8 Steps to Talking Money With Your Partner
Whether you’re just gotten married, you’ve just gotten really serious with a partner, or you’ve never talked money, broaching the topic can be super awkward. You don’t want to come out looking like you’re accusing your partner and you don’t want to cause any friction, either.
Before you sit down and have a real serious conversation about money, introduce the topic. Let your partner know you’re thinking about the way the two of you handle your money. You can begin by asking for financial advice. Then recommend a personal finance book. Finally, when you sit down and talk, keep it as non-personal as possible.
Instead of: “Why do you use cash for your day-to-day expenses?”
Try: “I notice you use cash for your daily purchases, but this personal finance blog I read says using credit cards can help you track expenses and build your credit. What do you think?”
Your partner will start thinking about money and you’ll soon be ready for a real serious talk about how the two of you will manage your finances together.
Once you’ve broached the topic of finances with your partner and you’re more comfortable discussing things like budgets, spending habits, and income, you can start preparing for a longer, more comprehensive talk.
Follow the eight steps outlined here for a smooth, friction-free money talk.
STEP 1: DEDICATE A TIME
Let your partner know you’d like to talk about money and, together, choose a time and place that works for both of you. Make it a time when you both can completely focus on the topic without distractions. Allow up to an hour for this discussion.
STEP 2: PREPARE YOUR THOUGHTS
There’s no need to rehearse what you want to say, but it is important to prepare a mental list of topics you’d like to discuss. Include the basics, like budgeting, saving and sharing living expenses. Also consider any specific issues that may be bothering you or that you’d like to change.
STEP 3: START WITH A VISION
Don’t jumpstart the discussion with accusatory statements like: “Do you realize you bought seven pairs of shoes this month?” or even, “I think we should stop eating out so often.”Instead, start with a vision or a goal. Here are a few to get you thinking:
• Would you like to spend a month touring Europe?
• Wouldn’t it be amazing to move out of this apartment and buy a home of our own?
• I’d love to retire at 55. Wouldn’t you?
• I’ve always wanted to open my own business and be my own boss. Do you think that’s possible?
Talking about future goals will set a positive tone for your conversation before you get into the nitty-gritty details.
STEP 4: ATTACH MONETARY VALUES TO YOUR GOALS
Now that you’ve shared your goals and dreams, start talking numbers. How much would it really cost to take a month-long vacation in Europe? How much would we need to save for a house in our neighborhood?
STEP 5: CREATE A SAVING PLAN
You’ve got your numbers; now work out the plan! Together with your partner, create a reasonable savings plan that will help you reach your shared goal. If you’re saving for a vacation, a house or any other dream, work out how much money you’d need to put away each month, and how long it would take to reach your goal.
STEP 6: BUILD A BUDGET
You’re ready to turn that dream into a reality. But first, you and your partner may need to trim some spending. Here’s where you can gently discuss specific ways to cut back. Don’t point fingers; give your partner the chance to admit to their own shortcomings and be honest about your own vices as well.
Together, work out a monthly budget that accounts for all of your expenses and your new savings goal. If you want to create a detailed budget, now’s a good time to get started. You’ll need to begin tracking all your expenses for the next three months so you have a clear idea of your expenditures and income.
You can easily create a budget using a personal finance app like Mint, download our free "Every Budget You'll Ever Need" eBook, or just do it the old fashioned way, using a pen and a paper. Having a clear idea of where your money is going will make you a conscious spender and a bigger saver.
STEP 7: DISCUSS MONEY MANAGEMENT
If you aren’t already sharing some expenses, now’s the time to bring it up. There are no hard rules here; every couple has their own system. But, if you’re living together, it makes sense to split some basic costs, like rent and food supplies. You may want to go 50/50 on this or make another arrangement that better suits your individual incomes.
However you choose to manage your joint finances, be sure to keep at least one credit card open in your own name. It’s important to establish your own credit history that is independent of your partner’s. Otherwise, qualifying for later loans can be challenging due to a limited personal credit history.
STEP 8: RECOGNIZE YOUR PARTNER’S STRENGTH
When dividing financial responsibilities, assign appropriate tasks that play to each partner’s strengths. Is your partner a stickler for dates and deadlines? Have them assume responsibility for paying the bills on time.