Talk Wealth to Me

Financial Infidelity

May 14, 2019 Season 1 Episode 4
Talk Wealth to Me
Financial Infidelity
Chapters
Talk Wealth to Me
Financial Infidelity
May 14, 2019 Season 1 Episode 4
Felipe Arevalo, Chase Peckham, Katie Utterback, Ed Coambs
Financial Therapist Ed Coambs joins us to talk about financial infidelity: What is it? How does it affect a marriage? And what can you do if financial infidelity happens to you?
Show Notes Transcript

Marriage and Family Therapist Ed Coambs, MA, MBA, LMFTA, CSAT-C, CFP, who also specializes in financial therapy, joins us to discuss financial infidelity: What is it? How does it affect a marriage? And what can you do if financial infidelity happens to you?

When we keep financial secrets from our spouse or significant other, we are guilty of financial infidelity. But according to a new study, only 52 percent of individuals believe their significant other is totally honest with them when it comes to money.

Given that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, and financial issues are the leading cause for separations in the nation, we asked Ed to share some insight with us on what happens when financial infidelity occurs: Are our relationships completely doomed when our spouse makes a purchase without our consent? What if they're earning more than they lead us to believe? We chat about all of this and more - along with how our childhood and emotional money baggage plays a role in our spending and saving habits!

Comments, questions or suggestions for the show? Email us at talkwealthpodcast@gmail.com.

Want to learn more about Ed Coambs? Visit his practice website or check out this blog on financial infidelity from DebtWave Credit Counseling.

To learn more about DebtWave Credit Counseling, visit our website or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

To learn more about the San Diego Financial Literacy Center, visit our website or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.
 



Intro:
0:00
Intro Music
Intro:
0:10
Welcome to Talk Wealth To Me, a safe space money podcast where we chat about anything and everything related to personal finance.
Felipe:
0:19
The information contained in this podcast is for educational and entertainment purposes only. It does not constitute as accounting, legal, tax or other professional advice.
Chase:
0:31
Welcome everybody to podcast number four of Talk Wealth to Me. I'm Chase Peckham, Director of Community Outreach at the San Diego Financial Literacy Center, back with my cohorts, both Katie and Felipe back in the house. Man, I'll tell you what, today's interview was insane. Uh, financial infidelity. We're going to take that word right and infidelity means to, for a lot of us cheating. But boy is, it's so much more than that.
Katie:
1:04
It is much more. And um, I was reading something. You guys, there's a study that was done. Only 52% of individuals believe their significant other is totally honest with them when it comes to money. And we've talked on the show before. Number one, reason for divorce, financial related issues.
Chase:
1:25
I'm, I'm just going to call everything financial infidelity now.
Felipe:
1:28
It's a good blanket statement.
Chase:
1:30
It says a lot
Felipe:
1:32
right after the interview. I'm sitting here thinking, wow, that was, that was a lot. It was a lot more information than, than I thought I was gonna try and take in and I got a page full of notes and you know, they got drawings on my paper. I don't even know. It was a lot. It was great information.
Katie:
1:49
And because we teased this on the podcast last week, we actually had a listener write in and tell us their story. Um, one of our clients has a sister in law who was guilty of financial infidelity. She ran up about $75,000 in credit card debt without her husband knowing
Chase:
2:07
how is that possible?
Felipe:
2:09
And that's what I was asking Katie earlier, like how does that even happen? Where, how do you not notice?
Katie:
2:14
Well, here she gave some insight into that. She would have the bills sent to her mother's house and she would make minimum monthly payments. Then she ran low on cash and started borrowing from other people and dipping into their kids' savings accounts. Her husband did not find out until his credit was declined on a car purchase.
Felipe:
2:36
That's a tough one. And that one that
Chase:
2:38
I thought I'd heard and seen it all. That's, that's something
Felipe:
2:42
and that scenario was very active knowing I'm going to try and get away with this and then after it, but listening to the interview, it sounds like sometimes people do it out of subconscious from previous experiences, from how your up your upbringing and sometimes maybe they don't even notice it as much. Obviously this is a very,
Chase:
3:04
how did that extend to say how that relationship ended up?
Katie:
3:07
We don't know.
Chase:
3:08
TBD If you're listening right now, who would love to know how that goes. But you know, it's, it's, it's crazy as that sounds. That's, that's something that we actually see quite often. I mean, that's why when we talk about financial infidelity that it's so universal. It's just, it's huge. I mean, the landscape, it's Kinda like saying financial literacy, right? I mean, there's a huge landscape to personal financials. I once met a young girl who was 22 years old in one of the classes that we were presenting. And, uh, she had decent credit that she had built up in her young college life. Her parents were terrible with it. They couldn't buy a car. They asked her to cosign on a car at 23 years old, 24 years old, and then her parents a year later just stop making payments on the car and completely crushed this poor young woman's credit. I guess that's financial infidelity, right? It's just different. It's just a, it's you mentioned in the interview he talks about is beyond just the, the, the home with a husband and wife or partners that financial infidelity can touch so many more, um, if, if I'm telling you you've got to listen to this interview, I mean, if you have any ideas about getting married or you're thinking about asking somebody to get married or you think that, that, that significant other is going to ask you, these are the convert. You need to have conversations. Honest conversations.
Katie:
4:39
Yeah. Figure out your emotional money. Baggage.
