Last week, Luke Davis and I attended the Kingdom Advisors Conference for attorneys, accountants and financial professionals. Each year great speakers share insights about dealing with our finances in ways to keep money in its proper place. It is a tool to serve much more important aspects of our lives.

Money does not come with instructions. There are seldom courses in school that everyone takes. Therefore, most of us begin our journey with only observations of our parents and their habits. When we get married, we can bring different worlds colliding together. This is another place where opposites often attract.

A Harvard graduate school trained researcher, Shaunti Feldhahn, spoke on “Men, Women & Money: A Couples Guide to Navigating Money Better, Together.” She and her husband had spent years studying gender differences and how couples can more successfully be united in marriage. But only recently did they realize there were no studies of men and women related to their financial lives.

When asked about the topic by Thrivent, a major financial company, they were reluctant to even start because their own money relationship was pretty weak. But they dove in because they realized its importance in the marital relationship. As usual, they began by designing and taking surveys of couples’ financial attitudes and habits. The findings were surprising to them. I think they are like many life truths – we learn more by experience (making mistakes) than through intentionality.

First, the little things cause our long term financial troubles, not the big decisions. We hopefully do not buy houses, cars and boats that often. But everyday decisions will build up friction and resentment over time. According to their research, half of all couples never fight over money. But fully 90 percent have money tensions about this subject. Whether they fight or not, 87 percent of married people admit to resentment over it.

Second, because men and women usually think about money in very different ways, clear healthy communication between spouses can reduce or even eliminate miscommunications that lead to this resentment and helps the couple to be on the same page.

Third, what we will often find during our conversations is that our conflicts are actually not about the money. Money as a tool is important but it means different things to different people. How the money or lack thereof makes us feel is crucial. In general, it’s accepted that women value financial security more highly than men. But the studies show women actually care more about how money affects their concerns about emotional stability and welfare for themselves and their family, not the money itself.

Generally speaking, men worry about whether they will be good providers for the family in the long term. It is more of a self-esteem issue. This applies even in those situations in which the wife is the primary earner. Women worry about being able to use money to help those they love. It is about the relationships.

Even being debt free does not solve all issues. Having a money surplus but not communicating well is even more problematic to a couple than not having enough money but communicating well as a team.

As a part of behavioral finance, I predict that further research will occur and be available to help us to thrive, not just survive. Stay tuned!

– Ron Finke is president of Stewardship Capital in Independence. He is a registered investment adviser. Reach him at rcfinke@stewcap.com. (Advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.)