Advice

We built a healthy savings account during lockdown. Now it seems like my wife just wants to blow it all and have fun.

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

During COVID lockdown, my wife and I saved a lot of money. As the savings wracked up, I was pretty excited. While we’ve never carried much debt, we’ve also never really saved much. We tended to live pretty well within our means.

Fast forward to now. Things started opening up and we started going out. It’s not like we never went out before but we’re out way more now, meeting friends for dinners and drinks. Earlier this year, we took a couple trips, and now she is searching online for flights and hotels. She’s already booked us a pretty fancy non-refundable place in Hawaii during Christmas.

I recently checked our savings account and it’s pretty depleted. I suggested we slow down and focus a bit more on saving. She said COVID taught her to “embrace life” and she isn’t worried about using up our savings and even taking on debt. I was shocked — we have always been very debt-adverse. And while we weren’t good at saving money, we always said we wanted to. I feel like I need to get us back on track financially. Advice?

Wanda says:

COVID changed a lot of things for a lot of people. People quit jobs, changed careers, chased dreams, abandoned relationships, struck up new ones and at times, struggled mightily. For many, it clarified our thoughts on what it is we need to have balance, feel fulfilled and ultimately be happy.

Now that we’re coming through this — I think we are, anyway — for those of us in committed relationships, it’s important to regroup and reground and ultimately agree on what the new normal looks like. This could include things like how to best use your household space if one or both of you is working at home. It could mean whether you want to retain or abandon coping habits you formed during the pandemic’s peak. And in your case, it also means finding some agreement on how to manage your household finances.

Misaligned financial strategies can derail a marriage. You were on the same page once; you can probably get back there. It will take listening and it may mean compromise, and likely, you can find middle ground as you better understand each other’s money mindset and outline some mutual goals that will make you both feel secure, safe and happy.

Wayne says:

Regarding planning, I’d bet this couple already had a sound strategy pre-COVID and simply lost their way once daily life — and those purse strings — started loosening up. People who are all about their Benjamins don’t just save money for the sake of saving it. They make it work for them. They have a vision they want to bring to life with it. That sounds like this couple.

So, what were you and your partner aiming for with those pretty exciting savings and those very high credit scores? The long view of living large in retirement? The work-life balance package of traveling the world once a year or going to Hawaii four times a year? Upgrading to a new home or upgrading your portfolio with an investment property?

There must have been some major driver for paying off your debt, living within or under your means, and steadily stacking that paper. So, now that you’ve had a little fun — hey, we all deserved it — let’s bring the focus back to that one big thing. This is a perfect time for a checkup: right there, in black and white, you’ll see the progress, or regression, toward that goal. And hopefully that’s the splash of cold water you both need to sober up on the spending. If not, look up a financial adviser who will happily spell it out and even provide a road map to get you back on track for the long term while also giving you some flexibility to enjoy life in the moment.

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