Get on the same financial page with your partner

January 16, 2020

The Dime – 1/16/20

Money can be a loaded topic. It can be a source of conflict and is a commonly cited relationship ender.

One tactic you shouldn’t rely on: avoidance. When your life is intertwined with another’s, finances are bound to come up, especially if you live under the same roof.  

Bu money doesn’t have to be scary. With communication, effort, a few tools, and trust, money can become a positive topic. When money becomes the means to achieving your shared goals, it can transform the subject.

Here are a few tips to get started.

  • Come to the table ready to talk, and ready to listen. This means you. Before you lay expectations on your partner, think about your own tendencies, fears, and communication styles. And prepare yourself to listen without judgement. Creating a positive setting can give the conversation a better chance for success. Find a time to talk when you know you won’t be hungry, tired, or rushed.
  • Before you get to dollars and cents, talk about big-picture goals. Share stress points. This can be tough if one person is a saver and the other is a spender. But it’s important you each take the time to understand and respect the other’s perspective. Discuss long-term goals like housing, security, debt elimination, and retirement. While you might generally want all of these, you might prioritize some more than others.
  • It’s time to get to the details. Put everything on the table. List all your accounts, cards, balances, and income. Then list your monthly expenses. This helps you see your big picture.
  • Have a discussion about how your day-to-day financial decisions are, or aren’t, getting you closer to those goals above. You might talk about places where you might make some cuts. Maybe increase saving (or spending) in other areas. Again, there’s no right answer. Most likely it will take compromise. Just be sure your actions and those goals align.
  • Track, track, track. Imagine if you put an address into your maps app—and then promptly threw your phone out the window as you put your car into drive. That’s what it’s like to make a budget and not track your income and expenses. Find a budgeting method that works for you, and make it a routine to check in with your accounts. Some people like apps, such as Mint or Personal Capital, that link to their bank accounts. Others like a spreadsheet, whether digital or paper. Still others like the envelope method. If these don’t work for you, there are plenty others you can learn about online.
  • Tracking your budget satisfies the analytical nature of the job. But don’t forget about taking care of the emotional side, too. To that end, set up recurring money dates with your partner. Check in. See what’s changed. Keep the conversation moving forward. And when you hit those goals, celebrate!