Yes, the well-known Beatles mantra, “all you need is love” sounds wonderful. Those of us in the work force, however, know that money helps out a little… you know, with affording food, shelter, and other basic requirements to live. Money is one of the most highly dreaded discussions in a relationship. Couples who fight about money are 30% more likely to get a divorce. So how do we do the unavoidable and discuss finances without it becoming a battle in a never ending war?
Plan a Good Time to Talk… and Do it Often
The money talk is not something to be had as you’re both rushing out the door and off to work in the morning. It is also not a good plan to ambush your partner when you see an unexpected-to-you Amazon box arrive at your doorstep. Plan a time that works best for both of you to sit down at the kitchen table and actually talk. If you’re a morning person and your significant other is a night owl, don’t schedule the meeting for 6:30 am on a Saturday. Instead, opt for 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon when both of you should be energized and ready to go. Also, try not to have the conversation at the end of a long work day when you’re both just ready to rest. Money talks are most effective when both of you are going into them with the mindset of having a successful and productive discussion and creating common goals.
Once you get one talk under your belt, plan to do it often. Financial talks will make the most impact if you’re able to sit down and recap at least once a month. Talking often will also help you stay on track with budgeting and saving each month and will help ward off unplanned purchases.
Discuss Your Money Values and Background
Every family teaches their children to think about money differently. Talk about how each of your families handled and talked about money and what you think they got right or wrong. Get an idea of each other’s money mindset. Did your significant other grow up poor with rigid budgeting? Was your significant other’s family well off with impulse purchases being a common habit? What is your spouse willing to spend additional money on that you may not be?
You don’t necessarily have to agree with your partner on their money views, but understanding these things will help you to have a more productive discussion.
Money Comes with Emotions – Discuss Them
Money is a loaded topic and we all know it. That is why 60% of people say money had some impact on their divorce. Money isn’t just about “money,” its also about the emotions that come with it. With budgeting and setting financial and life goals, there is always the expectation that both people will do their part – have a job (or two, if needed), stick to a budget, don’t buy things that aren’t necessary. When someone falters or does not live up to your or their own expectations, it can become disappointing and emotional. Acknowledge this fact and try to avoid accusations and hurt feelings.
Be Open, Fair, and Compassionate
Nobody is perfect – including you. Don’t forget about this when you’re upset about that unexpected box from Amazon that we mentioned earlier. This is only going to work if you both give a little. Be open about your finances – including your mistakes – this helps set the tone for your significant other to do the same. Discuss what “frivolous” purchases are important to each of you. If it is important to her to go to happy hour with her co-workers, take this into consideration. If it is important to him to have a golf outing with his buddies every so often, this is something you shouldn’t just dismiss. Figure out how to make it work so both of you are happy.
If he falters and buys that new tool that he really wanted (but you didn’t think he needed) be forgiving. Chances are, you will do the same with a new pair of shoes at some point and you want him to treat you the same way. When mistakes are made, revisit new ways to help each other stick to the plan and see where you might be able to make other cuts to even things out.
Talk about Goals
Usually, the point of having “the talk” is to set some kind of financial goal and figure out how to get there. Discuss these goals – like having a baby, buying a house, paying off debt – and how soon you want to achieve them. Make sure you’re setting “SMART” goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely), otherwise you may be setting yourselves up for disappointment. Budgeting works best when both people are set on a common goal.
Do Something Romantic Afterwards
Talking money can be stressful. Do something afterward to unwind and reconnect. Have a stay-in movie date, sip wine on the back porch, enjoy a nice meal. Remind yourselves that you’re in this together.
Get Additional Budgeting Help at Patriot Federal Credit Union
If you need to bring in reinforcement to keep your money talk from looking like the Battle of Gettysburg, Patriot can help. We have a team of financial advisors who will sit down with you and your significant other and go through your finances. Sometime having an educated, neutral mediator is exactly what you need to keep financial discussions from getting out of hand. Call Patriot Financial Services at (888) 633-7328 or schedule an appointment online for help with your financial planning!