- Setting a regular money date night can make keeping track of your finances fun rather than a chore.
- Being upfront, no matter how scary, is the best policy when it comes to sharing your financial situation with your partner.
- Avoid waiting until there’s a problem to talk about money.
- Hiring a professional, such as a certified financial planner, can be a good idea.
What could be more romantic than curling up with your SO and talking taxes and 401(k) plans? OK, so discussing finances isn’t any couple’s idea of fun. But keeping the lines of communication open is crucial for a healthy relationship and bottom line, says Jay Zigmont, a certified financial planner in Water Valley, Mississippi.
Still, it can feel awkward to go there. “People are more likely to talk about their sex life than their finances,” Zigmont says. Discussing how much you spend and save can feel especially taboo if you grew up with parents who didn’t openly discuss money.
How important is it to get on the same page? A 2021 study found couples who disagree about investments are twice as likely to divorce. On the flip side, 79% of couples who communicate well about money feel optimistic about having a comfortable lifestyle in retirement, according to a 2021 study by Fidelity.
Whether you two have been married for years or are engaged or dating, these strategies will make it easier to share money details and tackle your finances as a team.
Inside this article
Do a full disclosure
Many of us have financial baggage and that makes it trickier to open up, says Keisha Blair, author of Holistic Wealth: 32 Life Lessons to Help You Find Purpose, Prosperity, and Happiness. “There’s usually a lot of guilt and shame around overspending and debt,” she notes. And that can get in the way of moving forward.
Your best bet is to open up long before you’re picking out wine glasses together. “The earlier you talk about it, the better off you’ll be,” says Zigmont. When he counsels engaged clients, he has them share their credit ratings with each other. (“They find it scarier than meeting the parents,” he reports.) This transparency is often bonding, but sometimes the reality is more than one of them can handle. Still, it’s an essential conversation, he says, because “when you marry somebody, you gain that debt.”
Get on the same page (whatever that means for you two)
Let’s say you’re a spender and your spouse is a saver. You aren’t going to magically change into different people. Instead, figure out how you’ll approach finances together, advises Zigmont. What’s your new, merged style? How will you tackle big expenses?
A common scenario is one partner wants to put all their hard-earned money into a risky investment and the other disagrees. That isn’t necessarily a problem, experts say, depending on how you approach it. Maybe you agree together to invest the bulk in safer investments and a small percent in risky ones. Or each partner invests their earnings as they see fit. “There has to be mutual respect and compromise,” says Blair. “If there is none, that’s a red flag right there.”
Set a money date night
Do you discuss everything but the bank account? “It’s never too late to start talking about finances,” says Blair. Pick a standing time each week, pour a couple of glasses of Pinot, and go over the budget. Make it a habit and it’ll automatically feel more natural. “It’ll also give you the chance to correct money issues before they get out of hand,” adds Zigmont.
Avoid SOS talks
All too often, money discussions erupt because something stressful happened (We need a new roof! The adjustable mortgage is ticking up!). However, we’re better off having these conversations when we’re both relaxed and not in total stress mode, Blair says.
Consider your approach, too, especially if it’s a sensitive topic (say, your partner is diverting his retirement money to cryptocurrency and you’re not a fan). Laura Adams, the host of the Money Girl podcast, recommends letting your spouse know a day in advance that you’d like to go for a walk to discuss a financial matter. “Say, ‘There’s a money thing I’d like to ask your opinion about.’ That way, it’s not confrontational.”
Get money smart together
Financial planners often see a dynamic where one partner takes care of every aspect of the family finances. Bad idea. When you’re both dialed in to the details, you’re equally in the loop and involved enough to make joint decisions.
Beyond that, updating your knowledge together is a good idea because it will help you grow as a team. “Listen to personal finance podcasts or sign up for online courses together,” Blair suggests.
We all need help sometimes. If you two feel stuck and want help tackling a problem or reaching a goal, consider working with a certified financial planner (CFP). Look for an advisor who charges by the hour and isn’t trying to earn a commission by selling you something. Zigmont recommends meeting with two or three CFPs to find a good match (most offer a complimentary consultation so you get an idea of their approach and style).
You may also want to enlist a marriage and family therapist or financial therapist to work on the couple stuff that can bubble up when moolah is involved. Yes, it will cost you. But Zigmont says the real question is: “What is it saving you in the long run?”