Head of Partnerships
Ah, the money talk. It’s inevitable that you’ll have to talk to your partner about money eventually, but that conversation shouldn’t be painful when you share those money perspectives, and it certainly shouldn’t be the reason to end the relationship. In fact, that conversation should empower you to work together to reach the goals you each have set individually and together.
Yet, according to various surveys, the most common reason for breakups and divorces is hands-down money problems. Because people have different upbringings, experiences, and priorities, there is a wide range of views about how money should or shouldn’t be used. One person might view money as a means to freedom, while someone else might view it as means of security, and another person might be intimidated by it altogether.
There are ways to approach “the money talk” that can make it less daunting and more empowering.
Our perspective about money is generally shaped by our upbringing and how our parents handled this aspect of their lives. If your parents struggled with debt, how will that make you feel towards money in the future? On the contrary, if you grew up in a home where money was never an issue and you were able to get the things you always wanted, how does that change your perception of the value of money? These experiences shape the way we think and handle our personal finances. Understanding that everyone has different experiences and perspectives with money can improve your empathy and patience in having a conversation about finances.
Do you want to start your own business? Do you want to retire early? Do you want to spend more money on the gym and less on going out to dinner? Does your partner know these things?
Talking about both your short-term and long-term goals helps to make sure that both of you are aligned so that surprises about preferences on emergency funds, retirement, buying a house, or the children's college savings don’t arise. You need to sit down, talk, and strategise about what you each want to achieve and do early and openly because all of these examples need a proper financial plan to be achieved.
What are the steps couples can take to have a happy relationship while also being open about their financial and life goals? An open, mutual communication channel can help, because sharing life goals is an important step.
Whether you are in a new relationship, about to get married, or have been in a relationship for years, it’s never too early to have a money conversation with a serious partner. For one thing, the earlier you start, the more comfortable you’ll get talking about money, and the fewer surprises you’ll face later on.
One person might be comfortable enough with just 3 months of expenses saved up for an emergency fund, but someone else may feel more comfortable with 12 months of expenses saved up for an emergency. Everyone is different and demonstrates those differences through their personal needs and wants. It’s important to understand these preferences. To empower each other (keep money arguments to a minimum), have regular conversations, and understand that compromises usually have to be made.
Even if finance seems to be a boring or foreign topic to you, or if you believe your partner would do a better job managing your shared finances, you should still be involved. It’s your financial future just as much as his or hers. And not to evoke distrust in your partner, but it’s important to remember that there are plenty of horror stories about people never speaking about money with their spouse only to find out years later that they are massively in debt or have no savings to show for. I’m only saying, be present with your money.
My wife and I touch base once a month about our finances. At this time, I update her on our financial picture by going quickly over our Excel file. That way she can ask questions about how our net worth is progressing, how we are working on paying off our mortgage, and in general feel secure about how our shared ideal financial picture is developing. This is an easy 30-minute exercise that I encourage every reader to adopt into their own relationship. It will certainly eliminate major surprises down the road. And it feels great working together as a team.
We’ve all heard friends and family say things such as, “I’m not good with numbers,” “My husband takes care of the finances,” and “I don't want to talk about finances with my spouse because it always leads to arguments.” The reality is that money doesn’t have to be a hindrance. When managed properly, it is a means to just about every one of our life goals. Remember, talking about money shouldn’t be scary. It’s something that affects every single person in the world, and when we talk with people we love about it, we can reach our goals sooner.