How to have “the talk” with your partner

Talking about finances can make us feel vulnerable or uncomfortable. And it can be even harder to broach the subject with your closest confidant. But even though money conversations can be hard to bring up, they are instrumental in any relationship that goes the distance. They reduce the potential for dreaded surprises later and increase your collaboration as you create mutual goals. 

It helps to position this money conversation as a team huddle where you come together instead of approaching it as a dreaded task. This checklist can help you get started and delve into the deeper subjects.

Create the space

Finance discussions often come up at the worst times—like late at night, when you learned you need to pay a large bill. Move from reactive to proactive money conversations by putting time on the calendar to start the conversation. That way, you’re both in a better, more prepared mindset.

Ask questions 

You can get the discussion started by presenting hypothetical scenarios that you might face together as a couple. But it’s important to leave some room for the “I don’t know” response. Reassure them that, if the situation arises, you will figure it out together. 

Some examples may be:

  • Did your parents pay for you to attend college? Do you want to be able to do that for our children? 
  • If you had extra money would you put it in a savings account? Donate it to charity or treat yourself to something you have been eyeing? 
  • If you had to choose between a weekend vacation or ongoing subscriptions to every streaming service, which would you pick?

Write down your shared financial mission statement 

While your preferences and spending choices might differ from your partner’s, it’s important to build a shared financial vision. Why does money matter to you as a partnership? Is it so you can spend time with your children or grandchildren? Do you want to start a business together? Write it down and keep it where you both will see it often.

Create a money goal together

Once you’re feeling confident in your understanding of your partner’s goals and relationship with money, come up with a financial goal you would like to achieve together. This will help you feel connected to your partner while you practice holding one another accountable. 

Understand and respect each other’s essential spending categories

While paying $15/month for an online workout subscription might be a no-brainer investment for your own health and wellbeing, your partner may not see things the same way. Likewise, their habit of buying new books every month might baffle you. Talk through why you each spend money on certain items so you can better understand and respect the other’s needs.

Use I statements

When you have concerns or opinions about your partner’s financial behavior, be sure to use only “I” statements to avoid generalizations and assumptions about their opinion. After expressing your concern or opinion, give them the opportunity to express their opinions too.

Appreciate one another’s  financial strengths 

Are you better at keeping track of important documents? Is your partner more excited about planning for long-term purchases? As you delegate your mutual finance responsibilities, try to assign them based on each partner’s strengths and interests. That way, you’ll be more motivated to contribute.

Schedule a consistent money date 

Family finances are not a one-and-done conversation. Now that you’ve taken the steps to build a solid financial relationship, keep the momentum going! Whether it’s 10 minutes a week, 1 hour a month, or a quarterly weekend retreat—put a recurring time on your calendars to talk about money. Remember to start small with things like savings goals and credit scores; then slowly work up to topics like salaries and how their upbringing affects their relationship with money. As with all significant discussions, take it one step at a time and surround the conversation with love and patience.

Talk about money early and position it positively. It can be nerve wracking to talk about money if you’ve only been dating a few months, but it’s better to set clear financial expectations and positions earlier before things get serious. Schedule time to talk about it so your partner isn’t surprised by the timing or emotionally unprepared. It also helps to introduce the discussion not as a sign that things are serious, but a necessary conversation before the relationship can get too serious. 

Since you’ve been thinking about it for a while, it can be tempting to bring up the topic when you feel ready, but start by telling them ahead of time that you want to chat about finances.

Having a third party, like a trusted financial advisor, be part of the conversation can be helpful for many couples. The advisor can help you determine how to meet each persons goals and explain the tradeoffs of one decision or another.