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Talk about money with your partner and avoid unexpected surprises

Couples are often reluctant to talk about money issues – especially when it comes to newer relationships. Money management can feel like a personal matter, so discussions about spending, saving, and priorities can lead to arguments and hard feelings. But these kinds of discussions become inevitable as a relationship grows and the lives of the two lovebirds become increasingly intertwined.

Why You Need to Talk About Money

Your money management decisions will affect your partner, and your partner’s decisions will affect you. So, talking about those decisions as a team is a practical step that can contribute to the health of your relationship. Being open and understanding during your talks about money will foster trust and reduce the odds of unfortunate financial surprises.

  • 1. But where should you start?
  • 2. How should you start?
  • 3. And when should couples talk about money?

The answer to the third question is fairly straightforward: As soon as you’re both serious about the relationship and hoping to take it beyond the “casual” phase.

The other two questions are a little trickier. But we have a list of tips for managing money and relationships.

Gradually Easing Into It

You don’t have to jump into the heavy stuff right away. A casual mention of your current financial situation and your eventual goals can be a useful ice breaker.

For example: “After I cut back on my $20k of student loan debt, I’d like to start shopping for a new car.”

From there you can talk about things like your credit score, other debts, and financial concerns. You don’t necessarily have to mention how your partner might factor into your finances just yet. The goal is to establish that you’re comfortable talking about money and invite your partner to open up as well.

When they do start talking about their own finances, be sure to keep your negative emotions in check. Ask questions and be empathetic. Make a few jokes if things get too tense. Expressing fear might make it harder to return to the subject in later conversations.

Getting Your Partner to Open Up

Not everyone feels comfortable talking about finances. So, what should you do if your partner is being tight-lipped and you’re doing all the talking?

Come up with a playful hypothetical question:

  • “What would you do if you were given a million dollars?”
  • “Would you rather work a stressful high-paying job or an enjoyable low-paying job?”

These questions might seem like an invitation to exchange a few jokes (and you should!). But they also allow you to steer the conversation in the direction of finances. Just remember to avoid suddenly ambushing your partner with more serious questions. You won’t get far in your discussion if your partner feels cornered or stressed.

Sharing Your Outlook on Money

Whether they realize it not, everyone’s view of money is shaped by past experiences – often family experiences. When talking about your pasts, try to share the lessons you’ve learned about money.

For example, you might explain that your family struggled financially, or money was never a concern in your household. Encourage your partner to do the same. It’s a conversation that not only reveals more about your partner’s past but also how they think about money.

Setting Financial Goals Together

Couples often make goals – even without realizing it. For example, you might both commit to exercise sessions or weekly date nights. So, don’t shy away from financial goals.

It’s fine to have separate ambitions. You might want to increase your savings account, and your partner might want to pay off a credit card debt. Whatever the case, remember to:

By doing so, you’ll both become savvier with money management, and that’ll reduce arguments when it comes time to make joint decisions.

Timing Tips

No matter how long you’re together, you and your partner will always have a need to discuss spending and saving habits, as well as future financial plans. But when bringing up dating and money problems, timing matters. So, once you reach the point in your relationship when your financial conversations are more mature and serious, you should schedule your talks.

For example, tell your partner that you’d like to talk about the subject next Tuesday evening. This prevents your partner from feeling ambushed, and it gives you both time to reflect on what you want to address. Remember to set a specific day and time. Otherwise, you might be tempted to push back a much-needed conversation.