they’d get it for him or whether he had to pay for it. 

Incidentally: He has $300 in his piggy bank.

4. Make It a Rule: No More Getting Anything for Free

Personal finance blogger J. Money likes to visit garage sales with two of his kids. The boys, ages 5 and 7, would often get free stuff as a gift from the garage sale host, or they’d pluck items from the “free” box. 

In an effort to make them more discerning and to avoid piling up junk, he implemented a rule: “No more getting anything for free.” 

Now, even if they find something in a box labeled “free,” they have to offer some kind of payment to the garage sale host. This forces them to engage in their own version of cost-benefit analysis—is that object worth paying real money for? 

Indeed, learning how to say no to kids is one of the most important skills a parent can have.

5. Teach Them ‘the Pause’

When personal finance writer and author Cameron Huddlestoncontributed to a school fundraiser, her 8-year-old asked her to give more so he could “win” a prize. She said no—it isn’t really “winning” if your parent buys it.

She told him he could buy the prize for himself online, with his own money. But first, he’d have to wait a week to make sure he still wanted it. For two days in a row, he reminded her just how much he wanted the toy. Then he forgot all about it, and the money stayed in his piggy bank.

This technique is also very effective for adults: Give yourself a cool-off period of a week to see if your desire for that newest tech gadget or kitchen appliance continues to burn bright. Modeling this behavior shows kids that grownups also have that voice demanding buy this now! but part of being an adult is learning how to take a breath and make a calm decision. 

6. Put Your Money on the Table . . . Literally

If your kids don’t understand that you have bills to pay, try this: As an exercise, cash your paycheck instead of depositing it right away, and spread the money out on a table. 

Let your kids get an eyeful: Wow, we’re RICH!

Then start subtracting. “We need X dollars a month for rent/mortgage,” and take that much away. “We need X dollars a month for our car payment, gas and insurance,” and take that away. “We need X dollars a month for our emergency fund…” and so on and so on. 

The idea isn’t to get them worried about how their family’s financial wellbeing, but to reinforce money lessons:

  • It’s important to budget for commitments (monthly expenses, saving, giving) before buying fun stuff.
  • Make sure your expenses don’t exceed your income.
  • Since expenses can vary, it’s important to have an emergency fund.

“Showing that you are in control and have choices is a powerful message to send,” Unverzagt says.

7. Start Thinking Long-Term, Early

It’s human nature to prioritize short-term wins over the long-term slog toward prosperity, but we all know that focusing exclusively on today will have negative effects when we finally reach tomorrow

So, one way to teach your kids the importance of very long-term thinking—and to actually give them a leg up on getting there—is to start them off saving for retirement now, while they’re still kids. Yup, it’s super early. But since children have a much longer time horizon, they have many years to build wealth. Plus, watching their accounts grow teaches them to think about and save for the future. 

Here’s how: If your child has a source of taxable income (that includes things like babysitting or mowing lawns), then they can have a Roth IRA. This kind of account has the same benefit for kids as it does for adults: tax-free growth. 

If you want, you can choose to contribute to the Roth on their behalf, as long as it doesn’t exceed the annual maximum. (For minors, that’s $6,000 or their total earnings, whichever is less.) 

Certified Financial Planner Kimberly Foss started a Roth IRA for her 4-year-old son, Jack, who was being paid to do chores at her business: emptying wastebaskets, dusting, vacuuming, shredding documents.

“He thought it was cool that he could earn real money, and even cooler that the money could grow all by itself, without him having to add to it,” says Foss, founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, California.

Bonus: Pre-retirement withdrawals can be made penalty-free under certain circumstances, including paying for school or buying a home. Jack, now 15, has his eye on both. “After watching his older sister and brother go into debt, he’s really eager to keep his education as debt-free as possible,” Foss says. 

The Bottom Line

Parenthood is about loving our kids, but it’s also about teaching them to (eventually) leave us. That means learning how to take care of themselves. 

