Relationships are work no matter how compatible you and your significant other may be, but things can get particularly hairy when you add finances into the mix. It can truly test your ability to communicate and work together and often can bring some unexpected emotions to the surface. Here are some tips for having a productive conversation about money with your partner.
Discover Your Personal Financial Philosophies
One of the greatest sticking points in these discussions are our differences in managing money. We all have a different approach to how we want to live our lives, and money is a huge factor in that. By learning more about how you and your partner think about money, it can help you understand what motivates the other person and how to best broach these discussions. You can learn more about personal financial philosophies and take our quiz here.
Use the results of your quizzes to start a discussion. Ask your partner to explain the answers that surprise you. Also try to understand what he or she learned about money as a child. Often the money behavior we saw our parents exhibit when we were children can carry with us into adulthood without us even noticing.
Timing is Everything
This is an incredibly important point. Everyone has a time of day when they are more receptive to difficult discussions. In my household, I try not to broach financial conversations after a long workday. That’s usually the last thing my husband and I want do when we get come. Know when your partner is at his or her best, and start with short and sweet conversations.
Find Common Ground
Finding common ground is so important to these discussions. Common ground could come in the form of a goal or a feeling about money. It could be something as small as wanting to form a budget or something as large as saving for a house. Make a list of the things you DO agree on and if things get heated try to bring the conversation back to those items and ask your partner how he or she would propose to tackle the problem. Listening is the key to making this step work for you.
Define Goals and Create a Plan
Usually couples can agree more easily on goals than how to achieve them. This makes sense since goals feel so much more tangible to the abstract concepts of finance. For example, the narrative to “save more money” can feel like a chore, whereas “save $40,000 for a down payment on a house” seems more motivating, measurable, and exciting. Define your goals and develop a plan together. Ask your partner what sacrifices they would be willing to make to achieve that goal. You could even establish a reward system for small victories or design another way to celebrate your progress and hold each other accountable.
Know When You Need a Tie Breaker
Finger pointing is never helpful. If this seems to be where all of your conversations are leading, it may be time to bring in a third party as a mediator. This could be anyone you trust such as a mutual friend, a religious leader, or even a financial counselor. Often times having an authority figure whose financial opinion you both trust can take a lot of the personal emotion out of the equation and refocus your attention on goals and planning.
Written By: Lindsay Dell Cook
Lindsay Dell Cook is an accountant, turned writer and founder of Budget Babble. She lives in Philadelphia with her uber supportive husband, and enjoys taking their adorable mutt for walks or reading a good book while buried under a pile of cats.