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Money-related stress can be difficult to talk about – even for partners in committed relationships. But with so many important parts of our lives tied directly to our personal and family finances, successfully managing a household’s money over both the short and long term depends upon honest and open communication from everyone.

No matter where you are in your journey as a couple, it’s important to understand how to discuss your finances, talk through money issues and work together to learn how to manage debt, create savings and achieve goals.

Life and Money, Past and Present

In any relationship, everyone brings a different set of life experiences to the table – and those experiences help shape their attitudes toward money and their financial habits. People learn budgeting skills at different ages and in various circumstances; they set different priorities based on past wants, needs and life paths.

Even the frank discussion of money – from paychecks to mortgage or rent payments to grocery shopping – can cause discomfort, because how we manage our money affects how we see ourselves and others. And that’s personal, powerful information.

Regular, nonjudgmental, honest communication about things like your financial priorities, savings goals, large purchases and individual debt is key. You should know each other’s:

  • Spending vs. saving attitudes
  • Financial priorities (homeownership, a new car)
  • Personal debt (student loans, credit cards, etc.) and payment plans

And money’s a touchy subject. Keep your conversations civil; be empathetic, be patient and be willing to look at each other’s good and bad financial habits. Remember: You’re on the same team. Planning together for shared goals and financial wellness makes a difference.

Dealing with Debt

Talking about debt – regardless of who holds it, or whether it was incurred prior to the relationship – is the most important thing you can do when understanding how to manage debt as partners. Instead of focusing on anything that went wrong in the past, focus on coming up with solutions for the future.

Make sure you can answer these questions as part of your overall financial planning:

  • How much debt is there?
  • How much are monthly payments?
  • What are the interest rates?
  • How long will the debt take to pay off and how much money is available each month to put toward the balance?

Solving debt as a team is both financially rewarding and a sign of a mature, strong relationship between partners aiming for the same targets.

Planning together for shared goals and financial wellness makes a difference.

Money Merging

Among the earliest financial decisions that partners face is merging their finances – how and when to do it, and even whether to do it at all. Should you:

  • Have a single, joint bank account?
  • Keep your paychecks depositing into your individual accounts and take turns paying bills?
  • Maintain individual accounts for some personal savings, but also open a joint account for the household?

Each relationship is different, so there’s no right answer for everyone. But again, we can’t overstate the importance of communication, and sharing your intentions and plans.

Keeping separate accounts – in addition to a joint household account – for things like gift purchases or hobby spending works for many couples. This is true as long as there are shared and accepted guidelines on things like how much each of you can spend without being expected to check in with the other. Picking up a new set of running shoes is one thing. Coming home to an unexpected new car in the driveway is quite another.

Here are more insights on merging finances.

Steady Conversation

The more openly you communicate about your finances, the easier it becomes. Regular, scheduled discussions about current bank balances and upcoming income, as well as your planned budget of day-to-day needs and monthly expenses, can help you avoid potential tension and anxiety.

When you’re in the habit of talking about where your money is coming from and where it needs to go, it becomes much more of a conversation and less of a “Talk We Have to Have” when things feel out of control.

Money doesn’t have to be a source of friction in your relationship: Taking control of your finances together will make the road ahead a smoother one.

To get your personality differences working for you, take Key’s survey in just three minutes.

This information and recommendations contained herein are compiled from sources deemed reliable, but are not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or are offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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