- Money is one of the leading causes of conflict within relationships
- Many conflicts can be avoided by understanding your and your partner’s attitudes about finances
- Set a regular money date to discuss your finances and goals
- Your contributions to your relationship are far more than just money
- There is no single right answer; what matters is what’s right for the two of you
When combining marriage and finances, you are typically dealing with two very different sets of attitudes about spending, saving, and investing. Everyone has questions: joint accounts, separate, or blended? Spend more to have fun now or save more for later? Buy a house or keep renting? There’s no right answer for everyone. But with money being one of the top reasons couples disagree, it’s important to find the right answers for the two of you.
Learn about your money attitudes (and each other’s)
Even before we realize it, we’re all learning about money attitudes from our family and friends. Many of those attitudes are set well before we become adults. Those attitudes will drive every decision we make about saving, spending, debt, investing, and every other aspect of our financial lives.
Step one is to understand your attitudes, as well as your partner’s. Are you a saver or a spender? Does potential financial risk keep you up at night? Does one of you hate debt while the other embraces it?
Start by taking a short quiz separately to explore your attitudes about money and finances. There aren’t any right or wrong answers, so be honest about where you are today in your financial life.
Then, sit down and discuss your different attitudes. Create a safe place for both of you to be open and honest. Don’t judge or criticize. Try to understand why you each feel the way you do about money, finances, and debt. Don’t focus on your differences, but look at strategies that will work for both of you.
Everyone looks at money differently. Chances are you will, too. People with different attitudes about money and finances can live happily ever after. So can couples where both people feel the same way about money. But before you reach agreement, whether that agreement is consensus or compromise, you both have to understand your own money attitudes and each other’s.
Align your goals
Once you both understand where you are today, the next step is to look towards the future. What do you each want to have happen? What’s important to each one of you? What does the ideal life look like to both of you?
Again, be open and honest without judging, and recognize that each of you brings different ideas and attitudes about money that were mostly formed long ago. Try to dig deeply into the “why.”
For example, if one partner wants to buy a house while the other doesn’t, try to understand where both of you are coming from. Does a house represent stability and prosperity to one of you? Does the other see a house as an anchor and a never-ending list of chores that will keep them from enjoying life? Will one of you avoid looking at credit card statements and bills, while the other wants to track every penny?
Few couples agree on everything. It’s important to acknowledge the deeper meaning when one of you says something like, “I saw my parents struggle because they bought more house than they could afford. They could never go on vacation or have fun because of that house, and it made them unhappy in their marriage. I never want to be trapped that way.”
Work to understand your partner’s feelings. Their feelings might be very different from yours, but both of you have opinions, thoughts, and feelings that are equally valid.
Schedule times to talk
Understanding your attitudes and goals doesn’t happen in a single conversation. To stay on track, it’s important to schedule regular money dates to discuss where you are as a couple financially. To do that:
- Schedule money dates regularly, maybe once every week or two.
- Commit to those times and treat them as important.
- Be consistent.
- Make the process fun and enjoyable; maybe combine it with something else, such as Friday Finances and Sushi Date Night.
- Put away phones and other distractions and really listen to what each other says without judgement.
Recognize the value of all contributions
Both of you contribute to your relationship in ways that go well beyond money. The central question isn’t who’s carrying more of the financial load. The question is whether you both feel valued and appreciated. “Fair” doesn’t mean you’re both contributing an equal amount of money and effort to your household and relationship. Keeping score is rarely (if ever) the path to happiness.
In this case, “fair” means you have a financial plan that works for both of you, and that you each understand where the other person is coming from. It means you can both say how you feel and what you want and be heard.
Whether other people put all of their money into joint accounts or keep their finances separate doesn’t matter. Whether friends or neighbors save every penny or are always planning a vacation are their lives, not yours. What’s important is that the two of you manage your finances and your financial decisions in a way that makes you both happy.
Want to learn more? Watch this recorded lunch & learn presentation with two married CFP© professionals at Facet Wealth with real-world tips on talking about your finances.