Do you find sharing a glass of wine with your spouse is made more enjoyable when combined with a conversation about budgeting? When was the last time you two were out on a walk around the neighborhood and discussed the tax advantages of IRA’s?
If you find broaching finances with your spouse generally causes stress and tension in your relationship, you are not alone! Money is one of the most common reasons couples fight and even split up. Don’t worry, there’s hope. By being proactive and discussing your finances, even seemingly incompatible spender-saver couples can find common ground and live happily ever after.
Whether you are about to tie the knot, or you’ve been married for years, with a few strategies and tips, you can find peace and happiness to last through the years:
Some people search their whole lives
to find what
I found in you.
Working together on your goals is a gift.
Begin by setting expectations. Starting simply by saying “I am interested in talking about our finances. It doesn’t have to be now, but lets make some time in the next week.” Then get it on the family calendar.
Take it slow. If you don’t know, a good starting place would be to talk about your individual views on money. Many times I find a client’s perspective on money comes directly from their childhood and parent’s relationship to money (sometimes parallel and sometimes opposite). Understanding where someone is coming from, will help you navigate your conversations moving forward.
Start out with an easy topic. A good finance starter conversation, is discussing short-term goals, such as a birthday gift or a summer trip.
Follow up your short-term “goal conversation” by discussing “how” to reach that goal. Even if it seems easy to pay for it directly out of pocket, discuss how budgeting could play into it. Saving in a special account, each pay check is a simple way to begin.
Sometimes understanding a couples role in the relationship is an important topic. Regardless of who makes more money, I find that one person generally “handles” the day-to-day finances. If that is case, make sure both sides regularly discuss, both how much money is coming into the accounts, and the money going out of the accounts.
Make sure that the spending side of the equation is distributed in some sort of equitable situation. In my family, the bills are distributed based on percentage of income, while the mortgage is paid evenly between us. Make sure and discuss.
Talk about the difference between “monthly bills” and “discretionary spending”. Bills you must pay each month: electricity, insurance and mortgage. Discretionary spending, you can control with choices: grocery shopping, sporting events, clothing, eating out.
Discuss what’s important to you and your long-term goals. Having a clear understanding of your shared long-term goals, make all of the short-term decisions easy. The problem is, most people forget about the long-term when making day-to-day short-term decisions. Keep your eyes on both.
Set up a standard cadence to talk money and stick with it. Some meetings will be longer than others. But a ten minute weekly check-in is key to keeping you both updated and on track towards your short and long term goals.
During open enrollment each year, talk to each other about your respective plans. The key is to make sure that both parties are driving towards the same long-term goals. For example, if you are both working, both of you should be saving an equal(ish) amount in a 401k, disability insurance and FSA’s.
If you have followed along above, and you and your significant other are having healthy conversations, thats great!! It may be time to discuss things that are making each of you uncomfortable (CRAZY). You each should write out a list, of things to discuss, and take turns each week. Make sure that each of the conversations work towards mutual understanding, as well as reaching long-term goals.
If you find that having these conversations is still uncomfortable, or becoming unproductive. That is a key spot for a financial advisor to step in and help out. A financial advisor brings an objective view point that can help pave the path towards resolution. Find someone you will feel comfortable being candid and open about your financial wants, needs, goals and struggles. Here’s a list of questions to aid you in finding the right financial planner for you.