A crucial life skill is knowing how to handle money—and sometimes that means knowing how to not spend it. This isn’t an easy lesson, so you need to model it consistently. If you don’t, your kids might grow up thinking that debt is both normal and inevitable.

Delayed gratification is a key component of financial independence. And, possibly, to bigger and better Lego sets.

admin March 5, 2020 No Comments

Talking about money improves marriage satisfaction. So why don’t we do it?

By Anna BahneyCNN Business

Updated 12:28 PM ET, Tue March 3, 2020

This article originally appeared in CNNBusiness.

(CNN)Research shows that talking with a spouse or partner about money increases relationship satisfaction. But many people still don’t do it. Couples typically don’t talk about money because they’re embarrassed or fearful, said Tara Unverzagt, a certified financial planner with South Bay Financial Partners in Torrance, California. Money is more attached to emotions than most people realize.

“When two people come together, you end up with two sets of money stories, values and experiences,” she said.A recent study showed that married people have the fewest number of conversations about money out of any type of couple, including people who are co-habitating, dating or separated.

“We thought married couples would talk about money more because there is less taboo in the relationship and there would be some shared goals,” said Megan McCoy a marriage therapist, and co-author of the study. “We were shocked about how few were talking about money.”The obstacles are significant, but not impossible to overcome and doing so could even boost happiness in your relationship.

Define your terms

Money is never just money, said McCoy. It’s connected with an idea or a feeling that is often established early on in your life. “We often don’t realize that other people see money differently than we do,” she said. “Some see it as safety and protection, others as something to give away. For some it is something to do fun things with.” Talking with your spouse about what money means to you is a good place to start, said McCoy. From there, she said, focus on shared financial goals instead of the nickels and dimes. “Don’t get bogged down with how much one spends on biking and one spends on dining,” said McCoy. “Talk about, what are we doing to save for retirement? When will we pay off our student loans? How much do we want to fund our kids’ educations?”Keep in mind: People can be embarrassed about their habits or lack of money knowledge, so it’s important not to judge, she said.

Talk values

Natalie and Dan Slagle, a married couple who are both certified financial planners with Fyooz Financial in Rochester, Minnesota, specialize in young couples who are blending their finances. But that didn’t make their own money conversations any easier. “We found ourselves arguing about what decisions we should make with our money,” said Natalie. “We realized we were struggling because we didn’t have in-depth conversations about our philosophies with money and how we were raised with it.” Once they began talking about what they value and their experiences with money, they said they started to find common ground. “Dan and I both share a strong value in our health,” said Natalie. “So spending money on gym memberships, hiking shoes, and even running race registrations requires no convincing because it aligns with a value we hold. But if I were to randomly go out and spend $100 on a new dress, Dan would question that.” These conversations have made their relationship stronger, they said.

Face the fear

For many couples, avoiding money talks comes down to fear, said Ryan Sterling, a financial adviser and wealth coach at Future You Wealth in New York City.”Each spouse is operating in their own money silo,” he said. “They have fear of losing autonomy, losing control, or detaching from consumption and the status or pleasure that comes with that.”In order for couples to feel more secure talking about money, Sterling says they first need to get on the same team.To do that, he recommends couples start by writing their individual wish lists of what they hope to achieve with their money — like take care of family, eliminate debt or reach financial independence. Then, they should compare both lists and see which items match up and which ones don’t. “This process is for all couples — those that have a positive net worth and those with major credit card debt,” said Sterling. “We put it all out there and we work toward a set of agreed upon goals that align with true wants and values.”Money decisions after that are less about being good or bad, right or wrong, he said, and more about, “does this purchase get us closer to our goals or further away?”Talking about money with your spouse is rarely as bad as people think it will be, said Colin Moynahan, a certified financial planner with 2050 Capital Financial Advisors in Charleston, South Carolina.Yes, there are situations where one person is hiding some serious financial issues from the other — but better to know now. “Most people have built up issues in their own head that are not as bad as they think,” he said. “Once they have an open discussion and put a plan in place, they feel much better about the future.”And maybe even each other.