Money and Relationships (new podcast transcript)
With today being Valentines Day , the Penny Forward team spoke with Ann Chiappetta about how and when financial matters may come up in our relationships and how to best deal with those situations so everyone feels included.
Ann: My husband is sighted, and, for a while there, we were not in sync with each other with our finances. But now we are. And, we’ve learned, over time, to work a system out where neither one of us feels too overburdened, or, or doesn’t know what’s going on. And for each couple, that’s gonna be a different balance. But, uh, being forthcoming about it, being open, is the first step.
Chris: This is the Penny Forward podcast, a show about blind people building bright futures one penny at a time. I’m Chris Peterson, …
Liz: I’m Liz Bottner, …
MOe: I’m MOe Carpenter, …
Chris: And today, we are going to be talking about money and relationships, with retired marriage and family therapist Ann Chiappetta. She’s also an author. We may talk to her about, uh, some of her author career as well. Ann, thanks for being here.
Ann: Thanks for having me. Hi, Everyone.
Chris: Tell us about yourself and your blindness if you would.
Ann: Yes. I was actually sighted for most of my life. I had some low vision, uh, and wore very thick glasses, but when I was twenty-eight, I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, uh, and it was an onset from having had a pregnancy. It triggered the RP, and I lost sixty percent of my vision in about six months. I was a young mom, newly married, so, I was, it was definitely … (Chuckle.) Something for me to, uh, to cope with, and it took me awhile, and now, my RP has progressed to where I have light sensitivity, but, uh, you know, it doesn’t, doesn’t stop me. And uh, you know, none of my children actually have RP. It came from one side of my family, but it didn’t carry over, so I feel very thankful about that.
Liz: What did your journey look like to become a marriage and family therapist?
Ann: That’s a great question. At first, I didn’t know I wanted to become a family therapist. Uh, I hadn’t graduated high school, so, when I became visually impaired and I was going through the rehabilitation process, I started to find my way through my educational goals, so I graduated from high school with a GED, and then I went on to my bachelors, and I had thought I wanted to be in Forensics and psychology, so I pursued a lot of stuff, uh, that way. Now when I finally got to the end of my bachelor’s degree, I was really torn between English or psychology. And, I knew I wanted to do something that incorporated both things, but I had to make the decision in terms of a master’s program, so, that’s when I decided that the marriage and family therapy program was best for me, because it also had a pastoral element to it, which meant, for me, like a more family friendly, interpersonal connection. I didn’t want to be one of those psychologists that are, you know, sitting on the other side of the table, and just taking notes. (Chuckle.) I wanted to really be, uh, part of something, in terms of a healing process or, or something like that. So that’s what made my decision, to pursue the degree.
MOe: What have you been doing now that you’re retired?
Ann: (chuckles) Well, I’ve been doing a lot of writing, uh, of course, podcasts, I enjoy a lot of projects with other creative people. I find that that really keeps me attentive to my own creativity, and my own mental health, in terms of grounding and, and being productive, and part of my um, life as a writer is also kind of taking on, uh, a little bit of my past, with my history as a counselor, I find that it really has helped me write better, and be more aware of what I’m writing.
Chris: So this is a show that sometimes talks about money, and blind people and money, and today we wanted to talk about relationships and money. So, as a therapist, what do you think is most important for people that are members of a relationship, a healthy relationship, when it comes to communicating about their money issues?
Ann: This is something that I saw a lot of when I was practicing. The first thing is, it’s a partnership. Uh, a partnership means communication, and it means balance. And both people holding each other accountable, and being responsible, in the best way you can within the relationship. Whether you’re talking about money, or kids, or, you know, buying a house, it’s all about communicating with your partner. So, that’s the most important thing in a relationship, and regarding finances specifically, there’s statistics that indicate the most common reason why divorce occurs is because of infidelity, and the second one is financial problems. So, that’s significant piece of information to share here today.
Liz: With things like divorce, and financial troubles that might plague a relationship, what are some signs that might be telling signs that a relationship is an unhealthy relationship when it comes to financial matters?
