At some point in every serious relationship there comes a time where the couple will need to have “the talk”. No, not that talk. I am referring to the Money Talk. The talk where you get financially naked in front of each other and share it all – the good and the bad.
It’s a necessary conversation, yet it still creates anxiety. Revealing damaged credit scores or credit card debt to your partner can be embarrassing. Discussing your income and savings can make one partner feel inferior to the other if their income isn’t similar.
Then again, if both of your credit scores are great, you have no debt and your incomes are similar you have nothing to worry about!
Unfortunately, it usually isn’t that simple . Money can be a complicated issue. You see and hear about it all the time – in movies, in music, in the news and in life – money has a tendency to create tension in relationships. Not only in romantic relationships, but also in friendships and within families.
But I am not here to explain the psychology of money. I’ll leave that up to the experts. I do, however, have experience with the Money Talk. You see, I am getting married this summer and know a thing or two about the Money Talk. I’ll break down some Do’s and Don’ts along with sharing my experience so you can feel more comfortable about getting financially naked in front of your S/O.
Having the money talk
First and foremost, the money conversation you have with your partner should not be as awkward or embarrassing as the internet makes it out to be. If it is, it’s because you two may not be as serious as you’d like to think. When you become serious and committed to each other, telling the truth about yourself (or your money habits) isn’t a big deal. In fact, it’s likely that by the time you have the conversation, you’re pretty aware of each others money habits.
That’s how it worked with me, at least. I knew her habits pretty well and she knew mine also. Having this familiarity already breaks down some of the walls that prevent this conversation from happening.
For us, the conversation occurred once we had talked about spending our lives together. No, we were not yet married or even engaged, but we knew we wanted to be. Knowing we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together made it easier to talk about money. It’s a natural conversation to have at that point.
Anyway, what am I saying here? Have the Money Talk once you have discussed your future together. As I already said, by the time you know, and are open about being together, you’ll have a good idea of each other’s money habits and the conversation will happen naturally.
The DO’s and DON’Ts
DO – set up time to talk.
We decided a couple days before hand that we’d chat about our finances on a specific evening. It’s as simple as this: “Hey, I’m thinking it’s time we sit down and talk a bit more about our money situations. How about we take a look at our accounts and then talk in two nights?
Boom. Time set.
DON’T – assume that 5 minutes is enough.
When you have the talk, don’t just open the internet and say here is my checking and retirement accounts. All good? No, it is not all good. A short conversation isn’t going to be productive if its the first money talk you’re having. It doesn’t need to be overly long either, though. A two hour ordeal is something neither of you will look forward to (unless you’re both jacked on the topic and you end up getting into a great conversation. Then, by all means, please continue).
I’d say you could cover all your bases in less than an hour.
DO – focus on what you want to achieve together and individually.
This part is crucial. It’s the guts of the conversation. Focus on what you want to achieve. The savvy couples will focus on goals and make action plans to reach them. The goals should cover what you want to achieve as a couple, like saving X% of your income, increasing your net worth, funding your children’s college tuition, etc. There also needs to be an individual component, where you focus on things you’d like to achieve and where your partner can support you. These can be anything from advancing your career, to eliminating debt, to donating your time and/or money to causes you care about.
Personally, I view this as the best way to talk about your goals. With both of your attentions focused, it is the perfect time to express your ambitions and start making action plans.
DON’T – focus on income or saving discrepancy.
Current income and savings levels will obviously need to be addressed. Same with credit scores and any debt. But it doesn’t need to be the focal point of the conversation. Talk about them, and then use them as a base to develop your goals.
Focusing on discrepancies between income/savings/debt/whatever will be counterproductive to the conversation. Instead, acknowledge them and recognize you’re in this together. Don’t get mad or poke fun at one another. Again, where you are currently at is a starting point, focus on goals and start from there. Focusing on goals instead of income and savings will help you align your actions and even change your habits.
DO – remember you’re in it together.
Above all else, remember this: you’re in it together.
When we had the conversation, we said out loud that we’re a team. We will make big decisions together, but also trust each other for smaller decisions. We agreed that if something about a money habit was bugging us that we would discuss it. Letting it simmer is a recipe for disaster. Speak openly with each other, keep things constructive, and always remember you’re in it together.
DON’T – take yourselves too seriously.
Set your goals and create your action plans, but don’t make things too serious unless such seriousness is required. Recognize things you like to share together and don’t be afraid to spend some money in that area.
We really like eating out, but eating out often can be a big hit to the checking account. Instead, we plan for a date night a few times a month where we go out to a favorite restaurant. This compromise allows us to do something we enjoy, but do it in a way that doesn’t eat away at our savings goals. Balance is key.
Be committed to the goals you set, and strive for them, but recognize the importance of actually living your life as well. If you find a hobby or activity is meaningful, don’t be afraid to pursue it.
DO – continue to have conversations.
Sorry, but this isn’t a one-and-done conversation. Money will always be around. It impacts most of the decisions we make. The first official Money Talk” between you and your partner is just the beginning. You’ll need to evaluate your progress continuously, so don’t be afraid to speak about your finances again.
Speak of your dreams and goals often, hold each other accountable, and enjoy the life you have together.
It’s time for the talk
Following these simple Do’s and Don’ts will help the Money Talk with your partner go smoother than you thought was possible.
- Set a time to talk
- Focus on goals
- Remember you’re in it together
- Continue the conversation, long after you had the first one
Now go talk to your partner so you two can create a life free of financial stresses!