There is a certain amount of irony when it comes to money and couples. Remarkably, many couples find it easier to discuss their intimate relations than talk about their finances. Money can be an uncomfortable subject for many reasons – embarrassment, fear of being judged, or just plain depressing.Although it can be uncomfortable, playing Ostrich with your head in the sand is not going help you achieve the healthy financial life you want – or a healthy relationship.
So how do you bring up the subject of money with your significant other?
Preparing to Talk
Be transparent & Honest
Start with complete honesty – with yourself. It can be really difficult to be honest with your partner if you haven’t accepted your own financial reality yet. Part of having this conversation with your partner is being honest with yourself first.If you have something in your financial history that you’re not proud of, it’s time to come to terms with it and make a plan to move forward.
Understand that people have a lot of emotions about money
Before approaching your partner about money, understand that their attitude and feelings about money may not reflect yours. Most of us have internalised beliefs about how much money we should earn, how much we should have and what we can afford and not afford.
Too often we tie our self-worth to our net worth or income. If our net-worth or income is small or non-existent, especially compared to our partner’s, we can feel like we’re not contributing our fair share or that we’re a burden on the relationship.
It may be that you grew up in a household where it wasn’t okay to talk about money, or it was inferred that money was somehow evil (“money is the root of all evil”etc). This belief that money is bad may have been carried into adulthood and even passed onto your children. It’s an ironic contradiction that when asked, many of us say we’d like to be financially well off, yet the popular belief is that wealthy people are greedy and heartless.
So when you first start talking about money with your partner, understand that their experiences may have resulted in them having a very different attitude towards money than you.
Don’t wait — talk about it before money stress crops up
It may be tempting to chicken out and raise the issue “another day”. But money issues don’t disappear by themselves. Money affects nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives, so it’s no surprise that money troubles are the greatest source of stress for many couples – theyare often cited as the leading cause of divorce. That’s why addressing your finances is a critical part of a healthy, thriving, and long-lasting relationship.
Start with goals and dreams
When bringing up a sensitive topic, it’s helpful to focus first on positive things first. Dreaming and hoping for bigger and better things is quite easy to do and most of us willingly participate even if we think it’s just a pipe-dream, for example winning lotto!Logically we know the chances of winning lotto are exceptionally small, but who hasn’t indulged in a dream or twoabout what we would do with all those millions!
Start your conversation there. Exchange your biggest dreams. What would each of you put down on your bucket list? Do you want to travel? What does retirement look like to each of you? If you could buy one thing regardless of cost, what would it be? Don’t forget your “little” dreams either.
Beginning this way will start a positive, non-threatening conversation and present the opportunity to take the subject deeper.
Talk about what you need to do to achieve your goals and dreams
Once you’ve talked about your big (and little) goals and dreams, talk about what it will take to make them come true. This exercise helps you to identify together what’s really important to you and what’s preventing you from achieving your hopes and dreams.
Will you need to increase your incomes? If so, how? Do you need to save more, spend less or invest more? If true, how will you execute on them?
Topics that should be addressed
Everyone is different, depending on their own unique circumstances, but here are some areas that you can consider for deeper discussion.
- The amount of debt you and your partner have and your plans for paying it off.
- The amount of savings and other assets you have and wish to strive for. You should also know whether you would want to treat these assets as joint assets or assets that each of you will retain individually.
- Spending habits. You will want to know the manner in which you both approach budgets and spending.
- Financial styles. For example, do you pay your bills as soon as they are received, whereas your partner pays them right on the deadline (or later)? Are your bank accounts diligently balanced, whereas your partner’s is a very rough approximation of what he or she thinks is in there? Are you a conservative investor whereas your partner is more willing to take risks?
Work out what you’re willing to do as a couple to achieve your dreams
Finally, talk about what you’re ready and willing to do as a couple to turn all your individual and mutual dreams into reality. Even if you only work towards a few of your goals from the first exercise, create a plan to move in the direction to achieve them.
A good way to assess the financial stability of your relationship is to ask yourself how sustainable your financial future would be with your partner, based on its current state. Ideally, you should feel comfortable knowing that you and your partner will be able to support your chosen lifestyle for the duration of your relationship.
Seek expert help to get your plan sorted and on track
If money isn’t something that either you or your partner feel particularly confident about, get outside help from a financial planning expert. In the same way you wouldn’t try to fix your car without knowing what you’re doing, the same goes for your finances. An appropriately qualified financial adviser will provide a knowledgeable sounding board for you and your partner and will ultimately save you time and money, a just maybe… your relationship!