Ann: I’ll go back to what I said before about compromise, and balance, and holding each other accountable. If one person has too much control of the money, the other person is gonna feel it. If one person is making all of the decisions, and doesn’t share the decisions that are being made, it doesn’t matter whether you’re taking thirty dollars out of the account, or you’re, you know, signing for a new car. If you don’t share that information with your partner, that’s … that’s like … cheating. You know, that’s, that’s a serious breach of trust. So, that would be the number one indicator, that if you feel like your partner is not sharing, or undermining, or you discover things that haven’t been shared, you know, financially speaking, that’s a big indicator. And in my experience as a therapist, that’s one of the things that people would come in to see me about, and be considered a crisis.
MOe: Is there a particular time in a relationship where a financial discussion should begin?
Ann: At the very beginning. (Chuckle.) After the, uh, honeymoon stage is over in terms of your relationship, whatever first financial decision you make together is the time that you need to speak to each other, and understand that this is an equal partnership. That you both have say, that you both listen to each other, and you, you actually hear what each other is saying, and acknowledge the decisions together.
Liz: Before you even get to that conversation, if you’re kind of in a honeymoon stage, and kind of just feeling each other out, if you might notice red flags, and you really want to bring the conversation up, and maybe the other person just isn’t ready, how do you navigate that situation?
Ann: Uh, that’s a hard question to answer, because I think it’s, it’s a situation by situation thing, but I would say, uh, let me give you an example. If, if you’ve been dating somebody for awhile, and they mention, “Oh, well, you know, you know I like to play with money.” Well, then you say “How do you like to play with money? Do you have, you know, stocks? You know, whatever?” And, they’re hedgy about it. And they don’t want to share. It’s up to you to decide whether or not that person is being forthright or not, and it’s your decision to make, but that would be an example. And there’s one thing to say about somebody building trust with someone else, you know, and that natural progression of things in a relationship, then there are times where you have to trust your gut.
Chris: I’ve heard, and read, that for some people, talking about money is more uncomfortable even than talking about their sex lives. And, so, I’ve got to imagine that when starting a relationship, some people don’t talk about money, not because they’re trying to hide something, necessarily, but just because it’s very uncomfortable for them, and they, they don’t know how to have those conversations. How do you get past that?
Ann: Hmm. Well, I want to say something that I don’t know if any of you know about family therapy, but there’s an intergenerational aspect to this. If you, growing up, have had a modeling from your parents, or people that are older than you, even like a brother or a sister or an uncle, and you’ve had a positive experience around finances, then you’re gonna be more open to your partner, you know, in your own life, after you grow up, to, to mimic that. To model that. If you’ve had good modeling, you most likely will model that with your partner. If you’ve had poor modeling, or an abbreviated or traumatic experience around that as a kid, parents always fighting, you know, hearing Mom and Dad arguing, that kind of stuff, then, then that might be brought over into your own relational interactions with your partner. So, that’s one thing, that we might not even be aware of, if a problem like that would come up in your relationship.
Liz: Are there specific considerations, or is there a specific dynamic at play when talking about finances that apply in a relationship when both people are blind?
Ann: I have to say yes. And, having had a visual impairment for a long time, and also having been, uh, on disability benefits and off benefits, and seeing the difference, you know, that it makes in my own relationship, I think there’s a lot of stress with anyone with, with a significant disability. Because that disability actually draws a lot of financial need, and there’s always that extra element of being prepared. So I think if both people are blind, you need to be very frank and open about what those needs are in terms of cost, and, um, longevity of the products and when you’re gonna need to purchase them again, I mean, let’s face it. A laptop is like two grand. That’s a lot of money.
Chris: How about when one partner is blind and the other is sighted, or one is disabled and the other is non disabled?
Ann: Very similar circumstances, and I will say that, uh, my husband is sighted, and, for a while there, we were not in sync with each other with our finances. But now we are. And, for me, it always felt like I couldn’t contribute as much. Not in terms of the money, but in terms of the time and the day to day financial responsibilities. You know, paying the bills, going online, you know, whatever. We’ve learned, over time, to work a system out where neither one of us feels too overburdened, or, or doesn’t know what’s going on. And for each couple, that’s gonna be a different balance. But, uh, being forthcoming about it, being open, is the first step. Like ten years ago, my husband had to do a lot more than me with the finances because he was sighted and he could. There were websites that were not accessible to me, and things like that, that I, you know, that I , I had to allow him to have a little more of the responsibility because of that. But it’s not so much like that anymore. So, at least that’s improved a bit.
MOe: I love that perspective, ’cause I’m in a similar boat, where I would run numbers in, Word, of all places. Not even Excel.
