Talking to your Partner about Money

There are not many topics that can create distress in a relationship, quite like money can. Disagreements can arise about how to spend, what to spend it on, what bills are necessities, how to use credit cards, when to use them – there are so many paths for potential conflict. But there are also opportunities to find common ground.

I don’t know that there is ever a “best” method of dividing financial responsibility in a household. In ours, I am the responsible party. I pay bills, manage bank accounts and investing, and prepare financial statements. But I do that because I enjoy all of those things. Together we determine the investments, review major purchases, and review our financial statements. That works for us. Something else may work for you.

The most important part of our financial life is that we talk about it. Sometimes every day, sometimes only quarterly, but we always talk about it. There are no secrets. No good comes from secrets kept in your combined financial life.

If you can’t pay a bill this month, it’s best if you both know that.

If you want to buy something that is priced above your threshold, it’s best if you both agree to that.

If a change in your income is imminent, it’s best if you both are informed.

It’s a simple concept, talk to each other. Making finances part of everyday conversation diminishes the power; it allows both parties to get comfortable with the topic.

To begin to get to that space, here are some recommendations.

Set some goals together. For example, save for the down payment on a new home. Calculate the amount needed, break it down into smaller chunks, celebrate as you reach milestones. You can apply the same concept to any major purchase – car, furniture, camera, boat. Just make sure you are both supporting the purchase, so neither are sabotaging the effort to get there.

Review your monthly bills together. Even if only one of you is responsible for getting them paid, at least both know what the minimum requirements are.

Reviewing that list also helps to identify bills that have outlived their usefulness and can be eliminated.

Review your financial statements quarterly. Include your full balance sheet and any other expenses that were out of the ordinary that quarter. While you’re at it, set some new goals – is there a credit card you want to eliminate by the end of the year?

We include our financial conversation as part of our State of the Union meeting. Each quarter we take time to discuss the State of the Union – our relationship; it’s a specific time to set out everything giving us trouble and celebrate wins. It helps us to remember the good things that happen in our lives too. You can access a worksheet to learn more about that conversation HERE.

Money doesn’t have to be the ultimate stressor; it certainly doesn’t have to be a detractor in a relationship. Embrace that it exists and how you view it personally so your partner can know what framework to work with.