Commentary: How to talk with your partner about financial matters
Ask anyone what advice they have for couples, and they'll give some variation of "Make sure you're on the same page when it comes to your finances." It's a given, especially when you consider that one of the oft-cited reasons for separation is fi...
Ask anyone what advice they have for couples, and they'll give some variation of "Make sure you're on the same page when it comes to your finances."
It's a given, especially when you consider that one of the oft-cited reasons for separation is financial disagreements. But it's a tough conversation to have.
Some think it's distasteful to talk about money. Others feel like their pride takes a blow when they fess up to their financial behaviors. Mostly, though, people seem to think that having the conversation opens the door for a big argument or disagreement, so they end up avoiding it altogether.
Here's the deal: Not having this critical discussion on a regular basis is not going to prevent problems from happening, nor will it make problems go away.
Smart couples make sure they understand each other's spending and saving patterns. The smartest couples do so throughout their relationship.
Attitudes about money often aren't static; changing circumstances can have a big impact on your attitudes toward money. If one of your careers skyrocketed, for instance, you may find that you're not quite as frugal as you used to be. On the other hand, if you're still scarred from the Great Recession, you may find that you're much more conservative than you were just a decade ago.
Here are a few tips we've picked up from couples who successfully communicate about their finances:
• Set a date. Have a "big picture" talk every year, and put it on the calendar. These conversations aren't something that you should spring on your partner; both parties should be prepared to talk.
• Do your homework. Both of you should spend some time thinking about your individual financial goals and spending/saving patterns - and how these fit with your goals as a couple. Which are on track? Which could use some additional attention? Are there any points where your individual goals conflict with your goals as a couple?
• Stay on topic. When you have a "big picture" talk, remember the purpose of the conversation is to discuss your overarching financial goals and what you're doing to work toward achieving them. Don't use this talk to discuss individual monthly expenses, like utility bills and groceries. This talk should be centered on how you are preparing for your future.
• Remember your values. Circumstances change, but your values likely won't. Ask yourself and your partner: What's most important to you? Health? Community? Family? Adventure? Meaningful work? Once you've agreed on your top four or five as a couple, let these provide the blueprint for how you should both spend and save.
• Rely on a third party. If this topic is particularly sensitive for you as a couple, consider hiring a financial adviser to help guide the conversation, keep you focused on the big picture and defuse hot-button issues. Having an objective observer take part in this conversation can help prevent participants from feeling personally attacked or overly sensitive.
Discussions about money can be hard to have, particularly when they're with a loved one. Above all, remember that it's never too late to start ramping up your savings.
By Bruce Helmer and Peg Webb, financial advisers at Wealth Enhancement Group and co-hosts of "Your Money" on KLKS 100.1 FM on Sunday mornings. Email Bruce and Peg at email@example.com . Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC.