Essential Money Conversations to Have with Your Partner
Talking about money with your partner can be far from roses and champagne. That’s typical because couple money fights stem from individual money beliefs and past financial traumas, not the actual numbers. This can make “couple money talks” more of a conflict than a conversation, but we want to change that. Below are six essential money conversations to have with your partner.
The 6 Must-Have Couple Money Conversations
As you dive into these conversations, know that you do not need to go in any particular order, nor should you dive into all of it at once, as it can be overwhelming. Choose one or two topics to discuss over a meal and keep building from there. Keeping open lines of communication is key, so if you can’t come to the same page the first time, it’s completely acceptable to table the conversation for another day.
Unpack the financial past
Everyone has a financial past, and understanding where your partner is coming from it helps to unpack this. Below are a few questions you can ask to understand your partner’s financial history better:
- As a child, what meant others had money?
- Did your parents discuss money openly? Was it an amicable conversation?
- Do you feel like you are good or bad with money, and why?
- When was the first time you used money to help you move forward in life?
These questions will likely bring up even more questions, which is a good thing. But you should also keep in mind that unpacking your financial past can be challenging. Try to empathize with your partner and understand what has impacted their current money mindset, rather than judging.
Consider the financial future
As you get to know your partner, there are two major topics of conversation that need to be had: kids and careers.
When it comes to children, wanting to have them or not is often a deal-breaker, so that should be the first question. If the choice is to have children, then you and your partner should discuss how many you would like to have and how you plan to pay for children. If infertility is an issue, discuss if you would consider paying for treatments, adoption, or opt-out of having children at that point. It could also be a good time to discuss if your spouse believes you should pay for some or all of post-secondary education costs.
When looking at your financial future, a career path should also be something to discuss. Here are a few questions to ask each other:
- If I earn more than you, will that bother you? (This is especially important to ask if you and your partner are making significantly different salaries)
- Do you believe one parent should be at home with children? How would you make that decision?
- Do you plan to continue in your career, or do you want to change paths? (This could mean future college costs or a change in lifestyle)
- In 5 years, how much do you want to be making, and where do you envision living?
You and your partner must both be on the same page for career ambitions and how those may play out as you progress in your relationship.
Examine Debt and Debt Pay Off Strategies
Debt is a burden that can wreak havoc on an otherwise healthy partnership. It’s important that you and your partner discuss your debts and how/if you plan to pay them off. This conversation will likely be very uncomfortable because having debt is often connected to shame. It’s important to avoid questions that can further inflict shame like, “Why would you spend that much?” Instead, here are some conversation starters for talking about debt:
- Do you think all debt is good or bad?
- Can debt be used to help you move forward in life? (buying a home etc.)
- Do you think it is possible to be debt-free?
- How much debt do you have now?
- Do you have a plan for paying off debt, or should we make one together?
- What is your credit score? How can we be sure to each keep our credit in good standing? (Even as a couple, it is essential that each individual have their own credit history)
You could follow up this conversation by each taking a debt inventory and looking at which high-interest debt you want to tackle first. Keep in mind, paying off debt together may not be ideal for your relationship, and how you choose to pay off debt will vary from partnership to partnership.
Discuss The Big ‘R’ – Retirement
Retirement will be one of your biggest life expenses. That means you and your partner will need a plan in place as soon as possible to start saving.
- How do you envision your retirement?
- When do you want to retire?
- Have you calculated your retirement number?
- Are you investing? If so, which retirement accounts do you contribute to?
If either of you are not investing, then a follow-up conversation would be to research your investment options. Look into any employer-sponsored plans and consider opening up additional retirement accounts like an IRA to diversify your investments.
Analyze Spending Habits and Money Organization
How you each choose to spend money may look different, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. You and your partner are individuals who have your own wants and needs, so your spending habits will likely reflect those. The key is to find a way to organize your finances to accommodate spending habits and adjust spending habits as needed.
Many couples choose to combine finances and open a joint checking account, but it certainly doesn’t need to look like this for everyone. You and your partner may decide to have a hybrid of this where you have a joint account for shared expenses, but each keeps your own checking and savings. You may even decide to keep your finances completely separate. Just remember that completely separate doesn’t mean zero communication about finances. Keeping a budget or some kind of money organization tool will be essential in the communication process.
A good way to start talking about spending habits is to each track your expenditures for a month. Then, come together to review and reflect.
Have The Worst-Case Scenario Conversation
Lastly, you and your partner will need to have a conversation that covers the worst-case scenarios. While it can be upsetting to think about things heading in that direction, having a conversation with action steps will give some peace of mind. Here are a few questions and topics to discuss when you and your partner are ready:
- If one of us were to pass, are we listed as beneficiaries on all accounts?
- Do we have a living will?
- Where could we find essential information and documents should we need to access accounts or records due to an emergency?
- If we were to break up or get a divorce, how would we split our assets?
- What insurance companies do we have policies with?
While this conversation may require a few glasses of wine, having it done and in place is an essential step for coming to the same page about finances as a couple.
Why You Need to Talk About Money With Your Partner Now
If some of these topics make you cringe, know that it is normal to feel uncomfortable talking about money at first. It is only with practice that you and your partner can start to open up and make real financial changes.
We know that having clear money conversations can help you reach major life goals faster and build wealth. That’s why it’s time to get a little uncomfortable and have a few essential money conversations with your partner, even if you don’t want to.