Writing for CNBC Money, Ester Bloom explains that it wasn’t her financial savvy that helped her save $100,000 for a new apartment while only earning $30,000 a year in New York City. Instead, she maintains, “the most important decision I made was to surround myself with like-minded people, both romantically and socially.” This is interesting. I’ve long known that the core tenets of financial success are simple: Be frugal; save money; and, invest your savings. But what if you’re in a relationship where a partner doesn’t share the same values of frugality, or what if your friends are always encouraging you to spend more? As Bloom asks, “What good is a minimalist mindset, after all, if you’re living with someone who eats out two or three meals a day? Eventually you too will succumb to Seamless.”
There are really important aspects of finance and investing that we in the financial advisory business broadly understand to fall under the rubric of behavioral finance. I suppose this would be a good example of a behavioral finance topic. What fascinates me, however, is that it’s not just the individual’s behavioral patterns that have a bearing on one’s financial health, but also the behavioral patterns of those in one’s direct social circle. We often hear of the importance of emotional, sexual, and physical compatibility in relationships, but what about money compatibility? According to Bloom, money compatibility is paramount:
This is what relationship advice-types mean when they say to make sure you’re with people who share your values. If you want to be an ant, don’t shack up with a grasshopper. Don’t even go out drinking with grasshoppers that often or you’ll start questioning your decisions, second-guessing your priorities and, perhaps, feeling strapped, like the couple that makes $500,000 a year and still can barely save.
I have more questions than answers at this point: How does one broach this subject? Does it come up naturally in conversation or is it something that is better observed than discussed? Are there cases where people have different money values, yet are still relationally compatible (I’m thinking of the classic example where one partner’s a saver and the other a spender)? In any event, I think relational finance is a topic worth considering and, much like other areas of life, it’s always helpful when one is surrounded by people who support one’s lifestyle choices rather than hinders them. For the rest of Bloom’s thoughts on relational money matters, you can read more at cnbc.com.