Oh, but money is a big deal, right?
In fact, it’s been proven that issues with money contribute to divorce more than any other topic—sex, children, time spent together or in-laws.
If you want to avoid the fights, stress, and splits that can come with a poorly managed bank account—which I’m sure you do—here are five ways to talk about money with your partner.
1. Start small. Let the money talks grow as your relationship does.
Money can be a heavy topic, so give the relationship some time to deepen. Talk about whether or not going to dinner tonight fits within your budget or if you can afford to go to that concert. Once you’ve spent some time getting a better feel for how your loved one views the small stuff, gradually increase the depth and breadth of the conversation topics to things like saving and retirement, big purchases, lifestyles.
2. Figure out your money personality.
Your Money Personality developed long before you met your partner and I can’t say enough good things about the book The 5 Money Personalities, by Scott and Bethany Palmer. It helps each partner identify his or her Primary and Secondary Money Personalities: Spender, Saver, Security Seeker, Risk Taker and Flyer.
Think back to your first paycheck. Did you sock it away in a savings account or did you invest half in a high-stakes investment your banker friend told you about? Did you use it for daily expenses or treat yourself to new clothes?
Once you and your partner know your Money Personalities, you can work to build a stronger "Money Relationship," a term the authors coined for the "daily decisions you make as a couple in which money is involved." In other words, your Money Relationship is more than a balanced budget and savings plan.
3. Agree to have a real conversation.
“We've never seen a couple break up over their 401k performance," the Palmers write in The 5 Money Personalities. "What kills relationships is miscommunication and misunderstanding." And finances leave a lot of room for misunderstanding, in addition to being fraught with emotional baggage.
When spouses have wildly different Money Personalities, it can be easy for them to just assume the other is miserly or irresponsible. It's important to talk openly and regularly about your Money Relationship—what's working, what's not, and how it can be changed.
A lot of people say they “talk” about money, but they do it in more of an at-the-moment, as-needed, I-just-found-a-cheap-flight-to-Mexico way, rather than setting aside time to talk about it in a dedicated manner. Scheduling time on the weekend so you’re not cranky after work is a good idea. We're better at hearing other people’s opinions when we’re not tired.
Agree to be focused and present for this conversation (that means no TV or gadgets). Communicate that the purpose of the talk is to focus on the higher good for you and your relationship so you can move forward together in a way that works for both of you.
Aim to spend one weekend morning every month reviewing statements and paying bill, and spend one evening each quarter assessing the current situation, dreaming about the future, and plotting a course.
4. Be prepared.
If there’s a specific area of your shared financial life that’s concerning you, come to your conversation prepared so you can show your partner what you’re referring to—the high credit-card bill, a statement from a bad investment, etc.
5. Don’t point fingers.
No two people are the same and this extends to financial values. What’s a luxury to you might be a necessity to your partner and vice versa. We’re all coming from a different place—different childhoods, different incomes—so accusations and finger-pointing will simply push your partner away and put them on the defensive. Simply explain the issue from your point of view in a non-accusatory way and offer a solution to the issue.
Easy, right? In no time you’ll be topping out those 401ks and buying investment property together!
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