Money can be a fragile subject. Because of that, starting the conversation around finances with a spouse or significant other can be difficult. Personal finance is one of the most sensitive and (usually) secret areas in our lives. Many times, we have different expectations around money than our spouse does. Though these differences exist, there are a few things we can do to make the conversation around money more comfortable, more productive, and more helpful in finding common ground.
We all grew up in different homes and with different expectations and experiences surrounding finances. Families discuss (or don’t discuss) money differently. Unless you grow up in a family that is very open about their finances, it’s unlikely for money to be a dinner table conversation. Many times, it’s very clear whose family talked about personal finance and who did not. Because most families don’t talk about money, and because formal education in primary and secondary school is virtually nonexistent, most of us are learning about personal finance for the first time as we become adults. To take it a step further, many are trying to figure this out after they’ve graduated college and started receiving student loan bills in the mail.
Money is such a sensitive topic, so intimate, but so ingrained in our daily lives. It can be extremely difficult to have a healthy relationship with a spouse or significant other if each spouse’s expectations are drastically different. Because most of us have different backgrounds regarding money, there’s likely going to need to be some commitment from each side to find common ground. With differences in opinion around money issues, and because it’s usually not a subject where much time is spent, money is one of the biggest stressors that couples face.
Although the discussion of finance with a significant other or spouse can be a very difficult one, there are ways in which starting the conversation can be non-threatening and, maybe, even enjoyable. The first, and arguably most important point to note; the conversation needs to happen. The sooner it happens in the relationship, the quicker discussions can be had, and decisions can be made so that people can be on the same page. Each partner needs to listen and learn the expectations of the other. This will provide insight into the perspective the other person is bringing. Discuss what your thoughts and feelings about money are, what things you think you’re doing well, what things you think you need to improve on, and what things you’re not sure about. Have your spouse share the same with you.
After you have both listened, next, discuss the things you want to work out together. It can be creating a budget that you both are aware of, agree to, and make decisions on. It can be talking about short term goals like saving for this year’s vacation, or longer-term goals like saving for a house, retiring, or traveling. As a starting point, make an inventory of your assets and liabilities, and then make a monthly budget to account for where your income is going.
Starting the conversation around personal finance can be a difficult one, but it’s also extremely important. The earlier you can convince yourself to have this conversation, the quicker you’ll be able to make decisions together. This will positively impact your relationship with each other, your relationship with your family, your relationship with your friends, your productivity in and out of the workplace, and your overall sense of well-being. The benefits of having these crucial conversations and committing to move forward with making decisions together will have an incredible impact on your day-to-day relationships with family, friends, and co-workers, and most importantly, your relationship with your significant other.
Ryan Berkeley is a partner and a wealth manager at S.E.E.D. Planning Group, LLC. Ryan also serves as the firms Chief Financial Officer and as a member of the firm’s Financial Planning team, where he provides coordinated and strategic financial planning and investment fiduciary services to families and small businesses. Ryan presents the benefits of financial planning to professional, employee, and small business groups throughout the region.
S.E.E.D. Planning Group LLC (S.E.E.D.)is a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) with the Securities Exchange Commission. S.E.E.D.’s team provides investment fiduciary and financial planning services to clients. Our fees are disclosed, easy to understand, and not predicated on product sales.