Money and relationships are intimately tied, and it’s important to acknowledge and discuss this with your partner. It is never too late to start if you haven’t had this discussion with your significant other. Whether you have been dating for a bit or have been together for years, it is essential to talk about money and to do it routinely.
It may sound awkward or downright scary, but that’s why we have nine ways to help you start the conversation you need to have.
1 – Establish a Money Date
A money date is a time that you set apart to discuss finances with your partner. That doesn’t mean you need to break out your laptop while at a nice dinner and dig through spreadsheet after spreadsheet for hours on end.
A money date should be brief and as short as 20 minutes every month. Keeping them shorter limits the opportunities for the conversation to become heated. Also, avoid late-night or intoxicated money dates for obvious reasons.
You can discuss what makes sense for you and your partner during the money date. If you are struggling with topics, a few common issues to address include:
- Spending. How much did each of you spend during the last month? Did that match up with our goals?
- Bills. Did all our bills get paid, and were they what we expected?
- Saving. How much did we save? Was it more or less than we planned, and why? How much is in the emergency fund?
- Income. Did we make as much money as we thought? Are we missing an easy way to make more money?
- Investing. Have we invested this last month? How are our investments performing?
2 – Start Small
When you begin talking about money with your partner, start small. You don’t need to dive into your retirement plans, investments, etc. Start by sharing something small, like your credit score or how much rent is. Share your thoughts on whether a joint bank account is a good idea or how to handle future transactions together.
You could even ask for their advice or thoughts, as long as you are willing to consider what they say.
Starting small can warm you up to broaching such an important and sometimes scary topic as money with your partner. Before you know it, you’ll be creating financial goals together and working towards the life of your dreams.
3 – Don’t Ambush Your Partner
There are a handful of naturally awkward topics to discuss, and money is one of them. That means that not everyone is as open to talking about money. Proceed with caution.
Don’t ambush them when you begin talking to your partner about money. Take it easy and straightforward with your questions, and see where it goes.
This allows you to determine how open or closed off to money conversations your partner is. Your partner won’t feel ambushed, which will most likely lead to improved money conversations.
4 – Work on Your Money Goals Together
Set a money goal with your partner to create a support system that keeps each of you accountable. This could be as simple as saving your third paycheck from every month or as complex as improving your credit scores to get a lower interest rate on purchasing your first home.
Whatever you hope to accomplish together, from saving up for a down payment on a house to a new car, to a vacation together, put it all out there. Then break down what you need to do to get it done.
By sharing what you each hope for, you can find common ground, compromise, and decide how to make necessary adjustments to reach your goals.
5 – Avoid Shaming Your Partner
If someone feels shame about something, the last thing they want to do is to talk about it. Avoid having your first money talk be a negative experience with your partner.
If you or your partner have debt or spends too much, the first money talk isn’t the time to broach this subject and shame your partner. It changes nothing and instead adds guilt to money discussions with your partner.
Discussing money with your partner doesn’t need to be big or awkward. There are a lot of people that are open to talking about money, but some are not. By avoiding shaming, you can warm up your partner to more and more money talks and bring them out of their “money shell.”
6 – Discuss Spending and Earning Money
Frequently, talks about money with your partner mainly include spending, saving, budgets, investing, etc. However, money talks should also include how you and your partner earn income.
Talking about earning money opens you up to discuss the why beyond your income and what you like and dislike. It also allows you to dive into possible opportunities for improvement, raises, job changes, or side hustles. This can bring out a shared side hustle or passion project to enjoy together.
7 – Discuss Debt
Debt is one of the biggest financial issues that can arise in someone’s life and significantly affects any relationship. Talking about debt can be difficult, so this is one of those areas to keep an open mind, tread carefully, and practice empathy.
Share any student loan debt, credit card debt, or other monthly payments that must be covered. Discuss whether or not student loan forgiveness is an option. If there is a mortgage, what are the terms? If there are car payments, how many are left?
In your discussions, look for ways to eliminate debt, reduce interest rates, and lower the burden.
8 – Understand the Why & Not Just the Numbers
There’s money and relationships, and then there is a relationship with money.
Sometimes the purchase or a paycheck number is only part of the story. Some people are thrilled to make 60k a year, while others would yearn for something different. Thus, it is important to dig into the why and not stop at the face value of the numbers.
Some people may value their time freedom much more than having a larger income or a cheaper cost of living. Some people develop certain spending habits and priorities because of how they were raised or the financial circumstances they’ve experienced.
Discussing what lies beneath the surface will help you and your partner have an even deeper understanding of each other and your history with money.
9 – Allow For Differing Opinions
Talking about money with your partner is not a contest. There shouldn’t be a winner and a loser. Instead, each decision can have pros and cons, with it being okay that opinions are different.
The vital piece of allowing for a difference in opinion is that knowing the why behind a decision is key. Everyone has a different history with money, so everyone values it differently. For some, it is safety; for others, it is freedom, etc.
10 – Discuss Money Expectations Early
If possible, talk about money expectations early on in your relationship. This will allow you to have that bridge when money issues arise later. You don’t want your first talk about money to be stressful or emotional.
You are setting the stage for money talks with your partner by talking about money early, setting you up for success. There will be fewer surprises, and it will be easier to avoid emotional money discussions.
11 – Have A Way to Budget & Track Spending
No matter what your goals are or where your money goes, consider settling on a system to help track spending. Discuss what this would look like and how it can keep you both financially accountable.
One of you may be more financially savvy and able to manage the budget regularly. This could also be something you do on your monthly money date!
You or your partner’s financial situation can differ significantly, but that doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed. What matters is that your money philosophy is aligned, you share similar financial visions for the future, and you communicate clearly what you think and want.
Zach Larsen is a small business owner, finance and investment expert, and co-founder of PineappleMoney.com. He has been featured in publications including GOBankingRates, Yahoo Finance, Credit Sesame, and Workast. He enjoys teaching others about personal finance and spending time with his family.