Felipe:
4:41
Yeah. There is so much information in the
Chase:
4:43
skeletons in the closet. You got to discuss these things.
Felipe:
4:46
But there was so much info in there that if you're a single person just sitting there trying to figure out why I bought what I bought, you benefit from it also.
Chase:
4:56
Absolutely
Felipe:
4:57
and it's something where you might be thinking I'm be single forever and you probably still benefit from listening to this because you know there was so much extra information on there.
Chase:
5:07
What did you say? 20 something percent of people have their own accounts without the partner knowing
Katie:
5:13
Yeah credit cards.com they did a survey. They asked couples who are both living together and couples in a long distance relationship about their money habits and how honest they are with each other. Financially. They found 23% of these couple of respondents admitted they had a secret account.
Chase:
5:31
Wow. I'm going to call my wife right now and ask her and she's got another secret account. I don't know. Yeah cause I know I don't and if she does man, she's good for her and starting early. So if a bad for me, no, we're not finding out.
Katie:
5:48
They did a study too, they looked into it. If a husband is going to be the one who's committing the financial infidelity, you're more likely to spend the money on electronics or your hobbies if it's the female partner clothing, shoes or gifts for friends and family.
Chase:
6:05
That makes a lot of sense. We see, yeah, that's a common theme through all of it. This is an incredible interview and I would, uh, I would take a listen.
Katie:
6:13
Yeah. So we're joined, uh, for this interview by a North Carolina based financial therapist Ed Coambs. He's not only a marriage and family therapist, he's actually a certified financial planner,
Chase:
6:25
well rounded individual,
Katie:
6:26
well rounded. He's got a lot of initials after his name
Chase:
6:29
and if you want his wife will do your teeth. Yeah. She'll make them pearly whites.
Katie:
6:35
Yeah. So for our east coast listeners, we may have found your new dentists.
Chase:
6:39
Do yourselves a favor. Take a listen. Here it is.
Katie:
6:42
Thank you so much for joining us on our show today. Ed. Um, I want to ask you, what exactly is financial therapy and what exactly do you do as a financial therapist?
Ed Coambs:
6:55
Yeah, great question, Katie. I appreciate you asking that. That's a common question. Financial therapy is a very exciting, uh, and relatively new development in the field of therapy of our focus is really looking at, um, an individual or a couple's relationship with money. How that relationship has developed over time, what areas are working well for them, what areas are not working so well? And we look at these major domains. So we think about, you know, how's your thought life going? What kind of behavioral patterns, what emotions are stirred up for you, and then what relationship dynamics are happening for you around money. And typically because of the nature of therapy, right? We're looking at those places where you're experiencing distress. So maybe you're stuck ruminating about paying bills. You can't stop thinking about paying bills or maybe you're regularly spending on things that would be a behavior. A lot of people, anxiety and shame are huge factors when it comes to dealing with money. And then inevitably in relationships, because each person has a different history with money, they bring a different relationship to money that has some subtle nuances that inevitably lead to conflict or disagreements about how money should be used.
Katie:
8:10
Sure. So it sounds like money in their relationships, so sure. So the psychology of money or things that we learn about money in our childhood plays a big factor here.
Ed Coambs:
8:24
Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, for me that's a major focus is really understanding that the financial experiences that a person has had through their childhood. And those can be direct experiences with money. Like you're getting your first Christmas gift and what that felt like to indirect experiences of watching mom, dad, or other significant relatives interacting with money, interacting with each other about money, what they would say about how that partner uses money. And really it's, it's the language that's been used and as the emotion and the tone that all is then, um, consolidated and creates, money, memories that often then go into the unconscious part of our mind. You know, you may not ask them to remember all the different little conflicts or things that have been said about money between you and your parents and your parents between each other or siblings. But that collective experience then shapes the way that you think about yourself and the way that you think about money.
Katie:
9:23
Okay. So when you, so let's say for example, my husband goes out and he spends $5 on gummy bears and our budget is now out of whack. Any sort of anger that I have toward him is that collective anger or collective feelings of fear toward money.
Ed Coambs:
9:43
Yeah. And it could, it may be a likely to be both. Right. And I think that there's also a sense of, you know, um, justice can be a way that we look at this too is it feels unfair. It feels unbalanced. Why do you get to have this pleasure? But I don't.
Katie:
9:59
Okay. So when couples are trying to sit down and talk about money, is that one of the most difficult conversations that they have or talk about? Is it finances or financial planning?
Ed Coambs:
10:14
Yeah, I think, you know, for many couples talking about money is something that they've not seen modeled particularly well and their families or in other significant relationships. And so there can be a lot of uncertainty around how to address topics, especially with difficult topics with money, whether it's, there are things that reflect personal values like um, going on different types of trips to home purchases to, um, even in a recent example of how the money is used, you maybe the money that was saved is now being translated into buying a business. Then it's like, wait, hold on. I don't feel comfortable with that risk. That doesn't feel good to me. And the other person is kind of Gung Ho and so it's okay. We believe that decision don't gets made, but it's like a, somebody gets left feeling not so good. So this is where I really like to introduce this concept of stuff. So when I'm working with couples around the idea of financial intimacy, right, and how do you build a financial pleasure together, how do you respect each other's different financial needs without feeling like you're complete cut, completely compromising your own desires and interests and things that give you pleasure.
