Couples across the country spent significant time this week celebrating their relationships with loved ones on Valentine’s Day. Behind the cards, flowers and chocolates, this holiday provides an opportunity for couples to strengthen their relationship in important ways. One of the best investments couples can make in their relationship is improving their communication about money. It is critical that couples can talk about money in a productive way or else major problems can develop. Here are some easy tips to improve your financial conversations with your significant other.
1. Know each other’s money lens
Knowing how your partner’s money lens was shaped (read more here) is crucial to understand their current relationship with their finances. Ask your partner important questions like “How did you see your parents handle money growing up?” and “What messages about money did you adopt early on?” “How does that impact you today?” and “How do you make spending and savings decisions for yourself?” Open ended questions like these will foster deep conversation that will allow you to understand your partner’s relationship with and how they define value.
2. Decide on a system that works
As with many things in life, establishing a system is hugely important to your financial success. Add to it 2 people with different financial habits and it becomes critical to have a system in place. There is no “right” way to manage your money with a partner, but rather you should decide the method that works best for your relationship. Some couples choose to share everything and put all of their money into a joint account for them to manage together. (Note: This is an important decision to consider because retitling individual accounts to “jointly held” effectively gifts your partner half of the value of that account.) Others choose to keep their money in separate accounts and allocate various bill pay to each partner to manage. Most common is a hybrid approach – Yours, Mine and Ours. This is where you may keep your individual accounts on the side but open a main joint account for shared expenses and savings goals. You should talk with your partner and weigh the pros and cons of each option before deciding which is best for you.
3. Practice regular communication
The foundation of any successful partnership is communication so communicating about your money is vital to your success. The frequency and subject matter you talk about will be specific to your partnership. Some things to consider regularly discussing are how your system is working for your partnership (see above) and your progress on working towards your individual and joint goals (see below). As a couple, you may find it works to create guidelines for spending joint funds. For example, you can set a spending threshold before communicating with the other partner to discuss the purchase. Also setting aside intentional time once a month as a “money date” is a great way to practice regular communication on things like cashflow, debt management and savings goals. Consider doing something to make it fun; cook dinner together, make a special dessert or spend your time together in a relaxing place that you both enjoy.
4. Set joint goals
If you are in a partnership, you are likely working towards some of the same goals as your partner. What are they? Are you talking about them? What kind of life are you building together? What are you saving for? As a team, it’s important to support one another and hold each other accountable when necessary. Setting joint goals and dreaming big with your partner creates a sense of unity and empowerment even when you go your separate ways to work in the morning.
5. Seek professional help
Some people look at marriage or financial counseling as an unnecessary measure. This is simply not true. There is a lot of value to be gained by having an objective third party observe your behaviors, habits and resources and then provide clear guidance. Many couples can benefit from having a CFP professional create an actionable financial plan to keep them on track for their goals. Consider reaching out for help if you find trouble navigating conversations on money management with your partner.
Flowers are nice, but strong relationships are built upon healthy communication and dedication to a joint vision. Consider implementing some of these tips in your own relationship to grow and celebrate your partnership way beyond February 14th.