When I ask my clients about how they’re steering the conversation around money with their significant other, the most common reply is that it isn’t going so well.
Earlier this month, Personal Capital’s Love & Money Report revealed nearly half of survey respondents agree that “the idea of talking about money with a romantic partner makes me anxious and apprehensive.”
I get it. It’s hard enough to address your own personal concerns about money — let alone with someone you are trying to build a life with.
However, talking about finances with your significant other will ultimately bring nothing but relief. All it takes is a little vulnerability.
Why the Money Talk is Important
An ongoing, open dialogue around money will ultimately bring you closer, help you feel more aligned, and better prepare you for your future together.
In this article, I’ll be including personal insights from Olivia, a recently engaged Gen Z woman. She has been dating her partner for almost seven years (they were high school sweethearts!), and they plan to get married in June 2021.
“I’ve always been relatively open about money with my partner,” Olivia told me, “talking sincerely about how much I make, what kind of debt I had, and my financial goals — especially when I knew he would be my partner for life. Because I was such an open book, it made him feel more comfortable when discussing his finances.”
Here are a few ways that can nudge you and your partner toward more honest, productive, and sometimes even fun financial conversations.
Discuss Your Shared Goals
The most important aspect to keep in mind is this: Think in terms of how you are going to use the money to get to the life that you both want.
For example, maybe you and your partner are really committed to traveling. More specifically, you know you want to travel twice this year.
So conversations about money should be in the context of that shared goal.
Dreaming about your future can also be one of the most exciting parts of a partnership. Rather than getting caught up in petty arguments about who spends what and where, focus on the life that you want and how you can use money as a tool to get there.
Olivia said that soon after she and her partner got engaged, they took a road trip and talked about their future together.
She said they:
- Listed out their priorities
- Discussed their desired lifestyle
- Talked about how they want to spend their money according to their shared values
“We also started making financial goals together,” she said. “Even though we weren’t planning on combining our finances until after we tied the knot, we both decided that we wanted to build up our emergency savings by the time we were married. For me, that number was $10,000.”
They also got a shared credit card with travel rewards for big wedding expenses. This way, they earned bonus points on flights for their honeymoon.
On a shared smartphone note, listed their upcoming financial activities for after tying the knot:
- Choose a bank to combine finances
- Refinance their student loans and create a plan for paying them off
- Open a Roth IRA once they reached their emergency savings goals
“I already use Personal Capital as a dashboard for viewing all my accounts in one place, and I’ve convinced my partner that it’s going to be an even greater tool once we’re married,” Olivia told me.
Have a Money Date
I counsel people, whether they’re single or coupled, to carve out a planned and periodic time for what I like to call your Money Date.
For your Money Date, you sit down once a month for about 30 minutes — for me it’s a Sunday night — and focus on your finances. This is completely non-negotiable. I put it in my calendar, and when the date rolls around, it’s my time to look at my money, make financial moves, and see how I’m progressing towards my goals. If you are in a partnership, that would be the time to have these same conversations.
Make your money date fun! Give yourselves permission to open a bottle of wine, order takeout from your favorite restaurant, and get cozy. The more you make your money date something to look forward to, the more successful it will be.
Spend time talking about how you can curb your spending, check for fraud on your accounts, make a note of your account balances in full, and go over your progress toward your shared goals.
What I’ve learned over the years is this: Sometimes the best forms of self-care are the hardest ones to accomplish, and this includes having uncomfortable conversations about money.
Come From a Place of Understanding
Did you know that your habits concerning money are cemented by age 7? Yeah, just 7 years old!
Chances are, your partner’s upbringing was entirely different than your own. They could have parents who were open about finances or parents who were constantly worried about unpaid bills. All of these memories will play into how you currently approach money with your significant other.
Because of this, remember to discuss the emotional side of money with your partner. How did you treat money growing up? Was money a taboo topic in your home?
Once you’ve shared your story, remain open and receptive to the other person’s response and know that everyone’s history is different. In opening up about the past, you can break down negative self-talk and ideas about money for the future.
Olivia and her partner opted to sync up their finances prior to getting engaged. Together, they opened a conjoined bank account. This financial action came as a result of being open about their financial family histories.
“I think talking about how our parents and family members handled money while growing up — or even how they handle it now — really helped us discuss the things we did and didn’t want to incorporate into our own lives,” Olivia said.
The more you practice conversations around money, the easier they will become. Because it’s such an important factor of life, choosing to say “yes” to talking finance with your partner will only bring you closer to one another and pave the way for an even more successful (and happy) relationship.
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