It’s safe to assume that as an individual, you have a lot on your mind. Apart from work, your health, and what to cook for dinner, the pressure to be financially responsible and maintain relationships can rent a lot of space in your brain. But what happens when relationships and money decisions rent the same space? You’ll most likely need to talk to your partner about it.
It shouldn’t be difficult to start talking to your partner about money, but often it is. Many people do not know how to approach the subject. Some people are more open with their financial life, while others like to keep their money private. Follow these six simple tips if you want to learn how to talk about finances with your partner.
1. Having an open mind is key
A factor that stops money conversations in their tracks is having a fixed mindset. This includes having an attitude that aligns with “That’s the way I have always done it” or “My parents did it this a certain way so we should, too.” Although some parents may serve as great models of how to handle money, not everybody’s guardians fall into that category.
You should actively listen to your partner, and hear their approach to managing money. If your views don’t align, do not pressure them to believe the same concepts you do. Instead, you should talk it out and discover why they spend or save the way that they do. Sharing your money views and practices with your partner may even help you better understand financial concepts you don’t know much about, improving your financial literacy.
2. Length determines level
Money habits tend to be revealed as a relationship progresses. Chances are, you’re not going to ask a potential partner you just met how much they have invested in their retirement account or how they would feel about a joint bank account. You may reserve those kinds of personal finance questions for the fifth, sixth, or an even later date. That is why the length of the relationship determines the level of finance talk.
However, all relationships are different. There is no magic rule that specifies a certain time for talking openly about finances. If you feel comfortable asking, and know that your partner will be comfortable answering honestly, then you should ask. Ultimately, it is up to you and your partner to decide when you are ready.
3. Money is more than what you spend
Frequently, when one partner tries to bring up money with the other, they focus only on spending habits. The partner who started the conversation may fixate on how much the other partner spends on eating out, going to social events, buying groceries, etc. Although developing good spending habits is a huge part of managing your money, it is not the only factor.
Besides expenses, you should have a conversation about how much the other partner earns. This can be helpful if you are thinking about moving in with each other. If you decide to take your relationship to the next level, you should have some financial conversations before planning your wedding.
The next topic to discuss is the financial goals you both have. It’s a good idea to figure out your financial plans together—how much money you and your partner want to save, how much you want to invest, or how much money it will take to lead the life you desire.
4. Know who pays for what
After you have developed an open mind, have reached the appropriate level of your relationship to talk about finance, and have realized that money habits are about more than just spending, you need to define who will pay for your shared expenses. If you go on a date, does one partner always foot the bill? Do you decide to pay 50/50 every time? You might not even think about this dilemma, but it is always nice to have verbal clarity from your partner.
Depending on how serious the relationship is, you and your partner need to agree on who pays for what in each financial situation. Developing a plan for paying expenses each month can eliminate the stress you would face if you didn’t talk about it. Reviewing each other's bank statements together may help each partner wrap their minds around how the other views money. These finance-related activities are important to discuss with your partner when you feel comfortable.
5. Don’t hide the truth
As you may know, talking about money to someone you love is not always comfortable. Sometimes a person may try to hide their financial background because they do not want to have that hard conversation with their partner. When it comes to money, it is better to be truthful and open. Financial infidelity, or choosing to lie to your partner about money, hinders your ability to make solid financial decisions together.
If you attended college and racked up $30,000 in student loans, tell your partner. If you had trouble adjusting to the freedom of revolving credit and have a good amount of credit card debt, inform your partner. If you aspire to someday be a stay-at-home mom or dad in a single income household, let your partner know.
It is always better to reveal your financial situation upfront. If they find out about your excess debt or your hidden bank account from another person other than you, it could potentially end your relationship. Although you may not think it affects them now, later they may choose to become your husband or wife, making the issue theirs too.
6. Value the experience
Although most people try to avoid ‘the talk’ at all costs, understanding your partner’s financial mindset can help deepen your relationship. After you have had this hard conversation with your partner, you can begin to notice their pattern of saving, spending, and earning money. This knowledge can help you be more aware when your partner makes a purchase that you don’t understand and vice versa.
If you handle this predicament properly, you will be able to combine both you and your partner's interests. If one partner likes going out on dates often and the other tends to be more frugal, compromise and go on a free or low-cost date. Sharing these values with each other strengthens your trust. This can help you to have a healthy and happy financial relationship together.
Although you and your partner may have different money goals, it is always important to communicate those differences to each other. Remember, your financial intimacy grows as your love for each other grows, so don’t rush into the money conversations. If your relationship is new, just sit back and enjoy the novelty of it. Learn to listen to your partner at the beginning of your relationship, and your long-term relationship will have a better chance of being successful.
If you’re a student, talking to your partner about marriage, credit scores, or saving for retirement may seem a long way away. Besides, maintaining your friendships, deepening your relationships, and giving your best effort at your workplace may top your priority list. You should at least begin to think about the way you manage your own finances so that when the time comes to have this conversation with your significant other, you will be ready.
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