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Nerds, Free Spirits Clash On Spending

When it comes to spending money, opposites often attract, and that can cause serious problems for married couples.

But on The Early Show Tuesday, money maven and radio talk show host Dave Ramsey showed how spouses can stop fighting over their finances, which can work wonders for a marriage. Experts say disagreements over money are among the leading causes of divorce.

According to Ramsey, there are two types of people in the world: nerds and free spirits, and they often wind up married to each other. Inevitably, the pairing leads to conflict, particularly when it comes to financial issues.

Chances are you already know if you're a nerd or a free spirit, Ramsey says, but maybe you haven't defined yourself that way. Basically, nerds are planners. Nerds need the desk drawer organized. Nerds like looking at the bills to see how much they've spent on electricity that month. Free spirits are the opposite of nerds. Free spirits never really look at the check register, or make solid plans for retirement. It's not that they don't care about the family finances; they simply have faith everything is going to work out just fine without so much darned planning.

Ramsey clarifies that being a free spirit or a nerd has nothing to do with spending habits. A nerd can be a big spender while a free spirit may be a saver. The problem here is that nerds feel free spirits don't take money seriously, and they get annoyed. Free spirits feel their input on financial issues is totally ignored, and their feelings get hurt. Clearly, in such a situation, squabbles are hard to avoid.

The answer, Ramsey stresses, isn't ignoring the problem by never discussing money, or by letting one person in the marriage handle all of the finances. Believe it or not, agreeing on financial issues builds unity in a marriage: It brings spouses closer together. When you agree on how to spend money, you are agreeing on what's important to you as a family. You're laying out plans for the future and setting goals. Finding common ground on these issues is more powerful than you can imagine, Ramsey says.

He says the logical place to begin finding common ground is with the family budget. Don't worry, this discussion doesn't have to spell disaster. Ramsey has rules for both nerds and free spirits to follow during discussions about money.

First off, he suggests holding a "meeting" to discuss the budget. The nerd should draw up the initial budget, or re-present the current budget if you already have one. Even if you do have a family budget in place, there's a good chance the free spirit isn't familiar with it. However, just because the nerd is organizing the budget certainly doesn't mean that person is in charge.

Ramsey has several "rules of conduct" for any budget discussion:Rules For Nerds

  • Present Plan & Shut Up:
  • As the nerd, you are accustomed to playing the role of expert when it comes to the family finances. That's not going to be the case this time. You are allowed to show the free spirit what you've come up with for the initial budget, but then you need to shut your mouth and give your spouse a chance to respond. Again, you're not in charge. This may be the hardest point for a nerd to swallow.
  • You have 17 Minutes to Speak: This is not a weekend summit. You're going to lose the free spirit's attention really fast if you drone on forever. Plus, remember, you're not allowed to monopolize the floor. You're both on equal footing here. Give yourself a 17-minute window to present what you feel is most important, then listen to what your spouse has to say.
  • Allow The Free Spirit to "Mess Things Up": As we've determined, nerds are a bit controlling. Your budget at the end of the meeting isn't going to look like it did at the beginning. That's the point of discussing things with your spouse, and you need to be OK with this. Chances are you're used to rejecting many of your spouse's ideas concerning money. Just because your free spirit thinks about money differently doesn't mean his/her ideas aren't workable. Give your spouse a chance.

    Rules For Free Spirits

  • You Must Attend!
  • Even showing up at a meeting like this goes against a free spirit's nature. But, obviously, if you don't discuss things, you can't agree on anything. So be there, and don't complain about it!
  • Give Mature Input: "We need more money for clothes" is not mature input. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to present problems and solutions at the meeting. "We could probably spend less on groceries and up the clothing budget some" is a much better contribution. Remember that you need to take some responsibility. This isn't solely your spouse's domain any longer.
  • Never Say "Whatever you want": Just nodding your head and saying, "That looks great, honey" or "Whatever you want to do, honey" isn't OK. You have strong feelings about your family's goals and priorities, and you need to share them. Also, your spouse deserves some support. It's not easy feeling as if the family's entire financial burden rests on his or her shoulders. You agreed to work together during your marriage, so do your part.
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