Money impacts almost every aspect of a relationship. In fact, money problems are consistently listed among the top things that couples disagree about. When you resolve to discuss your money values and set financial goals together, you set your relationship up for success.
Here are four ways to get the money conversation started
1. Make a Date to Talk
Often, having a talk about money is a knee-jerk reaction to a stressful situation rather than a planned, calm discussion. Don’t wait—be deliberate about discussing finances. In fact, it’s helpful to have the conversation earlier rather than later in the relationship so that you know what you’re getting into.
Begin by talking about the role money has played in your lives; listen carefully to the stories of how money factored into your partner’s present situation. Talk about the ways in which you want to not only spend money but earn money as well. Discuss values; they don’t have to be directly money-related but your values often impact how you spend your time and your money.
2. Lay it All on the Table
Financial discussions can be uncomfortable. One study found that up to one-third of Americans hide financial information from their partner. The first step to success is to resolve to be completely truthful with each other.
Create a positive, non-judgmental environment by acknowledging each other’s financial strengths and identify how those strengths balance your relationship. If you feel strongly about managing your own money, or if you expect to combine finances, discuss it. If one of you enters the relationship with debt, talk about whose responsibility it should be to pay off that debt. And decide if that financial baggage is something you even want to take on in the relationship.
If you have joint expenses, talk about how those will be divided. If one of you earns more money than the other, discuss how the income would be shared, if at all. Be honest, and don’t hold anything back. If the discussion gets tense, it’s okay to step back and revisit it later. The issue of money should be an ongoing conversation anyway.
3. Talk About Goals
Goals should cover everything from retirement to where you want to live (buying a house), setting up college funds (children) and how you want to travel, as well as your career goals. This is a discussion that covers a lot of bases, not just money.
Talk about your individual and common goals and discuss what it will take to achieve them, even if it feels uncomfortable. If you find that you simply don’t agree on how you want to earn and spend money as a couple, you may discover that the relationship has other fundamental challenges as well.
4. Check in Regularly
Ongoing communication is critical to maintaining a good financial relationship with your significant other. Once you start the money conversation, keep it going. Don’t wait until one of you is upset over a big purchase; talk about finances regularly. Be open and transparent with each other, not only so that you’re on the same page in terms of budgeting, but so that you’re on the same page in terms of your life plans.