Katie:
11:26
Interesting. So coming up with long term and short term goals is something that couples should be working on together if I'm understanding.
Ed Coambs:
11:36
Yeah, that's, yeah, I think so. It's that really is ideal, you know, is when couples can come together and financial intimacy and see that. They can look at this, this whole time span that we as humans deal with, right? We are trying to live in the president making the day to day decisions about going into target and the grocery store and how much to buy for the kids. Birthday presents, all that kind of day to day stuff, right? Which is reflects just certain degrees of value. But we also think about what's coming up in three months, six months from now. Some of us are more inclined to think about what's coming up in five years. Some are more thinking about 30 years from now. And so we're continuously trying to monitor all these different times spans and make decisions that help us move along how we think we should in time and our relationship to time can be very different partner to partner. And so that can also be a source of conflict.
Chase:
12:36
So, I guess the question is when it comes to couples, I mean it's hard enough being, bringing two different completely different backgrounds together. I mean, if you think about just the holidays in general, you've got traditions right that come together. And you know, we opened up presents on Christmas on Christmas morning, but my partner, they all opened up half their presents on Christmas eve and we never did that. So you're, you're coming together in so many different scenarios. Money has got to be on top of that, but that's something that a lot of people in their backgrounds didn't talk about as I think you mentioned before. So how is it in when, at what point in the relationship, and we run into people all the time that are discussing these things 10, 15 years into their marriage when realistically this should have probably been a very big topic prior to tying the knot.
Ed Coambs:
13:31
Yes, absolutely. And I think if we had a dollar for every one of those situations, we ran into it, I'll be retired and wealthy. Um, you know, one of the ways I think about this too is because of the nature of romantic love and what happens to us at a whole nother level. There's a lot of things that we see in our, we don't see about our intimate partner when we're in that process of falling in love - we're love blind. We have a lot of like suggesting into our body a lot of the love formats that are are flowing and so it blinds us in love literally to seeing this person more comprehensively for who they are. It's only we look at these kind of practical like people should be talking about their goals, dreams and visions and kind of who they are and how their family history has impacted the way that they relate to money.
Ed Coambs:
14:20
All of that presumes a very psychologically mature person and for a lot of us, we're not quite there, especially when a lot are in the beginning stages. If we're early in our young adult lives, right? If we're in our twenties or early thirties there's a lot of things that we're still figuring out about ourselves, that they're a partner is still figuring about themselves, which makes it hard to be able to have some of that perspective that you start gaining as you move later into your thirties and your forties and you really start to understand the complexity of life. Um, the many paradoxes that exist. The power of unresolved relationships from the past, the weight of all of that really starts to make more sense in the middle of life. And so that becomes a major story in process or a couples. So I hope that that makes sense in response to your question.
Chase:
15:11
It totally does because I think remembering back when you're courting somebody or you're dating, I mean the idea is, especially when we're young, is not, I mean, we're not going to talk about money or think about money. We're in love. That's not something we need to worry about right now. That in fact, that's the, the anti sexy, right? That's the anti, why do we want to get into that? Right now, it's all about romance and love and all that kind of stuff. Yet when it comes down to it, number one reason for people breaking up is that very topic. So why wouldn't you discuss whether you, where you want to go be what everybody want to talk about. What's the first question they ask? Do you want kids, you know, where do you want to live? You know, do you want to live by your parents?
Chase:
15:53
But nobody discusses. So fundamentally, what do you want to do with your money?
Felipe:
15:58
Those are financial questions too inherently where you live?
Chase:
16:02
they are, but that they're not broken down, are they?
Felipe:
16:04
No, it's not a attributed usually. Right. But they all have financial implications, short term, long term and, and you know, just sometimes people don't think of them as money. Is it something where the different histories and backgrounds with money, um, might skew someone's answer to where do you want to live or how many kids do you want to have? And both people say two, but for different reasons
Ed Coambs:
16:34
all the time. All the time. And really, yeah, there's, there may be the conscious knowledge of um, how money is motivating your different decisions. Like why you want to start number of kids or can also be a number of unconscious motivators about, oh, what you'd pick, not the, you know, the number of kids, you know. And what did it feel like? Was there any sense of if you grew up in a family with financial deprivation or things are tight and you saw your parents working really hard to try to support you and maybe even in a funny, and what may seem funny or paradoxical is like, I didn't understand why my parents were continually trying to buy me things when I knew they didn't have the money. And I would tell them, you know, stop buying me things that create financial stress. And it's like, so how do kids bring financial stress?
Ed Coambs:
17:30
Oh, you know I'm in my late thirties at this point. Most of my friends have young children and write the classic story is you're in target in the kid says, I want this and I want this and I want this. And it's like if feel psychological fatigue at some point, having to say no all the time. But what's happening in that process is you're also starting to form psychological boundaries around what's permissible and not permissible from a consumption perspective because the kids don't have a bigger context. They don't have the cognitive capacity to really understand how much mom and dad makes, how much they have to save, what they have to pay. They don't understand proportionality. And these are the, these are all significant financial planning and decision making tasks that we have to develop in adulthood. So you have these experiences in which you're wanting things as a child but can't understand why your parents are saying yes or no because you don't have the developmental capacity yet.
