Have you discussed goals with your partner?

Written by Lisa Pallavi Barbora

Lisa Pallavi Barbora is a Senior Consultant for Content at WFAN. Lisa is also a founder of MoneyPuzzle.in In her earlier avatar, she was a National Writer and Consultant for HT Mint - a premier business journal in India.

July 30, 2021

Putting a down payment for that house? Before making the commitment did you make sure to discuss the details with your spouse? It’s a nice complex and some of your friends are buying an apartment there, you went to have a look, loved the sample flat (who doesn’t?!) and before you know it, you are on your way to buying an apartment there too.

Buying a house is a big deal in many ways. However, more often than not while making this decision, very little discussion happens outside of the dimensions of the house itself, the price and maybe the location. Afterall, what else is there to talk about?

A lot.

Buying a house is also a significant financial commitment. It’s true that there are housing loans available at several price points for such large financial transactions and you can easily take one to buy your house too. However, have you discussed the implications of having a large monthly repayment or EMI as part of your financial lives? Are you ok with cutting back on spending on other aspects of life like holidays, hobbies and entertainment? Are you okay with pushing yourself at work beyond what you do now so that you can earn that extra bonus to contribute towards the loan repayment? What happens if you or your spouse lose your job or god forbid if either of you have to deal with sudden, untimely death of the other?

These are all real situations in life that need to be considered and spoken about. A house is bought for a family today, ten years on, if professional progress hasn’t been as per plan, the EMI can become a burden that’s too hard to carry. This is also an outcome that needs to be discussed. You may change jobs, and the house you live in is too far from your new place of work or your children suffer if there is no good school around. At the time of buying a house, the house itself becomes a goal without considering the impact it can have on other aspects of one’s life.

These other aspects like your time, financial well-being, stress of matching up to your neighbours among other things are just as important and can be brought to the forefront just by having open communication with your spouse. While owning a house is an important milestone in life, it should not be achieved at the cost of other life goals. Buying a house is just one example of a financial transaction that requires a lot of communication and discussion in the family before making a final decision.

One way to move forward is for couples, spouses or live-in partners to casually and openly discuss their individual life goals. Finding a common ground can make life’s financial decisions more efficient while at the same time making living life together more enjoyable.

What are shared goals?

Shared goals are not just about owning things like homes and cars, rather about the vision of life you may have in the next 10 – 15 years and working towards that. It’s possible that you or your spouse wants to change careers in the next five years or that one of you is not as keen to climb right to the top of the corporate ladder. These are important choices in life and if communicated openly, you can start planning life in accordance with the goals that match rather than moving in separate directions.

Shared goals are about things that you can both enjoy together as well. Talk about what potentially could be a shared goal in life and how can you achieve it. Give yourselves a time line to get there. For example, adopting and education at least 5-10 young children may be a goal that one spouse has, whereas, the other wants to travel across the length and breadth of India in the next five years. Both these goals can be combined. Not only do you have to think about the financial impact but also how you will implement it. Fulfilling both might mean, travelling on a tight budget or it might mean adopting a child across towns in India as you visit them. These are two separate goals which can potentially be converted into a shared goal with effective communication.

There can be many more instances of shared goals, projects, undertakings that you want to do together with your spouse but are unable to just for lack of communication. Goals are not about the money or finances; they are about the life you want to live.

Taming the financials

Having said that, money is the resource you need for all your life’s goals. Which means that if you have shared goals then you need to work around the financials to fulfil those goals.

Again, unless you communicate you will neither know each other’s goals nor will you be able to reach them.

If you have indeed done the work and identified these shared goals, then the next step in to think about what you need to do to achieve them. For starters you have to save and invest towards these goals. Give yourselves a time line which is specific and then start working towards achieving the goal by saving for it during the period you have identified.

If your goal is still a few months or years away, you can then start working out the finer details of how, where and what you need to be as close to satisfied with your goal outcome.

Have active discussions around what you are thinking and if the thoughts change with circumstances, then that too is something you need to share with your spouse.

Lastly, think about writing down what you want to achieve and reading what each has written. When you do the writing, some clarity emerges on how you can get there and also, whether that is the goal indeed. Reading what the other has written can have an even deeper impact on your ability to perceive how shared goals can be achieved.

We are all allowed to change our minds and move on to tangential goals, but if all of this is just bottled up inside only our heads, no one else will know where we wanted to go and where we didn’t reach. Whether it is the big financial decisions or the small ones, unless you are able to openly discuss the impact on individual lives, you will find yourself falling short on mutual happiness.  

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