3 Ways to Discuss Finances With Your Partner in a Healthy & Productive Way
Talking about money can be awkward, but it doesn't have to be.
Navigating finances is tough stuff, let alone finances with a partner. But like with all important aspects of a relationship, communication is key. Despite how awkward or difficult it may be, experts agree that discussing finances with your partner will only help nurture and set your relationship up for success — or raise red flags you may have turned a blind eye to in the past.
“In a relationship, your finances play a role in determining where you can live, the lifestyle you can lead, and is a big factor in planning for a family if you want to have children one day,” eharmony relationship expert Minaa B. tells HelloGiggles.
Without having a clear discussion on how to properly navigate finances and spending habits, Minaa notes that couples may find themselves in a financial crossroads, thus hindering the growth of their relationship.
Now the question is, how do I discuss finances with my partner without sounding like an evil interrogator? The money talk can be heavy, but with the right approach you can avoid any thoughts or worries that may get misconstrued during your delivery.
You want to approach the conversation in a way that will be beneficial and productive. Put some thought into the questions you want to ask and how you word them — and be prepared for your partner to ask you to share your answers as well.
We tapped relationship and financial experts for helpful tips for discussing finances with your partner in a way that’s healthy yet forthright and productive. These expert-backed tips will have you and your partner skipping to the bank together in no time.
1. Share Your Money Story
One of the most effective ways to get your partner to open up about their financial goals and worries is to share yours as well. As with any difficult (and sometimes awkward) topic, having open and honest communication is key! If you’re putting yourself out there and being vulnerable, then your partner will feel inclined to do the same.
When it comes to having a big conversation about money, Jennifer R. Lee, a financial advisor and founder of Modern Wealth, suggests to start by sharing your money story. It approaches the topic of money, but also gives you and your partner the opportunity to learn more about each other as individuals.
“I find sharing your money story a productive and innocuous way to uncover financial patterns,” Lee says. She suggests leading with what it was like as a child in your family with regards to money. Was it a topic of family discussion? What are your first real memories of money? This may vary from your childhood to your adolescence to now.
You can then segue your story into the present day. What are your current money goals? The “ending” can be discussing how you want your life to be moving forward. Does that include a more simple or lavish lifestyle? Do you have goals that are tied to money, like being a homeowner?
By opening up about your financial goals and concerns, you in turn can learn what your partner feels, knows, and has experienced with regard to money. Just be sure to approach the topic gently. You want it to be a conversation, not an interrogation.
2. Ask productive questions
A discussion about finances can open your eyes to your partner’s spending habits and any potential red flags that may impact your personal or joint finances. That being said, questioning is your most powerful tool in having a productive conversation. The questions you ask need to be assertive and vacant of any assumptions; but you also don’t want to come across as a bully or like you’re pressuring your partner into telling you their credit score.
Below are four conversation-starting questions that directly state what you expect the chat to entail while still sounding warm and inviting.
Are you open to sharing your current salary as well as your financial goals?
“The reason why it’s important to ask how much your partner makes is because a person’s salary can determine their quality of life and what they are able to afford and invest in,” Minaa explains.
She harps on the fact that it’s even more important to note that a person’s salary doesn’t determine their worth or value. “Do not make the mistake of conflating their salary as an indicator of whether they can be a good partner to you or not,” she adds. A person’s salary can evolve, so gauging their financial trajectory can help understand how they’re planning for their financial future.
Would you be willing to share your credit score and any debts you may have?
Debt impacts a person’s ability to do things like rent or obtain a mortgage, buy a car, apply for a credit card, and plan a wedding, so it’s a totally reasonable question to ask your partner, Minaa says.
A helpful approach here may be following up with your own credit score or possible debts. Talking about debt can be awkward and bring up feelings of shame or embarrassment, so treat the conversation with some empathy.
Do you prefer keeping our accounts separate, joint, or both?
At some point (hopefully sooner rather than later), you’ll want to discuss how you as a team will want to go about setting things up financially. You’ll need to determine if you both want access to each other’s funds or do you prefer to keep things separate, or perhaps a mixture of both?
Depending on your spending habits, you may opt to have separate accounts and a joint account for home-related things like rent and utilities. If you’re family planning, you may open a joint account for your child, too.
What’s the maximum we can spend before consulting with one another?
“This is an important question to ask because the last thing you need is your spouse informing you one day that they bought a brand new car with all the money in your savings account without consulting you first,” Minaa cautions.
When you’re in a relationship where finances are tied, your actions impact your partner even when it’s not your intention. Out of courtesy, Minaa suggests that both you and your partner should inform one another of expenses that will impact you both financially. Knowing this information holds both people accountable for their spending.
3. Consult a financial advisor together
Nothing says date night like a meeting with a financial advisor! But in all seriousness, talking about money can get messy, especially if there are areas of contention. For the sake of your relationship (and mental health), you might be better off involving an independent party such as a financial advisor.
“A financial advisor can walk you and your partner through your money history and discuss how it might impact your current finances,” Lee explains. “They can help you understand one another’s habits and patterns, and hopefully develop some good ones together, too.”
In a lot of ways, a financial advisor is sort of like a money mediator. There’s no taking sides, they are a neutral party in this scenario. Neither you or your partner will feel like they are being attacked, isolated, or questioned. Working with a financial advisor may also make the experience more enjoyable and give you and your partner an equal opportunity for your voice to be heard.
As the experts have mentioned, discussing finances and navigating money obstacles can be difficult. In order to move forward, however, it is necessary.
One thing that can help is to make the money convo ongoing — not due to irresolution, but to create a more open dialogue about finances in general.
“Notice a big purchase on your joint account bank statement? Talk about it. Are you experiencing a financial shift that’s resulting from a layoff or pay cut? Talk about it. We should always be talking about money as well as money goals to always be planning for the future,” Minaa tells us.
Lee agrees, adding that revisiting these conversations can help with mapping out your family and retirement savings, or saving for that dream vacation you’ve been talking about.
Eventually, talking about finances will feel a lot less intimidating, too. Don’t sweat it, you got this!