Talking With Your Partner About Finances
Are you the sort that will either avoid the money topic, or talk about anything else, before you consider talking with your partner about finances? Don’t worry, it’s very common but you pay the price long term.
Perhaps the reason is because money symbolizes different things to different people: power, control, security, or love, for instance. Perhaps you know you need to change something but are just avoiding it, only to find out the problem usually grows over time.
Money issues are the driving force in most divorces, but you can live happy, financially speaking, if you work at not letting financial issues come between you and your partner.
Here are some tips for couples:
- If your relationship is the priority, you’ll both have to be willing to negotiate. Share your feelings, experiences, and hopes about money. Discuss how you dealt with money with family and past relationships, what it meant to you when you were young. Volunteer your own feelings and it may encourage your partner to do the same. It’s about sharing and honesty, not about solutions at this stage.
- If you’ve always been independent, it may be hard for you to be managed financially. Be honest with yourself about how you feel. You may feel fear about risking your hard-earned money, or resentment if your partners spending habits are not good. You must be honest with yourself and know where you stand and be honest with your partner. Its best to talk openly about a lack of trust and deal with it, or find solutions or set expectations together and then be happily proven wrong. This is a first conversation and it might take a few conversations or a few attempts over a year to test ideas but your relationship will be stronger once you learnt how to navigate the money issues, than be disappointed or harbour resentment.
- Don’t wait until a financial issue arises to raise the subject but find a good time to talk in a safe time for all parties. The goal is to have a calm, relaxed discussion when there’s no money issue at hand. It’s about disclosure, learning, developing a common understanding and workable goals, either 100% as a couple or individually contributing to a pool for the relationship and maybe managing the excess each other has personally.
- If you find it hard to talk about money; seek out a counselor to help you with your financial issues or of course play our new Money Game coming out soon. A financial counselor or a therapist or marriage counselor can often help or even start with a book on the topic that you both read or allocate one person to read, report back and agree to implement new strategies learnt if they are applicable to your circumstances as a couple.
Some options for merging finances for couples
- Discuss and develop a formal couples joint spending and savings goal and each put money into a joint card, then each partner manages their own personal spending money allocation in a separate account.
- Financial trust builds when you know where your money is going and are both working to it, given some personal spending flexibility as well. Keeping a budget is an investment in your future as a couple and generally ‘what gets measured gets attention’, and ‘what you focus on gets the most results’, so budgets and maybe a monthly review is sound advice.
- Designate one person as the bill payer, but the other person should be involved and should know what needs to be done and how to do it if needed, but one person takes responsibility so it gets done and save late fees too not know who paid or didn’t.
- Each of you should have at least one debit card in your own name to maintain a separate credit history. If one of you has a cash problem, or you divorce or your spouse dies, it will be difficult or impossible to get a mortgage, loan, or credit card without a solid history. Keep the joint card for everyday expenses and if you need to build one person’s history, transfer the joint money to the personal account and pay the bill straight away.
- Buy/borrow a book or do a mini course on personal finance management if you’re not sure. There are many good resources and the education is easier than you might think.
- Hold a meeting each month to go over your finances, see how you went, what can be improved, celebrate if you met you goals or over-chavied on them. Don’t be hard if you didn’t meet the goals, this is a learning experience and sometimes extra bills come up. Just learn and move on as a couple.
A key them above is taking time to know your numbers and allocate quality time in a safe (non-threatening) way, to start talking with your partner about finances. Also go on our list for early advice on the How Game Are You?™ Money Edition game. It’s sure to help develop more understanding, skills and there are some special couples questions included.