Get sensitive money matters out in the open
What would you rather do – get a tooth filled or talk with your partner about money? For many people, a trip to the dentist might win out. There’s a good reason people want to avoid the subject. Studies show that financial discussions trigger more fights among couples than any other topic, because money is such an emotional subject.1
But putting off discussions about money can backfire. You’ll develop a stronger bond if you work together to build a budget that helps you achieve both shared goals, like buying a home, and individual ones, like getting a master’s degree. Even if you’ve avoided talking about money for years, it’s never too late to start.
Here are some ideas gathered from personal finance experts.
Get your goals on the table.
Talk with your partner about what you hope your money will do for you now and in the future. Avoid criticizing each other’s goals. Even if your aspirations are very different, expressing them will help you to work out a family savings program that reflects what both of you want. Find it hard to get the subject on the table at all? Start with a short conversation about a small patch of your finances, like opening a joint checking account. You can always return to it later. Once you get used to these conversations, try to have them on a routine basis: weekly or monthly. That will also make the subject easier to deal with.
Savings Tip #3
If you live in an apartment in a city where rental prices are dropping, your landlord may be willing to give you a better deal so you'll renew your lease.
Create a household budget.
Putting your spending plan in writing will help keep your dialogue about money going. Talk weekly or monthly to discuss how you are meeting your goals and any unexpected expenses. And if one or both of you is self-employed, you should discuss your expected income for the next three months. For detailed advice, see Building a Budget.
Pay yourselves allowances.
Worried about losing their independence, some people turn to hiding secret stashes of money or concealing purchases after they combine finances. In the long run, this can hurt a relationship, because it creates a climate of dishonesty. The answer may be to set aside money for personal allowances that the partners can each spend as they please, no questions asked.
A final word
Some couples never want to give up their separate checking accounts. That’s fine. One easy solution is to agree to put a set portion of each person’s paycheck into a joint account, for shared expenses, while maintaining individual accounts. This can work especially well for couples who are remarrying, when one partner or the other has expenses related to a first marriage, such as child support. And it also can be ideal if assets are widely disparate between individuals. Even if that is not the case, separate accounts may still be the best approach for you.
Take action now
Ask your partner to set aside 20 minutes to talk with you about short-term financial goals. Then, keep the pattern going and make such chats part of a weekly or monthly dialogue.
What's next? Building a budget
1 Source: Ipsos Public Affairs: February 2009