How To Talk About Money With Your Partner

It's awkward, but it has to be done.

Picture it, you’re in bed, it’s a lazy Saturday morning, your partner is just waking up beside you, hair tousled, voice all sexy and groggy, you think to yourself, ‘this is the perfect opportunity to initiate some dirty talk’ so you go for it, – “How much do you have saved in the Credit Union?”

As much as we want to bury our heads in the sand and act like life is all shooting the breeze and spontaneity, money, unfortunately, makes the world go round, and chatting about finances in your relationship is integral to having a healthy one, even if it’s not the sexiest way to spend your Saturday morning.

Studies have shown that couples who speak openly about their finances tend to do better financially, breaking down any taboos and secrets when it comes to their attitude towards money. Loretta Kennedy, accredited money coach says that it’s important to have these conversations sooner rather than later, as a way to foolproof your future.

“You know that saying, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. Well, the same goes for entering into a relationship with someone and discovering further down the line that you are both on totally different pages when it comes to your expectations and relationship with money. Bringing up money conversations in a relationship can be an important step toward building trust and understanding each other’s financial values and goals.”

Just like everyone has a different love language, we all have a different money language too. Some could be savers, others are spenders, you could be a worrier or a seeker, and the way you view money doesn’t necessarily need to be the same as your partner’s, but there needs to be some common ground.

Communicating your needs, hopes, and goals for the future is hugely important for financial harmony. Awareness of how important it is to talk about money is great, but we also need to know when and how to do it.

How To Talk About Money

Timing: Broaching the topic at the right time is crucial. Money conversations are probably best avoided on first dates and saved for when things begin to get more serious. We’re used to asking about kids and marriage, so think of it as another crucial part of the conversation. If you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s important to schedule in chats about money every so often. Do it at a time when you’re both relaxed and have a spare half-hour or so to run through your thoughts and plans.

Ease Yourself: If it’s your first time talking about money with your partner, don’t go in guns blazing. “Start by casually mentioning a financial topic in a non-threatening way, such as discussing a recent purchase you made, a belief you have around something like debt or investing for instance or sharing an interesting article about personal finance. This can open the door for further conversations about money.” Also remember that money is a broad topic and there’s no way you can cover everything you want to discuss in one chat. “Start with lighter topics and gradually delve into more complex matters, such as debt, savings, or investment.”

Remain Honest: When you chat about money, be sure not to keep anything hidden. Honesty is the best policy with most things, and money is no expectation. “Be open and honest about your own financial situation and expectations. Share your values, financial goals, and any concerns you may have. Encourage your partner to do the same. When we first start a relationship, we will want to present our best face. But it’s  important to be upfront from the start about your attitude to money, saving, and spending.”

Collaborate: “As your relationship progresses, you’ll likely encounter shared financial decisions. Whether it’s planning a trip together, moving in together or deciding how to split expenses, involve your partner in the process. Later in the relationship, couples can set up joint bank accounts, create a budget, a savings account together. Maybe agreeing that purchases over a certain amount warrant a sit-down discussion, things like that, can be really great to ensure everyone is on the same page.”

What questions should I be asking?

During your next money chat, it might be useful to run through a list of questions to ask one another. Whether you’re in the beginning of your relationship or well-established, here’s some to consider.

  • How would you describe your spending habits?
  • What did you learn about money growing up?
  • Do you have an emergency fund?
  • How do you think couples should manage their finances?
  • Should we get a shared account?
  • Are you saving for anything?
  • What are your goals for the future and how does money fit into that?
  • What do you like to spend your money on for fun?
  • Are you saving for retirement?
  • Do you have any investments?

After discussing everything that might need to be discussed, the only question we’re now left with, is what happens if me and my partner are not financially compatible? Loretta reiterates that you and your partner don’t necessarily need to have the exact same approach to money, as long as you agree on the bigger picture, the rest will fall into place.

“Trust is so important in relationships. While we may not always agree with our partner’s stance or viewpoints, as long as they don’t negatively impact and if there is trust and agreed expectations, then this is the starting point.” If your money conversations uncover bigger issues such as hoarding, compulsive spending, or gambling, then Loretta suggests seeking professional help if you would like to continue the relationship.

“Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is usually a good place to start in these circumstances. It’s simply not going to work to just tell people to stop doing that. Usually, these behaviours stem from deeper needs or traumas and as such need to be supported by professionals.”

This article first appeared in the September issue of STELLAR magazine.