If you have to spend money to make money, then why aren't I a billionaire? Ever since I can remember, money management has been my greatest weakness. Gifts from the tooth fairy would be spent in minute on a pair of dangly earrings from Claire's. Aidee, the money bestowed upon children by their elders during the Persian New Year, would immediately be swapped for chicken fingers, fries, and a chocolate shake from Jackson Hole Diner. Growing up in New York City, countless $20 given to me by my parents would dissolve quickly into cab money until I was flat broke and walking home in the dark. My father calls it a "character flaw," I call it an adolescent quirk. There's no other way to say it: I, Iman Hariri-Kia, am bad with money.
My partner is my complete opposite. Although we both had the privilege of growing up in upper middle class families, living in metropolitan cities (him in London, me in New York), our financial approaches are incredibly different. My partner's family instilled in him a sense of responsibility — he grew up with an allowance, and was encouraged to work every summer to earn extra cash. I, on the other hand, was neither given money to manage nor did I make any money until I entered college. And while I interned every summer from the age of 14, most of my internships were unpaid. My parents semi-joked that I never understood the value of a dollar — 23 years later and on some nights, unable to afford dinner, I can now confidently say that it's no joking matter.
My partner makes nearly double what I make — and he's an incredible saver. He manages his paychecks, puts money away for the future, budgets his expenses. The whole nine yards. I, on the other hand, can be irrefutably responsible one week and the next, spend half my earnings purchasing a pair of boots I definitely don't need online at midnight on a Tuesday. Hey, it's called balance, right?
Although I've never personally experienced it firsthand, I know that finances can be a huge stress on relationships. According to a 2018 study by Personal Capital, although 75 percent of millennials claim that falling in love is more important to them than having money, a whopping 45 percent confirm that money is the number one source of discord in their relationships. So how do we reconcile these differences and get on the same page? I may not know anything about the stock market, but I do know that a relationship that's built on a foundation of mutual trust is one worth investing in.
The saying goes that, "You can't understand someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes," but I dare to ask: What about their wallet? In order to reach a place of deeper understanding and empathy, my partner and I sought out to manage each other's expenses for a week. In order to accomplish this goal, we each had to ask each other's permission before spending money, making a purchase, donating to charity, etc. We tracked how much we spent, and set overall budget goals for the week to see if we could meet them. After much discussion, we landed on an approved budget of $500 each (Look, New York is expensive, y'all.) For the next week, while we wouldn't actually be spending each other's money, we'd have veto-power over each other's purchases.
I thought the experiment might tear us apart, but surprisingly, the result actually brought us closer together.