Ed Coambs:
18:35
But then your carry all these childhood experiences into adulthood and then your frame of reference for why you do or don't do things. So it's like, dad never bought me anything in the store. Um, you, you go to the other end of the stretch. Now I'm always going to buy my kid bubble gum at the checkout stand or whatever it happens to be. Yeah. So, uh, yeah. So it's kind of, you know, one of the, the step back question for me is, are you reacting against what your parents did or are you blindly accepting what your parents did? And either of those do we need to really reflect on, okay, what actually now makes sense for you?
Katie:
19:19
And do you have any suggestions on how people listening can reflect on, I guess, what items that they feel that they need to buy? Like it's like almost like a compulsive need to just purchase, purchase, purchase. Is there anything they can do to try to break that down in their mind?
Ed Coambs:
19:40
Yeah, I think, you know, so as a therapist as well reflective activities are usually so helpful, I'm going a major one of our tools that we use and there's an exercise that I'll try to describe now that certainly is probably ideal in a therapeutic setting but can be still helpful doing on your own, right? So what it's called is the money egg. And what you want to do as you're listening is just get a blank sheet of paper and draw a big oval. Right. It kind of looks like an egg. And what you're going to want to do is just take yourself through a short, um, exercise down memory lane and try to remember your very first experience with money, whether it was positive or negative, just whatever comes to mind. And in this egg that you've drawn on the paper drawn image of whatever that experience was, right?
Ed Coambs:
20:37
So, um, it may be in a bicycle, it may be having to move because the rent wasn't paid. It could be any number of first types of experiences, but they're going to usually be around the ages of four to six. And then slowly what you would want to do is draw a little line encapsulating that within your egg and then start layering up and trying to draw up different money memories. And depending on who you are as a person and how connected you are to emotion, you may notice that there's a lot of emotion that's coming up around different money memories. And once you fill in that egg kind of bringing yourself to the present day, you can go and look at that money egg. Put a few words of emotion next to that, each of those experiences. And then that starts to set at least a base template for understanding how your relationship with money developed.
Ed Coambs:
21:37
It's not gonna magically fix everything, but it's really going to start to get you into that practice of saying what earlier experiences might be getting triggered right now. And then at a deeper level, what emotion is tied to that experience and what did I need in that time that maybe it was left on that? So having our emotions recognized, validated, folded into a coherent story that's age appropriate, allows experiences to become, um, meaningful without being overwhelming. But there's a lot of times we're having these emotional experiences around money in which we don't really understand why we couldn't have what we wanted to have, why it felt so frustrating, why mom was so stressed about buying sneakers for the three kids all at the same time, whatever it happened to be. Okay.
Chase:
22:34
So basically what you're saying is, is so much of the way we deal with money on a personal level is both learned and born with,
Ed Coambs:
22:45
I'm sorry, can you just say that again? I want to make sure I heard you clearly.
Chase:
22:47
So what, yeah, so what you're saying is so much of the behavior that we have individually, uh, maybe it's both something that we're born with something that is just chemically, you know, our personality and, and then a portion of it is also learned based on our experiences, whether it's subconscious or conscious.
Ed Coambs:
23:05
Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, I think of course we all have that inherent temperament that we're born with, that's really a complex mix of a lot of underlying not to go the intrauterine environment, all of the things that are going on during that pregnancy. There's a tremendous amount of great research that shows how the pregnancy experience for the fetus affects the development of the fetus. And then of course, naturally once you come into your family, all the host of different, um, nature or excuse me, nurture experiences that you're having, right? That's, it's the classic age. old question well How much of this is nature? How much of it is, I don't know the answer to that. I guess
Felipe:
23:51
I was holding back from asking.
Ed Coambs:
23:52
Profound impact on our life. Right, right. And you really mentioned something about the subconscious, which I think is so important that people don't realize is that so much of what you're learning is happening is called implicit or procedural memory. So you may not actually remember specific events, but you know how things get done, right? So if you think about like riding a bicycle, most of like learning to ride a bicycle is procedural. If I asked you to remember when you learned to ride a bike, you may be able to point, so one or two events when your parents were first letting go of the bike seat and you were pedaling. But there was a lot of learning about riding a bicycle that happened before that and after that that you don't actively remember, but your body remembers in you and it allows you to ride a bicycle effectively. Now as an adult.
Chase:
24:49
That's why the old cliche, it's like riding a bike, right?
Ed Coambs:
24:53
Riding a bike and it's, you know, do you think about financial socialization within families is like how often did you go to the store with your parents and you know, what, what words did they say about preparing to go to the store? What words did they say when they're at the grocery store? What words did they say when you got home from the grocery store? And I'm just picking on the grocery store, but you probably couldn't remember, you know, 98% of those experiences at the grocery store. But each time you went to the grocery store, you had a repeated experience and the [inaudible] likely, your parents were pretty similar in the way that they went through the grocery store. The things that they were saying, right? We're, we are relatively repetitious, um, creatures. So you have all these repeated experiences that you can't point to any one point in time and you're like, that's where I learned how to grocery shop.
Chase:
25:44
So like from that experience. So what you're just saying, and that's something that we've talked about when we do presentations throughout San Diego County is so much of our spending behavior we may not even be conscious about until we actually start tracking our spending. Because so much of what we do is habitual, correct.
