Having the ‘Couples Money Talk’

For better or worse, money frequently is a key part of a long-term relationship. Whether someone you love loves to talk about money, would rather avoid the issue or let someone else handle it, waiting until after the knot is tied to see that the two of you do not see financially eye-to-eye however, can be too much for some couples to handle.

What’s the solution? A good first step is to get your so-called “money feelings” in the open as soon as possible. It may require dedicating a special time to have that “money talk.” It is very likely, however, that it will be worth it. But if you are reluctant to do even that, examine the evidence.

Is your significant other the type who needs a new car every other year or would he/she rather keep the same wheels on the road another year or two in order to pay down debt? And how do you feel about such a decision? Do you “need” the nicest house in the best neighborhood or would you settle for something smaller if it meant getting the kids into a better school district?

The largest money mistake: I will be able to change him or her. Your spouse has been programmed for 20+ years by mom and dad. Your love and nagging are not going to move the needle very much.

While no one can say for certain if a couple will be financially compatible, here are four points that can jumpstart your “money talk.”

  1. Start easy. People report anxiety about money and may find it difficult discuss finances. Have your talk, a so-called “money date,” in a private but pleasant surrounding without time pressure.
  2. Keep talking. Those who are most confident about money communicate when they need to do so. People who identify as “less financially confident” tend to be less likely to talk about money.
  3. Be real. Honesty is at the heart of all meaningful conversation – no matter when the topic, see below:
  • Don’t avoid: Set ground rules on spending limits, big purchases, and keeping each other informed.
  • Have an agenda: Items to be covered should include but are not limited to: buy vs. rent, taxes, retirement saving and insurance. Create a vacation or “fun” fund to responsibly reward yourself.
  • Work together: Be sure each member gets the chance to communicate and try to understand the reasons behind their feelings. Consider the households in which you were raised. Was it lavish or was paying bills a struggle? Issues like these will often influence one’s views on money.
  • Think long term: Financial challenges early in life, such as saving, spending and accumulating debt, are usually different than those faced later. Financial priorities shift. Late-in-life financials differ from other years as people become preoccupied with retirement planning.

Financially conflicted couples should seek the help of an independent financial advisor. An impartial professional can help sort things out and create a plan.