Techniques to help couples talk about finances

April 25th, 2011 Ron Haines

Why is it so difficult for couples to talk about money?

Many contend that people will talk just about anything – even religion and politics – before talking about their finances. In fact, for many couples financial issues can get so emotional and destructive that it can lead to a breakup. Many have reported that money is now the leading cause for divorce in this country.

But it’s important to know that couples CAN live happily ever after – financially speaking. The key is to communicate in an honest and open manner on a consistent basis.

We’ve put together some simple techniques to help you and your partner with the “money talk:”

Establish how you will manage household finances

As your financial lives merge it’s important to determine how you will manage your household finances. Will one person be in charge of paying the bills or will you split them between the both of you? Will you get joint checking accounts or not? How will you begin saving as a couple? Talk about these topics with your partner so you’re both on the same page.

Schedule money meetings

Booking a meeting with your partner to talk about finances will make it more difficult for either of you to avoid the discussion or push it off for another day. It also puts you both in the same mind frame. If you have children, arrange for a babysitter or a family member to watch them to reduce distractions.

Depending on your comfort level when it comes to money matters you may also want to consider meeting with an intermediary, such as a financial planner or banker, for important topics.

Establish ground rules for talking about money

Establish a framework for talking about money that works for both you and your partner. For example – it’s probably not the best idea to bring up complex or touchy money issues in front of your in-laws if you know that your partner is sensitive about this. Get to know their preferences and respect them moving forward.

Determine each other’s money personalities

Some people are inherent savers, while others like to spend. It’s important you understand your partner’s relationship with money. This will help shape your combined approach to saving, budgeting and bill paying. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, for example, to put your partner in charge of saving if he or she is someone who has difficulties with this.

Discuss your goals

Don’t limit your money talks to financial topics that influence the immediate future. Discuss long-term goals to get a better sense of your partner’s wants to see him or herself in the future. This will help you both establish priorities and put together a budget that will help you reach those goals. For example, if a home and kids are in your future, it’s never too early to start planning accordingly.

Be honest

Above all else, honesty is perhaps the most important element to successful money talks. Don’t hide spending or debt from your significant other. More likely than not, your financial decisions now also directly impact your partner’s. Be honest about all money matters.

There will inevitably be times when you and your partner will feel the stress from financial matters. The more prepared you are, the better off you will be in the long run. And if all else fails, sometimes you will both simply have to agree to disagree.

Ron Haines

About the author

Ron Haines is Market President at MidWestOne Bank. He works in the retail department, specializing in checking and savings accounts, consumer loans, auto loans and home equity loans.

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