When the Mueller report came out, to no one's surprise, many Democrats and many Republicans came away with starkly differing takes. No amount of chatter will likely weaken those positions. The problem is that the issue is not the issue. The issue being discussed is what Mueller did or did not uncover, but that is not always the issue. The underlying issue may be how people feel about the president, it may be people's feelings about how the president is being treated, heck, it may even be why you lost your job.

When it comes to our financial lives, the issue is rarely the issue. Let's think about this.

When the bottom fell out of the market in December, the stated issue for many was whether we were entering new territory for stocks and when their investments would recover. But that wasn't really the issue. For some people the issue was how they would be able to retire. For others who had felt burned by investing before, it may have been how could they ever have put money back in the market. For some it may have been about how the world is stacked against the little guy or that only an "in" crowd benefits from investing and they were not part of that crowd, or whatever else may have been triggered by seeing their account statement fall.

The issue is not the issue when a couple is arguing about money. It may be about not respecting each other's values, it may be about not feeling successful enough, it may be about being ignored for a job, it may be around how we share raising our children, but the monthly budget is not the issue. So tightening the budget is not the answer.

When the issue is not the issue, the first step is to try to understand what the issue really is. That sounds easier than it actually is because we often make something the issue when we are uncomfortable with the real issue. First, focus on the outcome you want. An outcome, for example, isn't that you want your investment account to grow by 10%, it is that you want to have the flexibility to retire when you wish.

Second, state your understanding of your partner's position before you push yours.

Third, acknowledge those aspects of their position with which you agree (and there better be something or you did a lousy job of listening).

Fourth, ask for what you need.

Finally, collaborate.

There may be things on which you can't agree, but if the issue is not the issue, the answer will not be the answer.

Spend your life wisely.

Ross Levin is the chief executive and founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina.