You've been with your partner for more than 2 years and things are serious.
You've already had small conversations about money (e.g. “Should we go to that restaurant or is it too expensive?”). But adult life has bigger budget issues to worry about!
It's important to prepare for those larger conversations and learn to initiate them.
Topics That Might Come Up
Part of making a life with a long term partner is dreaming, planning, and implementing goals together.
Many goals require a strong financial plan:
Saving for a vacation, car, or expensive toys
Buying a house or renting an apartment
Budgeting for pets, kids, or elder family care
Set The Mentality
Money is an important topic! Talking about it will be a crucial to your financial success as a couple. Setting realistic expectations before you initiate a conversation is essential.
Understand the conversation won't be easy and resolved quickly.
But it'll be incredibly rewarding knowing you're on the same page.
A pivotal step in any relationship is changing from “you and me” to “our”.
If you have plans to stay together long term, you need to think of each other as a team.
Act on it:
You probably have separate bank accounts but it's time to start thinking and talking about "our money".
You need to intentionally work together to meet your shared goals.
Talking about money, budgeting, and necessary trade-offs is intimidating but as much as they might hate it, your partner will value the intention and goal.
Designate a time and place for the conversation.
These are important conversations so you don’t want to surprise your partner with one. Both of you need to be ready, invested, engaged, and comfortable.
Clearly specifyyour concern or goal and decide when to talk about it.
“Let’s talk about buying a car in a few days.”
“I’m worried we're not spending our money wisely. When can we sit down and talk about it?”
Choose a safe and comfortable location.
"How about we go for a walk and talk about our spending?"
"Can we sit down on the couch and make a plan to save for that vacation?"
"I'm going to write you a quick email with my thoughts about how we can budget better next month. Let me know what you think and we can talk later."
Which times and places might be best for a conversation with your partner about money?
During The Conversation
Understand that these conversations are important.
Go into them knowing you need to be engaged and ready to give 100% attention of your attention.
Keep focus on your mutual goals.
Discuss the budget and financial trade-offs, and leave other aspects of your relationship for another chat.
Pause and actively listen.
Intentionally working to understand your partner’s views will help you have a constructive dialog.
Be explicit about what you hope to accomplish together. You can be action oriented or goal oriented.
“Let’s talk about our monthly budget. I think we're spending too much on eating out.”
“I’m not sure where our money is going. I think we need to create a system for tracking our expenses.”
“If we want to go on vacation next summer, we’ll need to understand what we can afford.”
“We're thinking about buying a house in the next few years, so we’ll need to be realistic about what's affordable for us.”
Rest And Circle Back
Money conversations can get emotional with different values, expectations, and priorities. That's okay and should be expected.
If the discussion gets too heated, take a break and come back to it. Not everything needs to be resolved right then and there.
You and your partner are discussing buying a car. What are signs that you need to pause the conversation?
Talking with your partner about money is a skill that will get better the more you intentionally practice it.
The more you talk about the issue, and reflect on your conversation, the better you'll both get at it, and the closer you'll come to agreeing on the right financial plans.