Talking finances on date night might not seem like the most wild Friday night, but regularly integrating money talks into my relationship became a game-changer for our family financial goals. It also improved our overall communication, making it easier to talk about a number of major goals and habits in our relationship—here’s why:
Talking About Money with Your Partner
Planning a financial date night is important because it’s deliberate—and a 2018 study found that two-thirds of us are already talking to our partner about money. It’s one thing to casually pass each other in the kitchen—did you happen to pay that electricity bill? It’s totally another to sit down regularly and go over financial goals and progress. Setting aside time specifically to chat money means that you can both be distraction-free and focused. You might also want to tee up a specific topic to each other in advance of the date so you have time to do some prep work or heart searching on what’s really meaningful to you. As in all things in a relationship, your individual opinion, contribution, and needs are important to making joint decisions.
How to Tee Up Date Night
The trick to making this actually happen is to schedule it and make it something to look forward to. Whether that means starting the night cooking a favorite meal together or picking out a new wine to chat over, make it fun. Money is a huge stressor in many relationships, and taking this approach to talking finances can help reduce financial surprises and create a safe space to talk through what can sometimes amount to difficult choices. Putting it on the calendar like any other date, sticking with it, and attaching something fun will help ensure the first few attempts become productive and enjoyable enough to make it a habit.
How Often Should We Meet on Finances?
At first, it might be important to hold these chats more frequently. My husband and I started with monthly visits and moved to quarterly once we had some of our major financial decisions in place. We also committed to keeping them on the calendar, even if we felt like we were on track with goals. Staying in the habit of keeping an open line of communication on our finances made our day to day easier too. Knowing that we had an outlet to talk about these things meant that little decisions around money day to day didn’t make us antsy, or didn’t creep into other relationship conversations we had.
Major Financial Topics to Bring to Date Night
So how do you get started? You can take two approaches—start big or small. If you’re already in the habit of talking budgets and spending, then consider taking the conversation up a few levels. That means getting big picture, thinking long-term dreams and important values. On the other hand, you and your partner might love to daydream about the French apartment you’re retiring to. Your conversations might benefit from being more tactical. Start bringing in spending details, retirement account statements, and savings challenges to bring yourselves to action mode. Consider tackling one major topic per date night, and know that there are so many more money questions to explore with your partner!
- What changes are you expecting to your income(s) in the next year? In five years? New jobs, changes in side hustles, or potential promotions all can affect the income considerations in your partnership.
- How would our finances change if we lived together? Got married? Partnerships come in all forms and all stages. Before taking the next big steps in yours, hashing out your financial style is a series of conversations that are critical to have with your person.
- What are our family plans and how will we fund them? Having a family can also look a number of different ways. It can include navigating planning for adoption, IVF, or other long-term financial changes around having children. Talking about all of these considerations is an essential precondition to making a decision that’s comfortable for you and your partner.
- What members outside of our immediate family need our assistance? More and more, our generation is being called on to take care of parents, grandparents, and even siblings or others in our wider family circle. This aspect of financial planning often goes unspoken, and unfortunately, sometimes unnoticed. But this talk is really important to help frame and set expectations—cultural or otherwise. It can address to the type of care each of you wants to and will be expected to give outside of your immediate family circle.
- What are our savings and investing goals this next year? How will we get there? Almost more important than the “what’ is the “how.” We all have savings and investing goals, but use this time to talk exactly about how you’re going to get there. Are you going to change direct deposits, start more aggressively paying down debt, or find where spending habits can change to meet your saving objectives?
- What major purchases do you think we need to make this year? Unexpected purchases can be a major cause of relationship stress. A good first step is to have a short-term savings fund, but the second step is to be in agreement on how you would use that money. You might think it’s time to start looking for a new car, and your partner could be hoping that this is the year the bathroom gets remodeled.
- What does a dream retirement look like to you? How on track are we against those goals? Retirement might seem like a far off horizon. Understanding how you both want to spend your post-career time, and where, can dictate today’s savings goals. Most financial planners and 401(k) investment tools will be able to show you if you’re “on track” to meeting your long term objectives, and these can be helpful barometers to inform this conversation.