(nine minute read)
Whether you are engaged, living together, about to live together, having a child together, or your expenses co-mingle within your relationship, the time to transparently have the money talk was yesterday. Arguing over money is uncomfortable and awkward with anyone, let alone your significant other – but it doesn’t have to be. Avoid the battle in the first place.
This is the “why” you need to and are going to bring this topic up. It is rare and I mean rare, for couples to:
- Generate the same income.
- Possess an identical perception of how money is managed, including what it is specifically used for.
- Share the same level of frugality or luxury regarding staples and extraordinary expenses.
- Have mutually aligned values in all areas.
No one is asking you to adjust your life (or maybe they are), the request is to be open, which – can be a big deal for people when sharing their personal finances.
Call Me Crazy
As unromantic as it might seem, treat finances within your relationship the same as you would run a business. Is your partnership effective or are there weak links within? Assess, evaluate, discuss, rebalance, execute, and repeat. Input from both parties is equally necessary.
What does the combined income statement look like (each of your incomes), how about the balance sheet (assets and liabilities such as investments and debt)? What’s going on with your expenses and profit margins (savings), is there room to outsource (housework) and free up valuable time, will you allow yourself paid vacations, date nights, or good sheets? 😉 Perhaps the last few aren’t business associated. Am I sounding insane yet or are bits and pieces resonating?
If you treat your relationship’s finances like a joyous carnival, you’ll end up with a bunch of cheap shit that breaks – inevitably, including your relationship. Think smart, act smart, communicate smart. You’re not just a pretty face, you’re strategic!
How to Bring It Up
Finances are a sensitive topic for almost everyone, regardless of gender or level of income. We all have different relationships with money for various reasons that might not be obvious, so be mindful. Seek to understand before you’re quick to judge. You love this person or very much like them, remember?
Have the actual conversation in a comfortable place for both parties, where time is no issue, and you both know in advance this is the conversation you’ll be having. Pre-bringing up the money talk, take a soft yet seriously spoken, non-aggressive approach and ask, “are you up for choosing a time that we can talk finances as a couple together?” If one or the other party digs their heels in at this point, call that red flag #1.
At the same time as you’re having the money talk, inquiring about anything else that will or would potentially affect your life and relationship adversely down the road can be done here. Hereditary illness, previous divorces or children from past relationships, old relationships that are bound to haunt the current relationship; these topics all count as valid, relevant points that are make or breaks in relationships if left unknown. Give the heads up to your partner before someone else does it for you, or ask them for the heads up. This is risk mitigation in unnecessary arguments 101.
Don’t hit your partner blind-sided up the head about debt; a chart-topping topic in this realm. Now is the time to bring up credit card debt, outstanding balances on lines of credit, student loans, car loans, mortgages, your credit rating, etc. If open, and with a strategy, you can effectively work through these things together.
Transparency and communication are key ingredients in the business of love and respect – and in any relationship you want to last. Have questions? Ask. I’ve been there and sifted through every topic at nauseam I’ve just mentioned. Have your own back 😉
Friendly reminder: don’t have this conversation over a glass of wine.
Shared Goals & Expectations
Alike goal and values alignment with any organization or partnership you enter into, the relationship you have with your significant other is no exception. Is one of you a planner and the other is not? Do you even have shared goals in the first place?
Incorporate the topic of shared goals and expectations into your conversation at some point – once you’ve moved passed cohabiting with a mutual function on shared finances. Topics to touch on: children, home owning, retirement, alternative investments and investing style (conservative or aggressive), travel, extraordinary expenses, what does your standard of living look like today and what do you want it to look like in the future, what else is in the budget that requires consistent savings and planning for?
Back to treating your relationship like a business venture. The two most important factors regarding goals and expectations are:
- Determining if you are on the same page for the same reasons (mission and purpose).
- In what capacity each is party going to contribute, and not just monetarily.
It’s that simple, in theory.
How Often Must This Happen
Like going for annual check-up’s at the doctor, variations of this conversation need to happen ongoing if you don’t want to lose sight of the bigger picture and your shared objectives.
The intensity of the conversation doesn’t need be as heavy once you’ve shared and discussed the core facts with each other, however it is necessary to have basic check in’s more frequently. Have serious conversations when required, for example – if there have been material changes to either of your circumstances, or if either of your dispositions and goals have changed (including feelings towards one another). Have less serious conversations on a daily basis.
One of my favorite relationship & communication books is, “I Do, Now What?: Secrets, Stories and Advice from a Madly in Love Couple “, by Giuliana & Bill Rancic. Read it, you won’t be disappointed. One of the main points they touch on is “checking in” with one another.
Wrapping it Up
Be confident and try your best to remove emotions. Listen before your respond. Don’t be defensive. Do avoid taking shots at the other person’s ego. Stay on topic and don’t fuel fires. Treat this topic like a business and create a meeting agenda (just an outline).
Baseline, you each have characteristics, habits, energy and contributions unique to the relationship. Work together as a united force and team, and celebrate successes together.
This conversation will hopefully be more manageable than you think.