Part of the Resource Center Guide to Managing Your Money
Quite often, couples find it difficult to talk about money. And while money issues are a common source of marital conflict, it is possible to live happily ever after, financially speaking. The key is to understand how you and your spouse feel about money and how you choose to handle it. By working together, you can stop financial issues from coming between you and your partner.
How to Talk to Your Partner About Money
Money can push a lot of buttons for people. It can bring up feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt, and anger— the kind of negative emotions most of us like to avoid. So we avoid talking about money with our partner. To offset this, try having a monthly family finance meeting. This way you both know the real cost of living in your household. When only one partner handles the finances, the other can be genuinely unaware of how much credit card debt your family is carrying, or how high the winter heating bills are. This is information you both need to have. And working together can make it feel like an accomplishment, rather than a tiresome chore.
Start by talking about your feelings about financial issues and it may encourage your partner to do the same. If you've always been independent, for example, it may be hard for you to change your spending habits. But setting common goals and agreeing on how to reach them can help ease the transition of sharing finances and altering your spending style.
Timing is Everything
How you and your spouse handle money and how you feel about money is very important. And when it comes to talking about it, the goal should be to have a calm, relaxed discussion when there's no particular money issue at hand. The best way to begin talking about your financial future is not by starting a fight with your spouse while holding the credit card bill. Schedule a time each month to talk about money matters together, when emotions are calm.
Track Your Spending
At your first monthly meeting, set a goal to track your spending for one month. That way, you'll be prepared to have a good dialogue, with actual figures to discuss. This will also help you understand the differences in your spending styles. At the next meeting, plan out a budget that will work for both of you. Look for common ground and focus on how to set a budget that meets your joint needs. During later meetings, you might cover topics such as: 'How best to pay for college,' 'Can we afford a baby?' or 'When do we want to retire?'
Knowing where your money is going is the first key to financial security, and keeping a budget, which includes tracking your spending, is the only way to really know where your money is going. As a couple, you can come up with spending and savings goals and guidelines, and then let your partner manage his or her own spending money.
Tips for Talking About Money
To keep the lines of financial communication open, it's helpful to remember these principles:
- Try not to spring a big money talk on your spouse by surprise
- Don't talk about money when you're already angry
- Set a specific time to sit down and discuss your finances
- Try to be open and honest with each other