USAA Tips: Be a decision-making duo

Content provided courtesy of USAA.

By J.J. Montanaro

You’ve probably heard the adage, “opposites attract.” Well, when it comes to decision-making my wife and I are living proof there’s at least a grain of truth to that saying. She’s a gunslinger. I’m, she would say, a bit of a waffler. Although, I’d characterize it differently. I’d say I like to carefully weigh all the variables, options and second-order effects before making a thoroughly researched judgment.

How do you and your spouse make big financial decisions? Here are four tips that might help you better navigate the next big one you face:

Do it together. In marriage, communication is key. Financial decisions are the same. If something big is under consideration – a job change, house purchase, major investment, etc. – the process should be collaborative. Nothing can stir up hard feelings, resentment and ignite the blame game like one spouse taking matters into his or her own hands.

Keep the big picture in mind. You should already have your own set of short, medium and long-term financial goals. If you don’t, get to work. On our last anniversary, my wife bought me a little notebook that was titled, “Our Bucket List.” That was a cool approach to making our goals tangible (and a clear tip of that to my deliberate decision-making style). Plus, when it comes to evaluating options, your goals can be just the ammunition you need to combat a poor financial decision. All you must do is ask yourself a simple question: Will this move jeopardize the attainment of our goals?

Delineate your autonomy. Not every decision is big, right? But at what point does it make sense to consult your spouse? Is it $50? $500? $5,000? Depending on where you are in your relationship and your financial life, the number can be very different. Clearly defining the “big threshold” as a couple will give you guard rails and freedom to act independently without worrying about repercussions. Early in your marriage, there may be lots of conversations. With marital and monetary maturity, the thresholds will likely be much different.

Take emotion out of the mix. Emotion is a salesperson’s friend. Find a way to tap the buyer’s emotion, and you’re just a bit closer to the sale. As a couple, emotional decisions are your enemy. Establish a strategy that will blunt the emotional impact of a big decision. It could be a week-long cooling off period before a big purchase, a meticulous look at your budget, or any technique that helps you to focus clearly on the benefits and drawbacks of the decision at hand. If we do this, what will things look like in six months or six years?

Over the years, my wife and I have been able to mesh our two styles to find a sweet spot in our decision making. Following these tips, I feel confident you are your partner will be able to work together to hit your stride, too.