Bob & Barb’s Story

Bob and Barb came to me with serious money conflicts. They married ten years ago; this was the second marriage for each of them. Barb had adult children from a prior marriage.

Bob was an engineer. He bought his first, and only, home when he was 23, with money he’d saved while working his way through college. He was contributing the maximum allowed to the retirement plan through his job, which the company matched, and he made the annual, maximum contributions to an individual IRA. He was an amateur photographer and saved up to buy new equipment.

Barb was a social worker. She had volunteered in various programs in support of her children while they were in school. She was the one who could be counted on to be the room mother, den mother, playground monitor. She volunteered at church, chairing a women’s group. She was the president of her local professional organization. She enjoyed buying gifts for her children, husband, and friends, and she loved to contribute to charitable causes.

By now you have discerned their very different money styles. Bob focused on security and safety;  Barb on freedom and flexibility. They came to me because they were tired of fighting over money. Bob said, “She never sticks to the budget I make for her.” Barb’s response was, “He’s not my father. I make money, too.”

We began the counseling process in the fall. They both relaxed a bit as they learned to plan and track income and spending. Together we developed a plan to pay off Barb’s remaining consumer debt and continue to save money toward their retirement. They became comfortable with the transparency of the process as they learned where all the money was coming from and how it was being spent.

As we planned their spending each month, they planned dates with each other; sometimes as simple as a picnic on the beach, sometimes a lavish dinner. They remembered what they liked about each other. They began to enjoy activities together, without guilt or blame, because they had planned to spend that money on those activities.

Barb became more disciplined in her spending, carefully considering whose birthdays or what special events would be coming up in any given month so money for those gifts could be included in their joint spending plan. Bob would rather not have spent that money on gifts but acknowledged that Barb’s generosity was one of the traits that most attracted him to her.

Their conflict around money steadily decreased as they came to understand how each felt about money and the benefits of the other’s money style.

To celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary, they took a two week trip to France. After they bought the airline tickets, they carefully planned how much they would spend on lodging, ground transportation, meals, souvenirs, and entertainment. They did not, however, have a particular itinerary for the trip. They wanted to be spontaneous and flexible.

After touring the French countryside for several days, they returned to Paris for the final two days of their trip. As they reviewed their vacation spending, they realized that they had considerable money allocated to housing and food that they had not yet spent. They decided to upgrade to a five-star hotel for their final two nights in Paris and have a very lavish anniversary dinner – all without guilt. Both Bob and Barb were comfortable spending that money to treat themselves as they had planned it.

Barb and Bob were delighted to share that story with me upon their return. They saw it as an amazing testament to the work we had done together and proof that they, too, had made peace with money.

These are not the couple’s real names.