Talking Money in a Relationship

Nearly half of Americans (48%) who are married or living with a partner say they argue with their partner over money. It doesn’t have to be this way. Just like managing money is a summation of a series of habits that can be improved, so is communication.

We rounded up the best advice and strategies for talking money in a relationship from financial experts and other couples managing their money. With this wisdom, you’ll be on track to survive financial stress.

From the Yo Quiero Dinero Podcast, Talk About Your Why

First, if you are talking about money with your partner, it is because you see some sort of future with this person. You wouldn’t be talking about money on a first date, really…

With this in mind, ask: why is it important that me and my long-term partner talk about our finances? What collective goals do you have? When we start from our why, it will become easier and more sustainable to continue showing up in this space.

Second to this is identifying and talking about a why behind our relationship to money. For example, if you are the person initiating money conversations and are more willing to talk, let’s consider why our partner might not participate or why this topic would make him feel uncomfortable.

Creating an Auto-Save is a great way to tackle your financial goals.
Set goals and celebrate your commitment to them in the Community of the nav.it money app.

From Katie Oelker, Use “I” statements.

Instead of pointing your finger at your partner and their downfalls, use statements such as “I feel ______ when you do _____” to reduce the tendency to blame. Instead of asking or demanding that they change their behaviors, state “I would like _______ to happen”

The goal is to have an open and honest conversation about how you are both feeling, without offending the other or making them feel like they need to defend themselves.

From Women who Money, Get Financially Naked

It’s time to get “financially naked”! By that, I mean sharing all your financial details.

I know this step takes lots of courage. Here’s a list of items to divulge that will get you off to a strong start:

  • Assets: anything worth money, like a car, home, art, etc.
  • Credit card debt: whether personal or business
  • Student loans: list out amounts, interest rates, whether they’re government or private loans, and any loan forgiveness plans or possibilities.
  • Credit scores: you can often find them for free through your bank 
  • Income: how much you earn from your job or side hustles
  • Expenses: how much you spend. It’s helpful to break this down into regular monthly expenditures versus (estimated) periodic expenses (i.e., healthcare costs, car repairs, vacations, etc.)

From Femme Frugality: Separate Finances

If you’re going to have a marriage with separate finances, it doesn’t have to be contentious or self-guarding. You can still work together towards financial goals, budget together, and talk about money transparently and openly while keeping everything legally separate.

In community property states some of your accounts may be up for litigation anyways. But with a joint account, your partner doesn’t have to wait for litigation. They can legally drain the account, hoping your attorney won’t hold them accountable for the funds later. If you can even afford an attorney, that is, now that you’re broke.

Separate accounts create a barrier of litigation , which is better than someone legally just up and leaving with all the cash.

From A Dime Saved, Create a Budget Together

With automated budgeting in your nav.it money app, budgeting has never been easier.
The nav.it money app has customizable and automated budgeting built in

When I was pregnant, the need to save turned into a cycle of arguments about saving and spending until we created a budget. Why did this work? Because it was really never about the money. It rarely is. It was about the emotions that money evokes.

With a budget, we had a specific amount of money for household expenses and a specific amount of money for each of us to spend. We each decided for ourselves how to spend that money. This helped us overcome the differences in our upbringing and spending styles.

From Trip of a Lifestyle, Start Small

If you’ve never tried this before, start simple. Pick a small goal you can achieve together today. You don’t have to pick something you both like to do (although it helps). The key is to pick something you’ll get a solid high-five out of at the end.

From the Military Guide, Adult with Allowances

Give yourselves allowances. It’s the same kind of allowance that you may have received when you were growing up– only this time there’s no critiquing or judging. Allowances should be big enough for you to “get fancy and enjoy nice things” without adversely impacting your other financial goals.

From FinLit Dating, Address Spending and Saving One Category At A Time

If you can breakdown your budget into small, digestible portions, you can easily tackle spending and saving plans from month to month, making adjustments as you go.

From Millenial Fire, Avoid Financial Infidelity

Financial infidelity is secrecy or dishonesty about money with your partner. This is something that literally tears marriages apart. Be completely open about all your spending and income. We have a joint account where all of our income goes and everything that is being spent comes from. Whether it is for savings, investment or to just pay bills, it all funnels through this account. If you chose to have separate accounts, please be transparent with your partner about your spending and savings.

Tahseen and John talk financial goals and tackle them as a couple in their YouTube Channel Millenial Fire

From The Frugal Physician, Dream Together

Find a comfy spot to get together and dream. When we dream together,  we can work out how we can align our paths to make our dreams a reality. Sometimes it is hard to get started talking about these things so follow these four basic steps:

  1. Get in touch with your dreams. In what direction are you headed? Where do you want to go? If you’re having trouble, I’ve put together a simple worksheet for you. Download it for free here.
  2. Share your dreams: Talk about your dreams with your partner and listen to theirs.
  3. Make them a reality: Figure out if there is some combination of your ideal future that would suit both of you. Talk about how you will make it happen. Come up with a timeframe and write your goal down.
  4. Make it part of a routine.  So often, we dream together with our spouse in the beginning but forget to do so as time moves on.  But, time does move. As we learn and grow, our dreams shift and take new forms and directions. Try to (repeat) this routine every 6 months. 

From Frugal Confessions, Define Roles

Who is Maverick and Who is Goose?: I’m talking about who takes the lead and who is in the co-pilot seat on various financial roles in the household. Like, who takes care of bill payment, and who does tax preparation? Who shops for insurance quotes, and who manages all those important financial documents you didn’t end up recycling during your Konmari papers cleanout? It should be noted that one person takes the lead, but the other person still needs to be informed + play a supporting role.

From Olympian Maggie Steffens, Be Honest.

I think it is important to be open, honest, and accepting during these conversations. We all have grown up with different experiences and in a relationship, we are now experiencing new things together.

When my boyfriend and I were looking at investing in a home, it was important to listen to the priorities each person has when it comes to their financial legacy and beliefs before we could move forward to discussing what are OUR priorities. Talking money can definitely be difficult, but that is why it is so important to understand your own money (past, present, future) and your own beliefs so you can feel confident  while having these tough conversations!

From Money Talk with Tiff, A Weekly Team Huddle

Treat it like a team effort, including your partners and your kids. While we talk about chores and what needs to be done around the house, we also talk about what family members need to feel supported. Sometimes that involves tackling the debt schedule or the budget. During the pandemic, planning ahead of time has been essential for the whole team to thrive and it really unsure we’re all playing the same way.

From the Financial Lioness, Share Debts

My advice coming from personal experience is never isolate your partner’s finances as only their finances. No matter what their debt is your debt because you are married. When you marry someone it comes with the good, the bad and the finances. Working as a team to build you wealth together only makes you grow stronger as a couple.With money being one of the top reasons for divorce, a couple that is financially responsible together usually stays together!

From Mixed Up Money, Let go of the “could be’s” and the “what if’s”

Lastly, now is not the time to start pulling out hypotheticals and adding fuel to the fire. It’s natural and common to worry about money, but in your first conversation, try to stay focused on the present situation and realistic ways you can work together to make money less of a taboo in your relationship.

Personal finance is personal. We all have different values, different reasons for spending and saving. So what works for one relationship may not work for another. Give one or all of these methods a shot to improve your communication with your partner and your relationship with money.

Related Reads:

Getting on the Same Financial Page

Planning Ahead: Finances & Feelings

Debt Love and Life Goals

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