Talking Money Checklist – How to Approach Financial Conversations with Your Partner
You know each other’s weight, blood type and shoe size. You’ve committed their favorite line from their favorite movie to memory. And they can rattle off the jersey number you wore in high school.
But do you know the balance on her credit card? Or in her 401(k)?
Do you know what he would do if he won $5,000 in a church raffle? What about his credit score?
Have you ever told your significant other exactly how money, debt and financial risk make you feel?
The good news is you’re in a committed relationship with someone you love. And you got here because you already agree on lots of things in life. The bad news is money has a way of making even the strongest, most trusting couples turn on one another.
It’s About Communication
One reason for all the stress and bickering is that many discussions about money happen in reaction to something. You point out their spending habits when the bank statement arrives. They criticize you for sending money to your sister after the check is in the mail. You can guess how that goes – not well.
Here’s a checklist you can use to spur productive, proactive money conversations with your better half, so you can get on the same financial page as a couple.
- Find a good time to talk. After a long workday or in the car on the way to a parent-teacher conference probably isn’t the best time to spring a money conversation on your significant other. To communicate effectively, both of you should feel calm, relaxed and unhurried. Find an hour where you’re able to focus without distractions. Maybe during Sunday brunch.
- Go slowly. You won’t come to a complete understanding about money with just one conversation. So don’t even have a goal in mind or a specific problem to tackle during your first few discussions. Just get comfortable talking about money together.
- Ask “why” questions. Why are you looking into a home equity loan? Do you think we should buy or lease our next car? Why? Why does the stock market keep you awake at night? Ask your spouse to explain their views and values. Then sincerely listen. Understanding what drives your mate’s outlook on money is key to finding common ground or compromise that works for both of you.
- Confront the issues, not each other. Making financial progress as a couple will take both parties. So avoid pointing fingers. Use “we” and “us” more than you use “you” and “I” when you sit down to talk. Preparing a household balance sheet is a great way to ensure you are focused on facts, and it gives you a place to start moving forward instead of assigning blame for past behaviors.
- Put it on the calendar. The more you talk about money, the easier it will become. So agree to a regular time to chat and review where you stand as a couple – both financially and emotionally. Maybe it’s the first Monday of every month. Or the day the seasons change. Since things can change quickly, we suggest sitting down together several times each year.
- Reward yourself. Coming to a consensus as a couple isn’t always easy, particularly when money is the topic. Focus on the fact that you’re doing this as a team. When you’re done talking, do something you both enjoy or take a walk together. It’s a great reminder of why you became a couple in the first place.