Ed Coambs:
26:04
Absolutely. And that's a big part of what marketer's count on, right? So this is the other side of, okay, as a family therapist, for me it's very easy to say, okay, well what did, what messages did you learn in your family of origin? Who had the money, who didn't have the money? How did you feel about that? All the family that I knew [inaudible] rich or helping us understand that personal relationship with money. But if we step out one bit from one bigger circle, we look at the cultural influences of money that are interacting with our family and our families interacting with the culture. And a big part of the culture is the marketing that's happening and the way that marketers understand fundamental human drives, habituation, familiarity, branding. Branding is such a big word in marketing, but all of those things help us to form a relationship and a pattern way of consumption that helps them sell their products or services. And that's not all inherently bad either, but it's if you're needing to make change in your financial life, then you have to be able to slow down and start to understand what the assumptions about consumption that come across, what assumptions about consumption have you acquired? And are you operating out of now that may be impacted negatively impacting your ability to change the flow of your spending or saving patterns
Chase:
27:32
and how much of that are our people, especially when they're couples, how much of are they defensive about that when you have to take a look at the overall household spending because you're going over your budget every month, quote unquote. And how often does it get you because of being defensive about, oh well it's, you do it this way and I do it this way. Does that add to the conflict? And should. We just basically take more of a black and white look at it by stepping back. But we can't because it's so personal?
Ed Coambs:
28:08
Yeah. And that's where I think it's almost, I would say we should take a step back and look at it through a complex rainbow. Right? So you said, let's look at it black and white. Um, and I'm, I'm flipping that to say, let's actually step back and realize there's probably layers of meaning here. There's probably layers of experience that are all influencing on it's combined together. And, and then the even trickier part of this is just for couples especially, is to be able to talk about with each other the way that they interact with each other in the way it impacts them. Right? Because I think that implicit in a lot of romantic relationships is also a competitive edge or that that's part of the culture that we swim in.
Ed Coambs:
29:02
And so our felt sense of what, what is parody in the relationship and that I may need to be competitive to get my needs met within my intimate relationship. Ultimately undermines the ability to join and feel safe and secure and like the other person has your best interest. So if those characteristics are not at play and it makes it very hard to navigate their relationships. So one of the things that I, I look at very closely and, um, is really if people have development with what I call developmental trauma in their background, what's, I mean it's known in the field of developmental trauma. Uh, but if they have experiences with physical abuse in their home and their experiences with sexual abuse and they have experiences with emotional abuse or neglect, uh, that they saw addiction in their family, if they lived in neighborhoods with chronic crime, those things all fundamentally change our physiological response systems and in intimate relationships. But it fundamentally changes the wiring of our brain to be more reactive, more defensive, more concerned. And so what we have to work towards is called using attachment. There. We're trying to move people into a more secure attachment where they can trust themselves and trust other people. And, uh, which allows for, is the vulnerability that's really necessary to talk about their personal finances with each other.
Katie:
30:33
And I want to just follow up on that too. And I think, um, when we talk about the topic of financial infidelity, a lot of it could initially be, um, just excused as somebody cheating or lying. But I think kind of what you're kind of leading us toward is that there are people that maybe are embarrassed or scared or fearful that you may not approve of how they, how you spend money or something and that could lead you into some sort of conflict
Chase:
31:01
and, or they genuinely believe that they're not spending the money correctly on their own but do it anyway.
Ed Coambs:
31:08
Yeah, absolutely. And so I think there's, you know, there's definitely two sides of this, right? Katie we talked about was, I know my partner doesn't approve of what I'm doing. So this is kind of plays on the whole broader context that my partner doesn't approve of what I'm doing, but I still want to do it. So they go out and start doing it. Whatever it is that they, they think that they need to do with money. And then the secrecy starts to build up around those behaviors with money. And then when, when that reality sinks in, and especially if there's adverse consequences, like increased at, um, unpaid pay taxes or delayed retirement savings, college funds not being funded, those longer things that are harder to recover from that you need time to accumulate capital for can feel very hurtful and damaging. And it's the financial loss, but it's really the break and trust in the relationship, which is the, the reality of infidelity in general. And we're applying this infidelity concept to our financial lives? Try it. So we have emotional infidelity, we have sexual infidelity, we have financial infidelity. And each of those are breaches in relational trust where there's an x eat often an unspoken and sometimes spoken expectation about the level of commitment that we have to each other. The way we're going to each other, what we're going to talk about and it's, and the important thing is that there is a difference between, um, financial privacy and financial secrecy, right? In the secrecy side is where financial infidelity really starts to show up. So it's, you know, financial privacy is more like, I don't have to tell my wife everyday that I go out and spend $10 at the coffee shop. Right. That it's my decision to make. She knows I'm doing it. I don't need to disclose it all the time. And if she found out that I was doing that and I remind her, it wouldn't be a huge deal. Right. It is the day to day, but it's approved for us.
Katie:
33:19
Sure. And that's something like you're saying, your wife knows about it and it's something that you agreed to in your set budget.
Ed Coambs:
33:26
Right, Right. It's, she knows it's a pattern of my day is not problematic. Right. She has to make a lot of spending decisions in her dental business. I don't need to know every single detail of how she spends money in our general business. Does it ultimately impact our family income? Of course it does. But I don't need to know there's trust there that she's managing the money Well. I don't need to know. Right. But if she's going to go and buy a brand new, big piece of equipment, she's, she brings it up and says, Hey, I'm looking at buying x, Y, Z and it's, I'm going to have to do this. And we get to some consensus about whether that makes sense for us as a family to make that investment in the business or not. So that, that also is just a huge areas where so many couples where you not, you're managing not only your household finances or you're managing business finances in the secrecy of privacy, transparency piece just can get muddy so much more so much faster. And Katie, I think that that's part of what prompted you to reach back out to me. Um, I know we've done an interview in the past is you heard my piece on financial infidelity and my own experience, of actually committing financial infidelity and my relationship.
