Money is a deeply personal matter, often linked to our histories, childhoods, fears, and dreams of success. For most couples, sharing finances becomes necessary and desirable at some point in the relationship journey.
But how can you successfully combine finances in a way that allows you to move forward together?
It all begins with good communication.
Be Curious, But Not Judgmental
No matter how far you are into your relationship, it’s never too late to start talking about money. While not a natural instinct, it’s essential to approach the topic with curiosity & care, not judgment.
Every person has their own beliefs and biases around money, starting from a very young age.
(It’s believed that most money habits & beliefs are formed by the age of seven)
So, to begin getting on the same page financially, you have to practice empathy. Ask questions, listen carefully, and don’t immediately start looking for solutions.
Here are a few ideas:
“What did you observe about money growing up? How did your family view/feel about money?”
This question helps clarify existing beliefs and habits, which is necessary to start moving forward and having more in-depth, constructive conversations.
“If we received $10 million tomorrow, what would be the first thing you’d do with the money? What would life look like a year from now?”
This allows you to begin thinking big-picture and can help get to the root of your desires and goals with money.
“What’s one thing you would change about the way we manage our money?
This helps set a baseline for where you’re at and gives you both a chance to share concerns, allowing you to begin working towards a common solution.
“What would you like money to do for us that we haven’t done yet?”
A step down from the first question, which helps create more tangible action items that you may be able to start immediately acting on.
Set Collaborative Goals
These don’t necessarily have to be milestone goals; it could be as simple as setting a goal to review your spending once a month.
If you’ve created trust and comfort, it may be possible to tackle goals that previously seemed unreachable. These could be prioritizing paying down student loan debt or personal debt or improving a bad credit score. If your individual finances are in good shape, you can approach life goals such as:
- Saving for kids’ college education
- Buying your dream home
- Figuring out a retirement plan
When you set goals together, you get buy-in from both sides. Each person gets to express their thoughts and opinions, and ultimately, you find common ground and can begin working towards your goals together.
Make a Plan
After setting goals, you then need a plan to reach them. Once you’ve had conversations and highlighted some key goals, get out a pen and paper (or a Google Doc) and write them down. Don’t let your progress go to waste by not following through on previously discussed goals and action items. While the plan isn’t going to be perfect and adjustments will need to be made over time, it serves as a starting point to get going in the right direction.
Aside from the big goals, your money plan can consist of many different things. It can outline financial responsibilities for the household, such as who pays the bills, who reviews the spending, or who manages the investments. This may already be established in your family, but it’s worth checking together to make sure everyone’s comfortable with their current “chores.”
Having conversations about money is hard. Hidden fears and concerns can slowly take their toll, and conversations can shine a light on them so you can resolve them together.
Communication is vital in all relationships, and it should extend into the financial side of the relationship.
A financial advisor can confidently guide conversations and make money more approachable, for both parties.