Talking about money is never easy. In today’s society, people often try to avoid talking about money, even with their spouse or partner. According to a 2018 survey by Policygenius, 30% of couples don’t know how much money their spouse makes and 24% of people don’t share any major financial account with their spouse. A casual search online about the reasons couples fight will reveal that money is nearly always in the top three.
The money disconnect often leads to arguments and secrecy which can harm your relationship. So while you may feel a bit uncomfortable bringing up the topic of money with your spouse, it is important to do nonetheless. All couples should try to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes a day with just each other to refresh their relationship by connecting and talking about matters important to the family and each other. Finances should not be a taboo subject that is never discussed during these talks.
Whether you and your spouse already communicate about finances on a regular basis or if you will be talking about it for the first time, my team and I have put together a list of questions that you should explore.
Remember, these are not one-time conversations. Money is fluid and your goals and priorities will shift over time, so it is important for you and your spouse to make time for financial conversations. This will both strengthen your relationship and help you get your finances on the right track.
1. What are our long-term goals and what steps can we take to achieve them?
So much of our financial lives center on our goals and vision for our future. Goals are an excellent way to motivate your savings and fuel your determination to reach them. However, not all couples have the same financial goals.
One person may want to buy a house and the other person hasn't thought of buying for at least 10 or so years because they enjoy the freedom that comes along with renting. Be sure to communicate your financial goals to your partner so that you are able to come up with a compromise and save for the things that are most important to you as a couple. Some examples of goals to talk about are:
Starting a family
Paying for education
Vacation and travel
Paying off debt
Once you both know what the other prioritizes financially, it is important to make a plan for how you want to save for those goals. Will you put an extra $200 a month into your yearly vacation fund or will you use that money to save for a down payment on a home? No matter the answer, coming up with a plan together will keep you both on the same page and working toward the same goals.
2. Is our budget working? What areas can we improve?
Couples who budget together, stay together. While budgeting isn’t the only thing a couple can do to get closer, it is one of the most imperative. Creating a budget together is a big step towards improving your financial lives. You can use your financial goals as a baseline for creating your budget.
When you use your goals as a starting point, you will also be able to find areas in your budget that aren’t working or can be improved. Perhaps you are a saver and your partner spending $5 each morning on coffee drives you nuts. But if you bring this up in a calm, non-accusatory way you may find out that going out for coffee gives them the break they need from their stressful job. Maybe you will both decide to budget for the coffee or maybe you won’t, but the point is that you are communicating about the why behind your financial habits.
Understanding the why in your financial lives will help you both create a budget that reflects the thing you both prioritize. When you create your budget together, you will be able to infuse it with your goals, values, and priorities as a couple. The unspoken but nourishing message is that you are doing it together.
3. Are we on track to reach our retirement goals?
Saving for retirement is an important goal for many people, but one that does not get discussed enough in relationships. It is not uncommon for a partner to find out that the other hasn’t even started saving for retirement or hasn’t thought about it.
With retirement savings almost solely relying on individual savings, this can become a sore point in relationships if not discussed early. Make sure you each have a plan for retirement savings and what you want your retirement to look like. Perhaps you want to aggressively save for retirement to retire early and your partner doesn’t want to take that approach. Understanding how each of you views and approach retirement saving will help improve your plan and your relationship.
4. Have we been vigilant about our debt repayment strategy?
Many couples face debt at some point in their relationship. Whether it be student loans, credit cards, personal loans, car payments, or a mortgage, debt impacts each of us. Having a clear strategy for debt repayment is crucial to the success of a relationship.
Fights about money often stem from debt and overspending. One partner may not want to contribute to their partner’s debt load or fiscal irresponsibility. But it is important to bring up these topics in a healthy, safe, open environment and make a plan to pay it off.
5. Are we being as transparent and communicative as possible?
So many problems could be solved with a little more communication and money is no exception. Being open and transparent with your partner about your financial situation is crucial to creating an environment of openness and trust.
Be sure that you and your partner make time to talk about your finances regularly to discuss any changes that need to be made, progress toward goals, and any new financial commitments on the horizon. These regular talks will help both of you feel more confident and secure in your financial situation.
Talking about finances with your spouse may never be the most exciting part of being together. But it is important to instill a precedent of trust, openness, and honesty in your relationship which can only lead to both personal and financial success.
Here at BWM, we are all about family, and we love helping people come up with a financial plan that works for them. Interested in learning more? Give us a call so we can learn more about you and your family.