When we think of money and relationships, there is often a negative connotation. Probably because one of the leading reasons marriages end in divorce is due to disagreements over finances. But money doesn’t need to be a contentious part of your relationship. If you lay the groundwork and have honest conversations, setting financial goals can be something that brings you and your partner closer together instead of something that pushes you apart.
There is no set rule as to when to have a money talk. Every relationship has its own timing and moves at its own speed. The important thing is that when it’s right for you to have the conversation, you have an open, honest, and respectful dialogue. Read on for tips about how to have a productive money conversation that will bring you closer together, rather than push you apart. When you’re finished, make sure to print out our free budgeting workbook and complete it together.
In the early stages of your relationship you might not feel comfortable bringing up the full money conversation, but observing your partners money habits can be incredibly telling. What are your partner’s spending habits? Do they impulsively make big purchases or usually go for the thrifty option? Aside from learning about how they treat money, this is a good opportunity to observe and learn more about their personality and what they value. If you’ve been observant and have tried to understand your partner’s attitude toward money, it will help you eventually ease into a conversation that feels natural.
Set an Open Environment
People can become sensitive when the topic of money is brought up, so the environment that you set before and during the conversation is really important. Don’t demand to talk about money and expect to sit down with your partner at that very moment to have the conversation.
Start by mentioning the topic and suggesting that this is something you two could sit down to talk about in the near future. This gives you both time to think about what you want to discuss so you can both feel prepared and ready to have the talk.
Once you’re in the midst of having the money conversation, focus on using effective communication skills, especially if something is surprising or upsetting to you. If you’ve suddenly found out that your partner is swimming in credit card debt, don’t jump on the offensive and make him or her feel badly about financial decisions. Instead, try to understand the full story of how they got there and what they’re doing to improve the situation.
Know What You Want to Discuss
Everyone will have a different list of what they want to know or share, depending on where you are in your relationship. If you’re moving in together or getting married, it’s really important to talk about not only your current financial situation, but also how you’re going to handle money as a couple and how you’re going to set financial goals that leave you both happy.
Will you combine accounts, keep things separate, or something in between? Are you on the same page for big goals like getting out of debt, buying a house, and retirement? And have you created a budget that takes into account both of your day-to-day lifestyle needs while keeping you moving towards your goals? If you’re having the money conversation a bit earlier in the relationship, understanding the nitty-gritty of how you’re going to share finances down the road may not be as important right now.
But understanding how you each value money and where you are in your debt pay down or savings goals is important. If you’re someone who really values saving up to take a big trip abroad each year and your partner likes to live in the moment and spend on weekly luxuries, that’s not a deal breaker, but it is important to understand and be open about what you each value so in the future you can have a plan to take care of both of your needs.
Be Honest With Your Partner and Yourself
Honesty is the best policy, especially with something that can be as emotional as money. But it can be really difficult to be honest with your partner if you haven’t accepted your own financial reality yet. Part of having this conversation with your partner is having this conversation with yourself first.
If you have something in your financial history that you’re not proud of, it’s time to come to terms with it and make a plan to move forward. If you’ve avoided paying down your debt, take some time to look at it and come up with a plan for how you’re going to pay it down before you talk with your partner. Coming to the conversation with an honest account of your situation as well as your plan to move forward will help to ease the surprise of anything negative you need to share.