Katie:
34:39
Yeah. And you know, thank you so much for bringing that up because I think a lot of times when you, as soon as that word infidelity is thrown in and there's that breach of trust and sort of a breach of communication, it almost feels like the world's falling apart and there's really nowhere to go. But you're kind of living proof that there is, there's not only a way to work through this with the help of a financial therapist such as yourself, but there's also a way to rebound in the relationship once you reestablish that trust.
Ed Coambs:
35:11
Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think in the end it, the infidelity creates an opportunity to really clarify what for yourself, who you are, what you need in relationship in life, and to, and then to develop the skills and ability to communicate that with your intimate partner and for your intimate partner to better be able to receive you and understand that. Right? So if we look at my particular, you sound good. Say, Whoa Ed you, you're the expert. You're the knowledgeable one, you're the planner, et Cetera, et cetera. How could you possibly end up in this situation? And the reality is I'm still human before I'm any of these professional identities. Right? And so this is that classic kind of used to know better, but you didn't it. And you know, it's, it's binding and it's upset, upsetting for me. And yet I'm learning that, okay, you're still human.
Ed Coambs:
36:08
You still have these basic needs. Um, my wife and I are not perfect. We bring our own money stories to the table. There's a lot that we've had to learn about each other and the way we were. There were some things where it was hard for me to really be honest about struggling, trying to start my practice, the debt that I was taking on. So she knew that I was taking on some debt to get my practice started, but she didn't know how much I ended up taking on. And that was really where it became a breach in trust for us is it wasn't that even the amount that we couldn't ultimately pay it back or that was completely damaging, but it was that breach in trust because the relational history, she knew from experience in watching me and also just mostly from watching me and I was a generally very financially responsible, future oriented, high on savings, high on transparency, let's have shared accounts, all this stuff.
Ed Coambs:
37:07
So when all of a sudden I'm coming into her and saying, you know, I've been trying to start this business I've racked up this much in credit card debt and I don't know how to get out of it because my business is not growing as fast as I thought. I need your help. It was that feeling of falling. It was that fall of like wait, what, and that when trust is broken like that, especially in in an intimate relationship, it takes time to reorient yourself. It takes time to figure out what's true now, what was has, what was true in the past is it still true now or do I need to be understand some of that? And that process takes time to work through. Fortunately, I had already been in my own counseling, I was working through some other things that were on my past that were significant. So you, there's a lot of backdrop that I think helped us move through. Um, my experience as efficiently as one can even as painful as it is.
Chase:
38:15
Well, that's the thing. It's gotta be so multilayered, right? I mean, there's so much of it, and we'd go back again to subconscious, but how much of that, without getting too personal with you, but how much of that was just pure, I'm going to do this on my own and I don't need help and I'm, I'm going to be successful. This is the way I've always been. And it was a certain part of your life now where things aren't going according to what you thought and things usually came relatively easy for you. And that reaching out for help made you vulnerable and, and, and scared almost.
Ed Coambs:
38:48
Yeah. Well, I think you hit on such a huge thing and I may be overly gender stereotypes here. So forgive me if this, that's what I was afraid of doing within those questions though.
Ed Coambs:
39:01
So let me, let me say this, this can happen for both men and with women. I am a man and um, even as a therapist, I, my general sense is that for men it's much harder to ask for help than it is for women. Now that much. That is, that is not a universal truth, but it is for many men. The thought of asking for help, right? We have the classic cultural joke of you'll never stop at the gas station and asked for directions and God's, well, you guys are saying thank God for gps at all.
Chase:
39:35
Can't use that. No more excuses.
Ed Coambs:
39:39
But vulnerability and Brene Brown is so profound on the issue of vulnerability and being able to ask for help and working through the shame. And that was absolutely what was going on for me, right? Is here. I'd reached this point in my life where my wife is successful. She's got her dental practice up and running. I finished my second graduate degree, I've got this specialty on financial therapy. I should, you know, this is kind of me being wrapped up in my own head and not really being able to appraise how hard it was to bring something new to the market, how hard it would be to still be dealing with uncertainty, which, you know, layers way down into my own unconscious and lived experiences from my childhood that, you know, of the absorbed insecurities that I was bringing forward that I didn't even know I was bringing forward. Right. So that's, that's such a huge part of this is that we bring forward a lot of things from our childhood that we don't even know because we've been walking the way we've been walking for so long.
Katie:
40:46
That makes sense. And I want to follow up too on, um, going back to financial infidelity, cause I think a lot of times a lot of us only think about financial infidelity as spending something that we weren't supposed to spend. Um, but it also could be rounding down saying, Oh, I only spent 20 bucks on something when it was maybe 50. Or saying that you earn more than you do. Or maybe you say that you earn less than you do to try to prevent someone from spending more covering up a myth payment.
