She may work in finances, but some days Selina Gray feels more like a referee. The financial knowledge broker regularly works with couples melting down over money, whether they’re adjusting to new financial commitments after having children or arguing over bagging or buying a lunch.
We recently sat down with Gray to find out why she believes the solution to many money problems lies in a simple money date.
Laurel Gregory: What are the top issues you’re seeing when couples come to you?
Selina Gray: Couples have concerns, especially post-children. All of a sudden, disposable income typically goes out the window, so they’re just having trouble making sure their monthly cash flow is positive. They’re relying on lines of credit or credit cards to fund their life and it’s scary because there’s interest implications and I see this at all forms of debt all the way to high net worth…
They’re saying, “We know we make a high salary and we’re spending it all, what’s happening?” or, “We’re on a maternity leave and money is tight. How can we better decide what’s a priority for us for spending?”
That’s where I come in and really help specialize and say to everyone, “Let’s go through your money from a past perspective and see where you’ve been spending and then layer on what you actually value.” So a lot of people currently really value travel or spending quality time with their family through children’s activities, let’s say, and they’re just not finding enough money in their budget because they go to Costco and spend a lot of money there and there’s nothing left over. They’re developing a concern and need a strategy. So that’s what I help provide: a strategy to spend their monthly income in a more feasible and strategic way.
LG: How does the stress about money show up for these couples?
SG: I’ll come in and we start cutting to specific pain points. Money has so many pain points. For women, it can be, “I’m not included,” or, “I’m not making as much,” or sometimes, “I make more and I feel a little bitter about that.”
It usually has an emotional component that both spouses aren’t coming to terms with together. They’ve each had their own upbringing in money, which is usually different, and perception on money.
It could be the exact same situation where you have a purchase for $500 and each spouse will react completely differently based on how they view money and their own personal perceptions about it so that can create conflict. They come to me and say, “How do we resolve this?”
LG: Tell me about the money date and the benefits of one.
SG: A money date is an interesting concept in that it can be a money talk or whatever is comfortable for the two people involved. Money dates can be for couples or business partners or you can have a money date on your own. Really it’s for anyone who shares a budget. So the premise is to get through the emotional charge of money. Everyone gets really uptight about money and typically when you discuss money, you’re angry or you have anxiety or stress, so everyone gets elevated much quicker.
The premise of the money date is to come together in a loving, safe, comfortable environment to really align how you value and how you want to spend money together.
A good way to do it is to define a date that works well for both parties. So, I have a set of clients that like to do it every second Wednesday and they love cheese plates and they have wine, so you can set a really good environment. You’re saying, “We’re coming together, we’re not emotionally charged, we’re coming to have a common goal to better our relationship with money and make sure our money is tied together in a good way.”
LG: What kind of goals should the couple cover?
SG: The goals should be a full gamut. So what’s happening in our next 30 to 90 days – short-term focus? So, of course we’re coming into Christmas, so you could work on a Christmas budget and the area of your budget you need to work on.
“Who are we buying gifts for? What charities do we intend to give to? What are we going to give to each other? How are we going to pay for it? Is there any creative way we can fund the Christmas season?”
Then move to medium term. “What do we intend to do over the next year to two years? How many trips do we want to take? Do we want to upgrade our house? Do we want to pay down our mortgage?” Then you find the right experts to help assist you with each of those things so it’s a laid-out map. Lastly is long term. It’s harder to see long term but it’s really important to consider. You want to look into the future and say, “What’s our retirement goals? If we don’t have any, we need them, so let’s figure it out.”
LG: Who can benefit from money dates?
SG: I think every single human being could benefit. Every single human has interactions with money and you don’t have to have a spouse to have a money date! I have a client who literally has a money date in the tub. She makes sure she goes through all her bills, plays wonderful music and lights candles and she is happy about it when normally, money was so stressful she couldn’t even open up her statements – so it’s about setting the tone, being real and honest and kind to yourself.
Selina Gray is a speaker at the 2nd Annual Show Your Money Who’s BOSS event in Edmonton on Nov. 14.