You’ve tracked your spending, created a budget, worked on ridding yourself of debt, and are well on your way to a financially secure life. Now you’re ready for step four, in which you’ll have the money talk with your partner.
Talking finances with your partner may not be your idea of a shared romantic moment, but communicating openly about how you manage your money is a crucial part of having an honest and trusting relationship. It’s fairly common knowledge that arguing about money is the leading cause of divorce in the U.S., and no one wants to be the next statistic. Unfortunately, though, people often grow defensive when discussing the ways they choose to spend their money. How, then, can two partners have a calm, productive discussion about money?
Here are six tips we’ve compiled to help guide you in this super-important conversation.
1. Plan the discussion in advance
It’s never a good idea to bring up a potentially explosive topic without warning. Instead, broach the topic to your partner a few days before you want to have the “Big Money Talk” and ask if you can have an open discussion about money sometime soon. This way, you’ll each have time to prepare the details you’d like to talk about, and you’ll both be ready to focus on the conversation without distractions.
2. Start with a vision
Instead of starting the conversation by bringing up a time your partner overspent or wondering aloud why your better half doesn’t seem to be saving enough for the future, start with a vision you can both share. For example, you can talk about how wonderful it would be to take a luxury vacation to the Cayman Islands, or how you’d love to start saving for a home. This way, you are communicating a shared dream and putting a positive spin on your money talk, which will set the tone for the rest of the conversation.
3. Listen carefully to your partner
You may be the more responsible, or the more detail-oriented partner, but it’s still important to listen carefully to what your partner has to say. Your partner will have their own ideas about money management, and you may be surprised at the insights they have to share into your own spending habits or expensive vices.
4. Talk openly about sharing expenses and savings
At a certain point in your relationship, you may decide to share expenses, split them evenly and have each partner cover different expenses, and/or to pool your savings. Whether you’ve already reached that level with your partner or you plan to bring up the topic now, be sure to talk openly about the way you feel so you have a better chance of avoiding future resentment. For example, if you earn more than your partner, should you be splitting expenses evenly? Can one partner take additional financial responsibilities, such as paying the bills, in lieu of contributing an equal amount of income to the pot? If one partner goes over budget, will they be responsible for patching up the difference by contributing more money? All of these questions, and more, are important to discuss up front to help prevent future blowups and/or hurt feelings.
5. Consider having a slush fund
Sharing expenses and a budget can be liberating in a partnership, but it can also feel constricting. Sometimes, you just want to splurge without having to explain the purchase to your partner. You may also want to spend money on a surprise gift for your partner without them knowing you’ve just dropped a large sum of money on an expensive purchase. Having a slush fund, or money set aside for your personal “just for fun” spending, can help you maintain a sense of independence and keep some of your purchases private. You can keep this fund in a separate checking account under your name at Patriot Federal Credit Union.
Set up a weekly or bi-weekly time to talk money
No, you don’t need to have the Big Money Talk every week, but it is a good idea to touch base about finances once a week, or once every two weeks. You can talk about recent purchases, big expenses that are coming up soon, surprise bills and more. Setting aside time to talk about money will keep the stressful money arguments out of your everyday conversations.
You did it! You had the money talk with your partner, and you are closer than ever. Be sure to stick to your commitments and to bring up any money issues that may arise during your regular money talks for continued harmonious collaboration about all financial matters.