Good relationships rarely come easy. They take commitment, communication and a healthy amount of compromise. The same can be said for your finances. If you want a healthy financial relationship with your spouse, it’s important to take time to talk about money. It might not be easy, especially during times of financial worry or stress. But, like your relationship, the effort you put into managing your money will be time (and work) well spent. Try these 8 tips to start talking to your spouse about money.
Listen To Each Other
You and your spouse are in this together—for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer. You both share responsibility for saving and spending your money, and that means you should try your best to listen to each other when expressing concerns or sharing ideas about finances. It can be easy to ignore your spouse when the topic of money comes up. If your first reflex is to roll your eyes and tune out when your spouse talks about money, you’re not alone. But listening to your spouse is the first step in finding common financial ground and working with each other to make and keep your financial goals.
Be Honest About Money Matters
Your spouse isn’t going to approve of all your purchases or feel the same about all your financial ideas. You try to share financial goals, but that doesn’t mean all your interests are the same. Occasionally, you’ll want to make a purchase you know doesn’t fit into your budget. Your first impulse might be to buy it behind your spouse’s back. What your spouse doesn’t know won’t hurt anyone, right? But being honest and upfront about all your income and expenses can help you find common financial ground and build trust with each other. Talk to your spouse about every financial decision, especially the ones that might not make sense to your spouse. These conversations can help you track your income and expenses, and work on a budget that will take your individual and shared interests into account.
When talking to your spouse about finances, try to keep your collective interests in mind. That is, focus on the financial goals that you want to achieve together. Ask questions about what “we” should do, when “we” should retire, how “we” should save. Talk in terms of “our” income, “our” expenses, “our” accounts, etc. Yes, it’s okay to talk about your own individual financial goals, and even the purchases that you, as an individual, feel are important. But these conversations should all be centered around the broader financial goals you want to achieve together. When you foster an environment of financial inclusiveness, you’re more likely to see eye-to-eye and less likely to be selfish with your money.
Talk to Your Spouse About Money Fears
No one wants to feel financially vulnerable, but sharing your financial fears in a safe environment with your spouse can help you understand each other, and work toward common goals that take each other’s fears and interests into account. Sharing your financial fears is also a great way to save money. When you work actively to avoid each other’s financial vulnerabilities, you can ensure a more comfortable retirement, build up your emergency fund, and stick to a budget that empowers you to rise above your fears and find financial strength.
Talk About Your Personal and Financial Dreams
While you’re in the spirit of sharing, talk to each other about your hopes and dreams. Where do you see each other in 5, 10, 20 years from now? What do you want to do in retirement? What kind of house do you want to buy together? Will you help the kids’ pay for college? What vacations do you want to take? And, most importantly, how much money will you have to save to achieve these financial dreams? Again, try to frame these conversations around your collective financial goals, but don’t be afraid to get personal. When your spouse knows your individual financial hopes and expectations, you can work to achieve your dreams together.
Create Short and Long-Term Goals
Now that you’ve shared your financial dreams and fears, the table is set to take financial action. Create short- and long-term goals to help you avoid your worst financial fears and accomplish all your financial dreams. Talk about setting small, manageable goals in the short-term to realize your long-term goals. Talk about setting up a savings plan and opening retirement accounts, as well as other long-term savings accounts. Write down your goals and review your progress together as often as you can. These conversations can help you avoid many of the financial difficulties and disagreements that often arise when couples don’t have clearly defined financial goals.
What Is Our Budget?
“Honey, we need to start living by a budget.” It’s the conversation starter that strikes fear into the hearts of spouses everywhere. No one likes to live by a budget. You don’t want to be restricted financially. And your spouse suggesting you live by a budget sometimes sparks feelings of financial failure. Despite all this, it’s the one conversation that can bring you both together on the same financial page—literally. Open up a spreadsheet and have an honest conversation with your spouse about where your money is going and what you can do to save. You might find that living by a budget gives you more financial freedom. When you plan, spend, and save by a budget, you can do just about anything you want with your money (within the bounds of your budget). It’s the best tool you have to accomplish your shared financial goals.
Talk About Spending
Financial stress between spouses often arises as a result of overspending—one spouse spends money on things the other spouse doesn’t agree with. Preempt this type of financial pressure by having an open, honest conversation about spending money. Come up with a rule about spending—i.e. when you have to check with your spouse before making a purchase. This might mean setting a specific spending limit or not spending money in certain budget categories before checking with your spouse. Talking through an upfront rule about spending money is a great way to avoid financial stress between spouses.
Summary: How to Talk To Your Spouse About Money
Talking with your spouse about money isn’t always easy, but healthy financial relationships take effort. When you listen to each other and talk through your finances in an open and honest way, you can find common ground, set shared goals and make compromises when needed to reach your financial goals together.