- - Friday, February 13, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It’s all hearts and flowers now, as love is in the air – literally on the airwaves – as Valentine’s Day approaches and advertisers make a play for the almost $13.2 billion in spending that occurs to express our love to the special one in our life. It’s ironic that all the hearts, flowers and chocolate are preceded by “Divorce Month.”

Sadly, after the holiday season ends, there will be about a one-third increase in divorce filings in January as too many couples decide that they want to begin their new year with an ending. It’s a tragic tale really as the hype of a romantic connection becomes big business in February even as divorce attorneys are gearing up for court.

Interestingly, some cutting-edge research at Kansas State University reveals that what you argue about is a good indicator of whether you will divorce.

“Arguments about money is by far the top predictor of divorce,” said Sonya Britt, assistant professor of family studies and human services and program director of personal financial planning, in unveiling the study. “It’s not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It’s money — for both men and women.”

I could have told you that. As head of an organization that counsels people around the world on how to handle finances, I’ve seen too many marriages end when common ground cannot be found – or created.

In today’s culture, where passionate feelings take precedence in many matters of the heart, too little time is spent in contemplating what happens the day AFTER the wedding, when true love gives way to a mortgage or a car payment or student loan debts or…the list goes on. Under the financial stress and strain of financial obligations and decisions, the worst in us can come out.

With the stakes so high, it is wise to learn early how your partner handles life. A Couples Compatibility Assessment of some kind is more than the meaningless relationship pop quizzes you find in women’s fashion magazines. Such guided reflection can be a door that opens up the kinds of conversations that lead to real intimacy and less emotional disagreements as people learn how to work together. Think of it as a way to discover each other’s internal wiring, a way to better
understand the similarities and differences of two people working to become one.

An interesting difference in personality, neither good nor bad, but of profound impact is seen in two key traits: Conscientious vs. Unconventional. A conscientious person is comfortable with details. They like precision and if overdone, can tend towards perfectionism. On the other hand, an unconventional person is instinctive. They like to improvise and can tend towards being unorganized, even sloppy.

Anyone married more than a day knows the tug of war between spouses when it comes to whether you’re energized by living on a budget and keeping accurate records vs. the one digging through the receipts and statements at the end of the month to find out if you have any money left over. But if your Valentine happens to be a perfectionist, you may be surprised to learn that there are financial benefits to you.

Brittany C. Solomon and Joshua J. Jackson of Washington University in St. Louis realized that in a collection of data on thousands of Australian households were clues to the effect of spouses’ personality characteristics on people’s employment outcomes.

The researchers found that the spousal trait of conscientiousness, also predicted income, number of promotions, and job satisfaction, regardless of gender. The more conscientious your spouse, the higher your income on average, the more likely you are to move up on the job and the more likely you are to report job satisfaction.

The Harvard Business Review noted: “To put the income finding in dollar terms, with every 1-standard-deviation increase in a spouse’s conscientiousness, an individual is likely to earn approximately $4,000 more per year, averaging across all ages and occupations, according to Solomon. And one way to frame the promotion finding is that employees with extremely conscientious spouses (two standard deviations above the mean) are 50% more likely to get promoted than
those with extremely unconscientious spouses (two standard deviations below the mean).”

Spousal conscientiousness and employee conscientiousness offered similar benefits to both partner and employer. Those rated conscientious handle many tasks, relieving those working with them of pressure, freeing up their time, creating a sense of satisfaction and even causing those around them to try harder.

So if you are the unconventional person in your relationship, when it comes to investing hard earned money, you will want to defer to the one who wants to research just a little more. And you may better appreciate a Valentine who is picky about the details that make up a life.

This Valentine’s Day, take the time to better understand the one you love, and save money on the flowers.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown, the largest Christian financial
teaching organization in the world, author of “The Worst Financial
Mistakes in the Bible And How You Can Avoid Them” as well host of the
nationally syndicated radio feature, My MoneyLife.

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