If you and your partner are getting serious or thinking about moving in together or getting married, you need to have “The Talk’. No, not that one, the money talk.
Whether you’re drowning in student debt or have pristine credit and savings, talking about money is a strangely intimate conversation that can reveal insecurities and vulnerabilities that you may have never thought about before. Nonetheless, talking about money is an integral part of building a solid foundation for your future together.
When it comes time for you and your partner to talk about money, consider these tips to make the conversation less stressful.
Keep it simple and casual
You don’t want to ambush your partner with questions about their finances that could seem invasive when they come without warning. However, when you set aside time to talk about money or set a budget for your shared home, keep it casual. Let your person know what you want to talk about and arrange a time to get coffee and review your finances.
Also, don’t wait until it’s time to make a big purchase or investment to talk about money. Not only may your emotions be running high, but money is an everyday issue. It’s okay to talk about it casually every day.
Make it a judgment-free zone
No one ever wants to feel judged. If you happen to be in a strong financial position, but your partner isn’t, it’s okay and normal. The average amount of student debt alone is around $37,000 with an average payment of over $300 a month. In fact, the total student debt in the United States is higher than the total amount of credit card debt. However, whatever you and your partner owe, for whatever reason, this isn’t the time for judgment, it’s time to create a plan for a stronger future.
You’re not going to agree about everything — and that’s okay
You and your partner may have very different attitudes toward money. However, the more open you are about your values, the better you and your partner will understand each other. For example, imagine that you’re thinking about buying a new car. Maybe you want a shiny new car, but your partner thinks it would be a better idea to get a slightly used car with a lower price to avoid years of car payments. While both points of view are valid, you can’t both get your preferred decision. However, you can both talk through the options and decide together on the best option.
Talk about earning money, as well as saving, paying off debt, and investing
You might assume that when you’re talking about money, the conversation is going to center around paying down debts and saving. However, you also need to talk about earning money and your plans. You may want to retire early or launch your own business. So how are you going to get to a place where you can make your dreams a reality.
Don’t equate amount with value
It’s also common for partners to have different attitudes toward the value of money, objects, and experiences. If your partner doesn’t understand why something is an essential expense for you, whether its a vacation, a car, or a good coat, explain why the value is important to you. Perhaps a vacation is the only time you can actually step away from work emails, or maybe you want to invest in a coat that you can wear for the next five years.
Similarly, if you don’t understand why your partner wants to spend money on something that you feel is extravagant, ask them about it in a non-judgemental way and let them know that you want to understand them better.
Don’t Lie. Ever.
There’s that old trope that the lady of the house comes home and hides her shopping bags, so the man of the house doesn’t know what she’s purchased. While this is an out-of-date cliché, the fact of the matter is that you shouldn’t lie about your spending. Lying about money or hiding your spending can damage your relationship as much as infidelity.
Rely on each other’s financial strengths
One of the great things about a good relationship is that both partners bring different strengths to the table. Are you a budgeting whiz or a little impulsive when it comes to emotionally charged purchases? Or maybe your partner is very rational and completes significant research before committing to a big purchase. You’re stronger together, so be respectful of each other’s strengths and make the most of your combined skills.
Talking about money isn’t often easy, but it’s a meaningful conversation to have regularly. If your discussions are getting emotionally charged and resulting in fights, you could schedule a couple’s counseling appointment to learn and practice some communication skills to help you get better at talking about money and other challenging topics.