Chase:
41:16
Guilty. I'm guilty of that. Oh, I, you know, I took out, I took out 40 bucks when I took out 60. [inaudible] Why I do that. I don't know, but that's a childhood thing. I used to do that to my mom when I was a kid and for some reason I still, I'll catch myself. I tell my wife that I put on, Oh man, that is so that's a hard habit to break.
Ed Coambs:
41:40
Yeah. And that's, you know, you talking about that was something I would do with my mom? And so who would be, if you were as if we were sitting together on a therapy office, I say, well tell me a little bit more about your relationship with your mom. Tell me a little bit more about her emotional reactions to you requesting money. Right. Because a lot of times our avoidance behaviors, how I'm out of the place of not knowing how to deal with the emotion that it evokes in our partners.
Katie:
42:06
Interesting
Ed Coambs:
42:07
It's easier to hide and withdraw than it is to address overwhelming or difficult emotion that we don't know what to do with and our intimate partner.
Felipe:
42:16
So it sounds like sometimes avoidance is not only avoidance to oneself and making ourselves vulnerable, but also to avoid a possible scenario where now you've made the other person vulnerable.
Ed Coambs:
42:35
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And then you know Katie you were talking about, I love this kind of, what you've brought up here in a whole nother stream of financial infidelity is the, um, secret accumulations. I, yes. So we think about, you know, secret span in being problematic, but see, saving can be just as problematic because when we're saving more than our family can sustain or having to re we're restricting our families current lifestyles so that we can achieve some bigger or may likely even grandiose financial goal, the resentment and the frustration that can come up around that. So you know, this, you know, uh, financial infidelity doesn't have to happen just between, uh, two intimate partners. It, it happens so often between parents and adult children. Is there a magical age for parents to talk to their kids about their financial resources? Perhaps not, but yeah, this is a kind of a secret savings side of the thing is when we get into inheritance shock, like I'm getting what from my parents, how much or the other side is, wait, I thought you had it to cover, but you're telling me you don't have the money.
Ed Coambs:
43:54
So that incongruency between perception and reality gets played with so much.
Chase + Katie:
44:00
Can we have you back to do another podcast just on that? Because I could go for days on that.
Ed Coambs:
44:06
Sure, sure. Yeah. I mean this, this evil, the financial therapy is deep and why would opportunities right in our human relationship with money, it's so unnecessary complex and it's, it feels great to, and liberating to say that at this point. Um, it's, but it's been a long road. You know, I think it takes, it takes a lot on people's financial journeys to really be able to accept that money is a complex phenomena and otherwise, and the layers of meaning and that it takes more than just a very simple budgeting program or simple investment plan to feel comfortable with money.
Chase:
44:47
So let me on that and I'm sorry to cut you off. I didn't mean to do that. So if somebody was having, obviously communication is key here, right? As long as the end and keeping it within the, the couples side of things, uh, communication, but honest communication, being able to bring that vulnerable self to the, to the table. What if you, if it was almost like a business, like a company, like if you ran that household, like a company where you met once a month, then you kind of figured out where you were. So for instance, you know, we know that I like to golf, my wife likes to get her pedicures and manicures and neither of us have interest in the other, but yet we budget and allow and know that, okay, we have an allotment for her to go do that and then we have an allotment for me to do this. And then is that, I know that that, it sounds cold and a lot of people will say that that business acting like your life and your family as a business is, it sounds again almost like when we were dating, that's not very lovable, right? That's not something that we want to do is not romantic, but is it feasible and can it sustain long-term?
Ed Coambs:
46:03
Yeah. I think in the bigger question is I think the logistics of organizing the family around having a regular meeting times is absolutely essential and important to review both the day to day living expenses but also kind of the longer horizonal how are we doing on our savings goals? How are we doing on our debt reduction plan? You know, that kind of stuff. And, and it is kind of being able to let go of this hyper romantic image of, of the intimate relationship and to really say that it'll, our intimate relationship is comprised of multiple domains and we have to exercise different parts of ourselves, right? So nope. If you and your wife are getting ready to be intimate together, not a great time to talk about the finances, right? That's the time to bring forwards intimacy and erotic pleasure. But there is a time in which you can both become mature reflective individuals and sit down and look at, okay, I'm spending a$150 a month on golf and you're spending that on your toes or whatever.
Ed Coambs:
47:08
Is that still working for us? Does that still make sense? Are we moving towards the long term goals? So I think it's, it's the spirit in which you meet and how you address each other. But it doesn't have to be this cold dry accounting conversation. It can be a values and goals based conversation and it can be about getting to know each other. It can be about how are you, tell me a little bit more about, you know, getting your toes done and, and what that was like for you this last time or what was that golf golf match like for you? And really staying connected with the meaning and the value that the person's associating with the things that they're spending their money on.
Katie:
47:46
And Ed you, you and I have talked about this before, you don't have to wait until there's a full blown problem to meet with a financial therapist.
Ed Coambs:
47:56
Yeah, there's, you know, I think the reality is most people don't come to therapy until May. This is a general statement about therapy, couple's counseling and in particular there's a lot of research that says the couples don't come into counseling for at least seven years after a probelm's developed. Well, let me ask you, if your knee was, or your lower leg was turning black and blue and you ignored it for seven years, how much of a problem would you have on your hands?
Chase:
48:22
Probably wouldn't have it
Felipe:
48:23
Wouldn't make it anymore.
