It always makes me sad when I hear that money is one of the most common reasons for divorce or couples splitting up. On one hand, I can see why this happens, but on the other hand it seems to me that money should not be such a big obstacle that it can’t be overcome. Talking to your partner about money is the key, and it is very important.
My hubby and I are not perfect. We make lots of mistakes, some of which involve money and I have written about in the past. But one thing that I think we have managed to do reasonably well is communicate about money. How do we do this? Well, for starters, we talk about it. I know this may seem like a “duh” kind of thing, but I’ve had friends who’ve gotten divorced and looking at their spending habits, it made me seriously question whether they were talking about money or not. And whether that may have contributed to the demise of their marriage.
In many families money is sort of a taboo topic. Family members simply don’t talk about it with other family members. So I think children may often grow up without ever having heard one parent say to the other, “We need to set a time to discuss the plan to pay for xyz.”
This is incredibly unfortunate, because money is important! I don’t believe that money can buy happiness, but I do believe that you sure can be miserable if you don’t have any.
I will share here what we in the CMF household have done to communicate about money. This is by no means the “only” or even necessarily the “best” way to do it; it’s a very personal topic and I think each couple needs to find their own way to do it. But in case you are struggling to figure out how to get started, here’s what we’ve done.
How to Talk to Your Partner About Money
1) Start talking! Even if you only start small by having a discussion about the merits of cheap generic toothpaste versus the more expensive brand name, you have to start or you will never get anywhere.
2) Stay calm and relaxed. The purpose of talking about money is to help you both out. This should not be negative or painful. If you make it negative or painful, what are the odds of gaining the cooperation of your partner?
3) Set a date and time to have a discussion about money. It helps if this is a time when no one is hungry, tired, rushing off to pick up the kids, or cranky after a long day at work. It may be helpful if this is a repeating phenomenon- such as the first Saturday of the month. Communicate often and regularly about money.
4) Don’t point fingers. It’s easy to take aim at your partner’s spending, but this strategy is not likely to win you any cooperation and may backfire by having your partner fire right back at your spending.
5) Take responsibility for your part in the status of your joint finances. Even if you did not accumulate the debt, you have likely played a role its payoff (or lack thereof). Blaming will get you nowhere here- unless your destination is divorce court.
6) You and your partner are a money team- so be a team player! Support each other when needed. Help out. If your partner has a financial weakness, help them overcome it. Be kind, be gentle. And treat your partner the way you would want them to treat you.
7) Set common goals. Have discussions about what money means to you and where you want your money to take you. Make sure your goals encompass something you both want- there needs to be motivation from both parties in order for this to succeed. Discuss what you want your future to look like. Having goals gives each person something common to work for, which can be a motivator to keep you out of Starbucks or help you refrain from purchasing yet another gadget.
8) We have found that in order to “get on the same page” about finances, that it helps to read the same books. And re-read them. We have small library of books that we have purchased in our home (love buying used books on Amazon), and many of them relate to personal finance. We may purchase a book, each read it, and then talk about it when we’ve both finished. It’s really been a great tool to help us to come up with a financial blueprint for managing our money. Some of these books have been read dozens of times. Our favorites are The Millionaire Next Door, The Total Money Makeover, The Automatic Millionaire, Rich Dad Poor Dad, and Your Money or Your Life.
Weird confession: We have found that we accomplish a lot when we have money discussions while we are on vacation. Some of you may be thinking, What???? Because we stay calm and relaxed about it and do it all the time, talking about money is not a negative thing for us. Quite the opposite, in fact- we enjoy it. We have been known to spend long car trips talking about our finances and financial goals. We often come back from vacation rejuvenated and full of plans for the next step in our finances.
Update: This post was written before we became parents! These days we spend our vacations somewhat differently (or do staycations because it’s a pain to travel with a baby), but the basic concept is the same. While we no longer have quite as much time to have these conversations, we still have them and check in with one another regularly regarding where we are at with our financial goals. Our goals have remained largely the same, and we remain committed to achieving them. 🙂
Are there things you would add to this list? What strategies have you and your partner used to communicate about money?