How to Have a Real Money Talk With Your Significant Other
If you’re in a relationship, there’s a big chance you and your significant other know almost everything about each other — you’ve shared your hopes, dreams, and greatest fears. But if you’re like most couples, there is one topic you might shy away from talking about: money.
You likely have different jobs, incomes, backgrounds, and spending habits, all of which can lead to a difference in your financial outlook. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, but if you’re someone who prefers to keep your financial information to yourself, this decision can affect your relationship in the long run.
If you’re not comfortable talking about money — you’re not alone! A Turbo Survey found that 70 percent of surveyed Americans aged 18 and up consider money a more intimate topic than politics or religion. But no matter if you’re on the road to engagement or still trying to “define the relationship,” it’s important to be open and honest about money with the person you are planning to have a future with. Having #RealMoneyTalk with your partner will not only allow you to reach a new level of intimacy with each other, but it will also help keep you on track with your financial goals.
Not sure where to start? Read on for some helpful tips and conversation starters.
1. Take small steps. Getting to a place where you feel comfortable talking about the details of your finances with someone will take time, so be patient. Take little steps toward understanding how your partner views and talks about money. In the earlier stages of your relationship, you don’t have to ask probing financial questions right off the batt. You can learn a lot about your partner’s financial personality simply by observing how they save and spend. As you get to know each other better and develop a higher level of trust, you can dive deeper into discussing your finances on a more intimate level. The longer the relationship, the more likely your lives — and, in turn, your finances — will become more closely intertwined.
2. Have a “money date.” Just because you’ve been in a long-term relationship doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier to talk about money. Working in the topic of money during your day-to-day interactions can be stressful and ineffective, especially if your partner isn’t on the same page. To have a more intentional and open conversation about money, schedule a date for that purpose. Whether it be at a coffee shop, in the park, or over a takeout meal on the couch, find a comfortable and neutral location where you both feel safe to share your honest thoughts. In the same way that you might have regular movie nights, make the “money date” a regular part of your relationship. You can schedule a check-in every month or few weeks to keep tabs on how you’re feeling about budgeting and your goals. Talking seriously about money regularly will help make the topic less intimidating, and can help you catch any issues before they snowball into something bigger.
3. Share your financial story. We often fixate on numbers such as debt, credit score, and income. Even though they’re important to track and understand, they don’t say everything about who someone is, and having a #RealMoneyTalk means looking beyond the numbers. A low credit score does not necessarily mean your partner is untrustworthy or irresponsible; there might be other circumstances related to the number, such as a difficult financial period or a late start. How we grew up and where we come from influence our views and approaches to money, so take the time to share and understand each other’s personal history. How did your family handle money? What kind of bumps along the road have you encountered? Discussing your financial backgrounds is not meant to help you find excuses for poor financial behavior, but rather to gain more patience and understanding for where each of you are at. Then, you can help one another come up with appropriate next steps for how you’ll approach money, such as using Turbo to examine your holistic financial profile and plan for actionable financial goals.
4. Accept your differences; celebrate your commonalities. Opposites attract, and that can often be the case for couples and money too. Maybe your partner only dines at high-end restaurants or spends every winter flying to Aspen for ski trips, while your favorite winter activity includes staying in and honing your chef skills. Acknowledge and accept that you and your partner might have different priorities for how you spend your money or might be at different financial stages. The best way to do this is to talk about it and find a middle ground. A great way to compromise is to figure out what values and interests you have in common and plan activities that celebrate those similarities. For example, if you find that your workout and eating habits are financially different, focus on the fact that you both enjoy a healthy lifestyle, and develop a new, financially compatible activity to do together, such as going hiking every Sunday instead of signing up for an expensive fitness class.
(Photo via Getty)