Ed Coambs:
48:24
All right, great. So, I mean, and I don't mean this to be overly dramatic, but yes, it's, I think for most of us, we, we know that life brings challenges and struggle, right? Like that's part of the course of life. The hard thing to discern is at what point am I really in trouble on? Do I need help? And that's where it usually ends up taking some form of crisis to bring people into therapy.
Felipe:
48:49
And we see it all the time with, with people who have the credit card debt with people who, uh, you know, around and they think they know what they're getting themselves into. But at the same time, it's a matter of, Oh, if you would've came to me a few months ago or six months ago, a year ago, you'd have so many more options just financially. But people wait until that moment where it's, oh no, now what?
Chase:
49:18
Yeah. And that's something that we kind of try to avoid. So let's sum this up, cause we know that you've got to get going. Um, what would you say to those couples or to that family that feels like, you know, we're not super struggling but we feel like the day to day life, what would you say to them is the right time to start dealing with some of these emotional issues and how to do they take baby steps or they just jumped right into therapy? How cause it's, it's hard. How would you go about it?
Ed Coambs:
49:56
I think that if you're feeling the relational pain and it, it doesn't feel huge but it's there and it's been there for awhile. How like the nagging knee injury, I was like, yeah, you can keep walking and doing your day to day, but it's still painful. It's time to see, seek that therapy, right? This is going to be more than sitting with a financial planner or debt counselor or something like that. There's, there's probably some other underlying issues if you've tried, um, and in the self help financial books or programs and that hasn't gone particularly well. That's a great sign that you may want to work or Look at financial therapy if you've worked with other financial professionals. And things haven't worked out so well, I'm all, you're not even to get on the same page or you feel like they're helping you, but they're not addressing some of the other underlying issues.
Ed Coambs:
50:48
That's another good sign that it's time to do financial therapy because the reality is, you know, financial planners and debt counselors are going to be able to give you a lot of great strategies about how to manage your money into the budget and all that stuff, which is super important. But if you're not able to execute that for whatever reason, then it's time to look at the next deeper level and working with a financial therapist, um, that has the mental health background and training to really help you understand who you are as a person, what's driving this is so much more important. And one of the things that's really struck me as kind of on this journey is you guys are in San Diego, is that right? Yes. Uh, there's a very well known study that was based in San Diego area by Vincent Felitti and he developed what's called the ACE SCore or the adverse childhood experiences.
Ed Coambs:
51:40
And he was working in a weight loss clinic and he would help the patients. He was an MD. He would help them lose their weight, but then they would come back with the weight back on and he would be confused about, well, what's going on here? And as he started asking them more questions about their background, he realized that there were some real common themes and what he realizes that a lot of people that were struggling with their weight, we're actually dealing with unresolved trauma. And so one of the things that I'm doing in my research, um, in the PA and the PHD program is starting to research and ask that question of what if it really isn't about the money? What did it really is about these experiences that we know all of you will end up having any where they have the emotional abuse and neglect, have physical abuse that have sexual abuse. They witnessed and experienced addiction in their family, had significant mental illness. These things. We know from a scientific perspective profoundly shaped the way that you see yourself and you experience the world and are going to impact your ability to have this type of self regulation and perspective taking that you need to effectively engage in your finances.
Katie:
52:52
Well, you've given us a lot to think about. We do need to have you back, but thank you so much for taking the time to join us on our podcast today. That was marriage and family therapist, Ed Coambs, he's also a certified financial planner. Thank you so much Ed.
Ed Coambs:
53:08
Thanks y'all. I appreciate the time and be happy to be a guest again in the future when you're ready to have me back.
Chase:
53:14
Well, I don't know about you guys, but on so many levels, that interview was just absolutely amazing.
Felipe:
53:21
Definitely learned a lot.
Chase:
53:23
Yeah, there was good, there was so many more layers than I thought. You talk about financial infidelity and automatically you think cheating and I, that's not what he said.
Katie:
53:32
No, I like how he broke it down and kind of rephrased it as financial infidelity is maybe two partners working toward different goals and goes right back to a communication issue.
Chase:
53:43
Yeah. I mean that just goes to show you the financial, Felipe we talk about it in our presentations all the time. That financial budgeting, taking care of your credit, that whole thing is such an emotional thing. And obviously speaking with him just goes to show that it goes, it runs so much deeper than just, you know, being emotional with your spending.
Katie:
54:06
Yeah, it is. We all have emotional money baggage, so we need to be kind of kind with ourselves at times when we make a financial mistake.
Chase:
54:13
Yeah. And in a lot of times in the, as you mentioned, you know, he was a success story and he and his wife pulled it back together and he's obviously a very successful practice now. Uh, his wife's got a very successful dentistry and they've got a, for all intents and purposes, a great marriage, but it doesn't always work out that way. And next week on podcast number five, we're going to have a lady, uh, Laurie Itkin, who, uh, we'll break it down on what to do when inevitably the relationship just isn't going to work out and you have to split up.
Felipe:
54:43
You know, Laurie's great. She's an author. She's a certified divorce financial analyst and, and she definitely is out there helping people out. She's great. Volunteer too.
Chase:
54:57
Fantastic volunteer. And you can find her, I believe she's at the optionslady.com correct?
Felipe:
55:02
I believe so. The optionslady.com she's also active on Twitter. Make sure you join us. You won't want to miss it.
Out Music:
55:13
[inaudible].