Last week we started a series on Personal Finance for Couples and we discussed money management for unmarried couples. Couple days later I got an email from a reader, Emily, who wrote this:
I am glad you have started a series on personal finance for couples, I am engaged and set to get married in summer 2010. My fiancé and I have a great relationship, but are not always on the same page when it comes to finances. Our relationship is great and money is not really an issue right now, but after reading your article this week and some others I really would like to start having discussions with him now before things get bad. My problem is that I don’t know how to start the conversation, what to talk about and I don’t want to make him feel that there is an issue. I just would like to do the things you wrote about last week, but not sure how to start.
Emily asked a great question, that I somehow oversaw to discuss. How to start the finance discussion with your significant other? Discussing finances with your significant other can be an uncomfortable talk; people are more comfortable talking about sex than money. As mentioned in the previous article, finances are the number one reason for divorces, so it goes without saying that discussing finances at an early stage is vital, but how do you start the conversation?
Although starting finance discussion with your partner other can feel a little unnatural, over time it will become normal. To get started the right way follow these steps/suggestions and things can get off to a good start, but remember that it will take some time for this conversation to become “normal”.
1. Start by Discussing the Good things
Start your personal finance discussion by talking about the things you are doing right and are happy about. You may have made some good frugal decision recently or maybe decided to contribute to a charity. Praise each other for the good/smart financial decisions you have made, this will make it a more comfortable conversation and boost your self-esteems.
2. Discuss specific and small things
One common mistake I see new couples do over and over again is discussing complicated and broad issues such as retirement life style, children’s education etc. Those are very lengthy and sometimes heated conversation and you do not need to discuss them right out of the gate. Talk about small short term specific goals; in Emily’s case maybe discuss your wedding costs and maybe read the wedding savings tips article and discuss. Sticking to something short term and specific will ensure that you can accomplish something during the conversation and not feel the time is wasted.
3. Admit Your Own Mistakes
Do not start pointing fingers, but rather admit some of your own financial mistakes and what you have learned from them. Do not talk about all the financial mistakes your partner has committed in the past, but rather focus on your own mistakes. The important part here is that you also discuss what you learned from those mistakes. For example, just saying that you made a mistake buying a $20,000 car when you had $15,000 in loans is not very productive, but what did you learned from that is much more productive.
4. Break it off if too Heated
If you sense things are getting a little too emotional and heated, just break off the conversation before things turn ugly. Just break off the conversation and skip to step 6, than revisit the discussion at some other time.
5. Agree to discuss finances regularly
Hopefully the first conversation has been productive to some extend, but don’t let the momentum go, set a monthly finance discussion. Regular family finance discussions can go a long way not only in strengthening your relationship but also in your wealth creation.
6. Be Romantic
Discussing finances is far from romance, but once the discussion has ended, do something fun. Be romantic, you can go out for dinner in the evening or maybe go for a late night movie or …well I am sure you can think of other amusements.
The first conversation may not go as smooth or productive as you may want to, but it’s just the first step and remember it’s a long term process. So don’t give up, just try again another time it may take sometime to find the right rhythm. If you find things are not working at all but you both still want to have the financial talk, than consult a money coach in your area who maybe able to help you.
Do you have any suggestions for new couples? What have you done that has or has not worked for you?
Ray is an ex-financial adviser and the founder of Financial Highway. Currently working in the financial industry and working towards completing his Chartered Financial Analyst, CFA, designation.