In my last edition of “Dear Tori,” I answered the age-old question of how to talk to a partner about finances for the first time. Having conversations about money can be stressful, triggering, and bring up a whole host of emotions and fears.
After writing that article, I got curious about others’ experiences having their first conversations with their partners –– so naturally, I reached out to the members of Her First $100K community with the following prompt:
I’m an amateur personal finance geek.
Your tools have helped me become a smarter investor.
Personal Capital Dashboard User, February 2021
Share a story of the first time you talked to your partner (or previous partners) about finances and how it went. When did you know it was the right time? Did it come up organically? Did it go better than expected? Worse?
And boy, oh boy, did the group come through. I hope you enjoy their stories and maybe learn something about how you might be able to better approach financial conversations in your own life.
Supporting your ambitious partner
When one partner has a non-traditional path or is a high performer, it can trigger anxiety and resentment from the other partner who might be on a more set timeline. Deciding to support your ambitious partner can make all the difference in money conversations.
“Previously, I dated a man who “gave” me control over all our finances. Sounds great, except he would then get mad at me when we didn’t have money for something.
“Fast forward to a few years later, I met my now-husband, and we began talking about our future. Finances came up organically because I like to talk about them. I told him that I love numbers, excel, math, finances, etc., but I will not be the only one to know where everything is or what we pay for things. He 100% supported that, and we have been on the same page ever since.
“We regularly discuss bills and savings and the future (our life and our money). We also keep separate checking accounts for our own personal money, which I think has been fantastic for our lives. I knew I wanted to marry him, but it really sealed the deal when he continually encouraged me in my career and cheered me on when I got raises/promotions/new jobs. He has never once shown any issues with the fact that I have a focused career and have consistently made more than him for a while –– he is proud of me as an individual and us as a cohesive unit.”
Splitting the bill
It’s not always cut and dry when you’re deciding how to split bills or combine bank accounts. Some couples opt for 50/50, while others utilize more equitable methods.
“My previous partner definitely had his money and my money, and they didn’t cross. He had bills, and I had bills. When we went out and did stuff together, we paid separately.
“The lovely man I have now, we do things together. We sat down and talked money! Once we get married, I’ll be the one who really budgets because It doesn’t stress me out like it does him. But we talk about purchases together. We agree together. It’s our money.
“Now I feel a lot better with my money situation than before. I don’t have so much anxiety over bills and paying for things!”
“My husband and I had our first big talk about finances right before we moved in together. We wanted to make sure we were splitting bills and also that we had similar financial goals.
“At first, it was fine until we realized that he makes more money than me, so a 50/50 split wasn’t working. We decided to do a 60/40 split (me with the 40) since that’s about the percentages of our salaries when combined. We’ve been doing that ever since!”
Just because you’ve been with your partner for a long time doesn’t mean that the financial conversation doesn’t need to happen. The great thing about being with a partner long-term is getting to grow and change alongside them –– and that includes how you see your finances.
“When I found Her First $100K at the beginning of this year, I became a little obsessed with financial literacy and immediately started talking about everything I was learning with my long-term boyfriend.
“He was a little overwhelmed at first and would just smile and nod when I would go on and on about HYSAs and Roth IRAs, but one night he said, ‘I love how much you love learning about this stuff.’ He’s slowly been making money moves, like getting a credit card and downloading a budgeting app, when before, he would just ignore his bank account.
“Now we talk about money all the time, and it feels very natural. I think it’s so easy because we are/always have been growing up together, so it’s natural to talk about the new things we learn as we figure out how to be adults.”
Not always sunshine and rainbows
While I wish that everyone’s money conversations were all painless and ended with popped champagne and confetti, that just isn’t the case for all of us.
“My partner and I were both divorced from past relationships. We come from ethnic backgrounds, and talking about finances is considered taboo in many cultures at many levels. This time around, we both made an effort to talk about it as part of many important issues that should be discussed before we commit for life.
“It was not organic and definitely does not feel natural. You have to put it out there to see how receptive and practical your partner is towards future financial planning.
“We are both of the opinion that it is absolutely essential to have these discussions now before we move forward. Even though we have come so far, finances are something we continue to talk about anytime future or present expenditures, future planning, dreams, career or family planning comes up in our conversations.”
“The hardest thing I ever talked to my boyfriend about was my spending addiction. I had spent $14k down to $300 in August of 2020— right after we signed a lease.”
“In my current relationship, I let my boyfriend move in with me when he lost his job during COVID, but I assumed he had an emergency fund. I only found out he didn’t when he mentioned that he was late on his car payment, and it might be repossessed! In the ensuing conversation, he said he was also not paying his credit card! I gave him money.
“He got an okay-paying job later, and we talked about budgeting and saving. He had been paying me rent proportional to his income but lost his job again this July. We talked again about money, and it turns out he had been spending $500/month on discretionary spending instead of building an emergency fund!
“Moving forward, I honestly don’t believe he can be trusted with his own money. I also just bought a house for us to live in (by myself) and have 100k+ in retirement, and I have a very average paying job. I clearly know how to manage money, but I don’t know how on earth to get through to him on finances.”
Communication without judgment
Honest communication is one of the hallmarks of a great relationship. It opens a new sense of trust between partners and leads to authentic communication and understanding.
“I brought [money] up directly. I have debts I need to disclose from educational attainment and wanted to set the foundation for understanding how we individually expected our finances to look.
“Turns out we are incredibly good at spending individually and together. Fast forward five years, we are engaged and buying a house in Georgia. I’ve cut my spending monthly by thousands, and we have both made substantial efforts to maximize our savings. We have a rule that we don’t judge each other’s spending habits. We are joining accounts after we elope!
“Now, thanks to Her First 100K, I am more financially literate and more aggressive in helping to make family financial decisions than ever before! Currently, we are working on communicating lovingly when our Amazon habit gets out of hand. It’s a practice, but that 2-day shipping had me all kinds of hooked!”
The Bottom Line
Money conversations aren’t always easy, but they don’t have to be complicated. Every partnership is different and thrives in different ways, especially when it comes to finance. Personal finance is personal, and as long as you’re on the same page and moving forward in a way that works for you, you’ll be rolling right along.
As you talk about money management, consider signing up for free finance tools to get a bird’s eye view of your financial situation. Personal Capital is the tool I check daily for tracking my net worth and my progress towards goals like retirement, debt payoff, and (yes!) saving that first $100k.
Personal Capital compensates Tori Dunlap of Her First $100k (“Author”) for providing the content contained in this article. Compensation not to exceed $500. Author is not a client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation. Additionally, in a separate referral arrangement between Author and Personal Capital Corporation (“PCC”), Author is paid $70 and $150 for each person who uses Author’s webpage (www.HerFirst100k.com) to register with Personal Capital and links at least $100,000 in investable assets to Personal Capital’s Free Financial Dashboard. As a result of these arrangements, Author may financially benefit from referring potential clients to Personal Capital and/or be incentivized to present blog content that is favorable to PCC. No fees or other amounts will be charged to investors by Author or Personal Capital as a result of the Referral Arrangement. Investors that are referred to PCC and subsequently subscribe for investment advisory services provided by PCC’s affiliated adviser, Personal Capital Advisors Corporation (“PCAC”) will not pay increased management fees or other similar compensation to Author, PCC or PCAC as a result of this arrangement. The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.