(Ann and MOe laugh.)
MOe: And, that’s about all I had to do with our finances. I could do the stuff in my head, but nothing was really accessible. And now, I do most of the finance things in our family, and my husband basically pays some bills from some sites that I haven’t tried to access yet. (Chuckle.) So thinking about families, when you have a blended family, where your, have possibly a mom or a dad with some children, and you’re bringing in a new spouse, do you have any tips on how to kind of merge the family and the finances without making it too stressful for the rest of the family?
Ann: You know, there’s only so much the new spouse is going to be responsible for, because they’re, they haven’t contributed to that former relationship. And, so there are some boundaries there to consider, you know, especially if there’s custody going on, and there’s child support, and that’s a whole level of, of stress for the custodial spouse, and also, you know, the new partner. You know, it’s kind of like, “Okay, you’re gonna do what you’re gonna do, and I just have to let it happen, because I really don’t have anything to do with the past.” You know, with any family, there, there are things that are gonna come up that you may have to work out with your partner, whether it’s a long term financial or a short term financial goal, and uh, if you want to seek out finance assisting and finance counseling, that’s available everywhere. I mean even ask your local bank and I’m sure they would have some financial assistance programs in terms of money counceling and things like that, and also if there’s a, um, a gambling addiction possibly going on, there’s also help. There’s Gambler’s Anonymous, and that kind of stuff going on. But um, another thing is the kids. The kids put pressure on you, you know, they want the latest stuff, they want … (Chuckle.) Everything from, you know, a Nintendo to a new car. And, um, I’ve, I’ve seen that kind of pressure have negative impacts on the parental relationship. So it’s really important to keep to those boundaries with your kids too. And to really try to instill some of that financial responsibility on to them as well. This all goes back to that modeling thing I was talking about. You know, modeling positive financial skills with your kids is really important. I mean hey. We might not be writing checks anymore, but … (chuckle.) We still have that responsibility with money on how to pay things. And, you know, what is balancing a checkbook, and, you know, what does it mean to have credit, and good sense, and, so I think it’s important to, uh, to not assume that your kids are just gonna … (Chuckle.) Know, how to handle money.
Chris: What advice do you have for couples where one partner is way more interested in the finances than the other?
Ann: Yeah. I don’t really have an answer for that. I mean it’s problematic, it may always be problematic, there may always be a chronic disconnect there. Sometimes it’s based on, the person who’s in control’s the one making all the money, and the person who, you know, isn’t making the money, or is staying at home for whatever reason, feels they don’t have a right to be involved in the other person’s financial decisions. Um, so that’s something that a couple might want to reach out and find outside assistance with in terms of counseling. And not just financial counseling. Maybe some couple’s counseling might be in order for that. Because it sounds like there could be more going on than just, uh, that uneven status of finances.
Chris: Let’s go back to kids, ’cause I was in the process of answering a question in a Facebook group earlier, and I’m curious to know your take on this. The question came from a mom, and she started out with saying, “I’m experiencing major mom guilt right now.” The family had had some medical issues and some other things going on, job loss and other things going on, and, and, so, they had gotten into some debt, and they were working on working their way out of it, and their 12 year old daughter had said, “What can I do to start earning some more money around the house? ‘Cause I have all these things that I want to buy and I want to buy them with my own money.” And the mom was saying “Well I’m feeling guilty because, you know, we just got done with Christmas, and we got them Christmas presents, and, and, we’ve taken them on vacations and stuff, but we just can’t find a way to pay them an allowance right now. It doesn’t mean we’re not ever gonna pay them one, but right now, it’s not a possibility. How do we explain that to our daughter?”
Ann: Yeah. Uh, that’s a tough one. I’ve experienced that myself in my own family. And, it’s hard to handle that type of responsibility as a parent, but that’s why parents are who they are. We, faced with these kinds of things. I think having a, an open conversation, about, uh, what’s going on, in a way that’s not an alarming type of conversation for her daughter, but, like “This is what’s going on, and this is what’s in our future right now, and maybe 6 months from now, we can do this or that, but for now we can’t.” I mean really just, saying “no” is hard. Especially when like the mom guilt comes up. (Laugh.) Uh, I know all about mom guilt. But sometimes “no” means “no,” and the daughter’s twelve years old, so, I don’t know. Maybe there’s something she could barter in the family for, you know, maybe not for money, but for an added, uh, perk. I don’t know, doing extra cleaning and stuff around the house could mean she gets uh, … 2 more trips to … the mall, or whatever. Something that maybe not, may not be financially motivated but could be rewarding, could be the answer to biding that time when the money could become, uh, fluid again.
