Here’s how to start a conversation about money with your partner
Nothing kills romance more than unexpected money woes. Despite the fact that money is at the centre of our everyday lives and that we spend roughly forty hours a week working for it, money is still a societal taboo that we often find hard to talk about within our relationships.
You might be finding it easier to talk about how to ask for a pay rise and to discuss the best way to financially prepare for parental leave, but opening up about your financial situation with the people closest to you can still be uncomfortable.
And the person you probably spend the most time, and money with, is most likely to be your partner.
Whether you’re married, just moving in together or freshly coupled up, it’s important to talk openly about your finances with your partner.People who report having relationship stress cite money as the number one cause. But there are steps you can take to talk about finances before you reach breaking point.
Here are some tips to get the conversation started.
Bring It Up Early
Don’t wait until you’re having an argument about the credit card bill to bring up the topic of money.
Because money is linked to people’s self-worth, it’s important to make sure your partner is mentally and emotionally prepared to talk about finances.
If you’re newly dating, bringing up money in a fun and curious way could introduce the topic into your relationship. The more you treat it as natural a conversation as your day at work, the less awkward it will become further down the track.
An example could be, “Are you saving up for anything in particular at the moment?” or “Where would you like to go on holiday next?” These questions open up a conversation about where you’re at financially as well as your values and goals.
If you’ve been together for a while but don’t talk about money often then you could tell your partner that you want to work out some long-term goals. Suggest that you’d love to sit down with them and make sure they’re on the same page.
Money can reveal a person’s values, life, and familial patterns — it can be a trigger for many — so by approaching the topic openly (rather than bringing it up while they’re on a work deadline), you’re giving your partner the space to feel comfortable.
Start with Goal Creating
If you go from 0 to 100 real quick in your finance conversations then it can sometimes create friction and put pressure on a relationship.
If you haven’t spoken about your financial situation for six months and then suddenly ask how much debt your partner is in, it might create tension.
Start with the good stuff.
Maybe spend one Sunday afternoon sitting down and working out your long-term goals; the dream house, the holidays you would like to take, what your retirement might look like. After you’ve made sure you’re on the same page, then you can talk about how you’re going to get there.
As you work out a pathway to achieving these goals topics like budgeting, debt, superannuation, and loans will arise. As a result these aspects of your financial lives can be seen as being in service of your goals rather than your accountant or the ATO. It will keep you motivated to get through the boring stuff so you start moving towards your goals.
Talk about Earning Money, not Just Spending it
We spend so much time saving, spending, and investing that we don’t stop to think about how we earn our money.
Ask each other questions like, “At what age do you want to retire?”, “Should one of us stop work for a year to have a child?”, “Do you ever want to own a business?” or “Do you want to work overseas at some point?”.
By talking and thinking about how we earn money, we’re opening ourselves up to opportunities as well as learning more about our partner’s life goals.
Get Into a Habit
While uncomfortable at first, by having these conversations, getting into the habit of checking in with your finances regularly, and knowing where each other is at with their money goals, it will become just one more aspect of your relationship.
The more you talk about your goals and values with your partner the more likely you are to understand their financial decisions and can discuss pros and cons of different situations together.
By sharing your feelings around money you’re also more likely to hold each other accountable to financial goals, create a strong support system, and take steps towards building and maintain an open and honest relationship.
Be Understanding & Keep the Convo Going
Don’t forget that even if you feel like you know your partner inside out, everyone grew up in different households with different circumstances and ideas around money. A lot of people have the same relationship to money that their parents did, which can sometimes create financial trauma.
Talking about money can be incredibly challenging for some people, so it might require extra empathy and understanding, particularly until you get comfortable with each other’s money triggers.
By building trust with your partner through active listening and support, you can create space to improve your relationship with money and each other.
And what’s more romantic than kicking money and life goals off your list together?
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