Chris: So she’s 12 , and I have an 11 year old daughter, so I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and …
Ann: (chuckles) Yeah.
Chris: And I got to wondering, is it reasonable to say, you know, “As a 12 year old, there’s some outside of the house jobs you could potentially take on. You can take the Red Cross babysitting class and, and start to do some babysitting jobs around the neighborhood, there’s pet sitting, and dog walking, and, and uh, even paper routes are still a thing, believe it or not, and uh, …” is it reasonable to say, “You know, these are some of the outside of the house options for you to make some extra money, and we’ll do everything we can to help you to make you successful at that. We’ll take you to babysitting jobs. We’ll, we’ll help you uh, you know, drive around to put up flyers if you’re, if you’re wanting to look for customers.” Um, are things like that reasonable or does that put too much responsibility on the child?
Ann: I think that’s totally reasonable and that’s a great idea. My kids, uh, in the winter time, they would have, like cabin fever, and it would snow, I’m like, “Okay. Go ask the neighbor if they want you to clean their car,” and my neighbors thanked them and gave them some money. Those are all great ideas. And it gives them that sense of independence and autonomy that they struggle with during that time of their lives. Because this is the time where they still want to be a little kid, but they know they need to become more independent and autonomous. And it’s a big struggle for them. Um, so that’s, I think that’s a great idea. I think you should do it.
Liz: Is there anything that you would like to tell us that we have not asked you?
Ann: Yeah. I actually have a couple of extra tidbits here about um, healthy financial relationships. So one of the things I didn’t talk about was having a joint checking account. And, that’s important because it keeps you and your partner accountable. Um, it’s okay, I think if you each had separate savings accounts, maybe, but having a joint account where you’re paying most of your bills from, and being transparent about your financial responsibilities is important. I mentioned this briefly, but, you know, your lifestyle choices together. You know, what if one of you likes to shop at thrift stores and the other one likes Nordstrom’s? I mean that’s, (Chuckle.) That might be a problem, and it’s, and it’s worth talking about. And, and trying to handle within the context of your finances. Especially, you know, if somebody likes to spend $350 on a pair of Jordans. Right? The other thing is recognizing, you know, your personality differences, that goes along with your financial predilections in terms of whether you want, you know, the thrift shirt, or whether you want the silk shirt. And I’ve already spoken about the salary differences, but it can be very important to acknowledge the partner that maybe isn’t making as much money. And allowing them to have equal control with the finances. Don’t hide any purchases, I mentioned that before, and always set your expectations together. Whether it’s a 30 year mortgage, or whether it’s saving for vacation. Do everything together. It’s really, really important.
Liz: What happens if one of you wants to go to Hawaii and the other one wants to go to Iceland? Then what do you do? (Laughs)
Ann: Oh boy. You have two vacations.
(They laugh together.)
MOe: How can people contact you?
Ann: I am on the web at
Uh, I, you know, I’m on Facebook as Annie Chiappetta, you can also get my blog, it’s
and everything’s on my website.
Chris: Do you want to tell us at all, before we go, about uh, any of the books that you have published?
Ann: Oh! Yeah. Um, I actually am an independently published author. I started in 2016 with a poetry book called “Up Welling,” and then I, uh, I just kept going. I have a memoir called “Follow Your Dog, a Story of Love and Trust,” I have another collection of poems and nonfiction essays called “Words of Life.” I have a short story collection called “A String of Stories from the Heart to the Future,” and, in 2022, I released my first young adult, general fiction novel called “Hope for the Tarnished.” And I am working on two more books as we speak. A, uh, non fiction book about therapeutic relationships of animals and people, and, uh, another novel.
Chris: Wow. Well perhaps we can have you back on sometime to talk about your books. That’s a lot of them, and, and uh, I’d love to know more about that aspect of your career. We’re out of time, so check out uh, Ann, and her writings, at
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transcription is provided by Anne Verduin, and for all of us at the Penny Forward community, I’m Chris Peterson, …
Liz: I’m Liz Bottner, …
MOe: And I’m MOe Carpenter.
Chris: Thanks for listening, and have a great week.