Are you and your partner on the same financial page? Or, do you often argue about money and simply don’t see eye-to-eye?
Arguing about money is one of the top three reasons for divorce in America. But money really doesn’t have to cause stress in your relationship.
If you and your partner aren’t in agreement and don’t have a solid family financial plan, it’s time to turn it around and make money a relationship strength.
Personally, I’m at an interesting point in my life. After being single for over 10 years and clawing my way to financial stability, it’s time to merge lives and create a new family with my boyfriend and his children. Money questions such as merging finances, budgets to keep separate, accounts to blend and how to plan for a new future are important to answer. But they can be overwhelming.
Skipping this conversation and simply hoping for the best is NOT the answer though.
Being the planning, goal setting and list making nerd that I am, I’ve put together a list of important topics to consider when discussing finances with your partner.
Understand that each partner may have a very different style of managing money, and that’s okay! Leave guilt and accusation behind and have open and honest conversations together, then find a system that includes and works for both of you.
Start taking control of your money with these personal finance tracking forms:
Money & Marriage – why you need to talk about money with your significant other
Merging finances later in life
Whether you are divorced and starting a new relationship or simply forming a partnership later in life, it’s difficult to abruptly switch from earning and managing finances independently to opening your personal accounts to another individual. An individual with a whole different money management history and style.
This is the situation I’m currently faced with and it has pushed me to write this article. I’ve been managing my own money for the last 12 years. How do I feel about merging my finances with my partner? How does he feel about it? Is it necessary? What are the pros and cons?
There are so many things to consider that I don’t even know where to start. Which is why the conversation has been delayed and avoided.
But money should be a healthy component to any relationship. Conversations should be open and frequent. I personally believe that the best way to a happy partnership is to be on the same page financially and to work together with combined finances.
You need to live off of a single income
Perhaps you have been married for awhile now and both spouses earn income and contribute to the household expenses. But if one partner is unhappy with their work, loses their job or wants to become a stay-at-home parent, it’s time to find a way to live off of just one income.
Anytime a life event brings about a large financial change, it’s important to come together and discuss family finances. Review income and expenses and create a budget and financial plan. With a proper plan in place, there aren’t any surprises, which means arguments and building resentments can be minimized.
Resolving money issues
Maintaining a marriage and partnership is hard. But if you add different financial habits and a lack of communication to the mix, you’re likely in for trouble. Honesty, communication and accountability are so important.
If money is often the source of arguments in the relationship, it’s time to come together and find a way to openly discuss your finances and create a financial plan for your future.
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How to build financial intimacy
Define your individual values and vision then review them together
A great exercise to do with your partner is to separately write down a list of the top 10 things that bring fulfillment and happiness to your life and are most important to you.
You’ll find that it might be quite difficult to narrow your list down to just 10 things, which forces you to think about what matters the most.
Once you and your partner have completed your respective lists, have a discussion about what is important to each of you. What do you share in common and how can you come together to focus on creating the life you both want?
You will likely find that the top items don’t involve material possessions. Which means there is room to shift your focus to doing things together and saving money together, rather than working and spending.
Schedule a money date with your spouse / partner
Money shouldn’t be an uncomfortable topic. It only becomes uncomfortable if you commonly lack that honestly, communication and accountability.
Start by scheduling regular money meetings. Block off some time either once a week or month. Be prepared to be honest and ready to listen without judgement. In these meetings you can discuss how you each feel about where you are financially, what your financial goals are, both short term and long term, and what you both need to focus on.
In these weekly meetings you will be able to openly discuss budgeting, expenses outside the budget and how to plan for them, as well as plan for spending wants and needs. These discussions will strengthen your trust and partnership.
In your first meeting, review current finances and create a budget together. An understanding of income and expenses, and a set budget, will likely prevent future arguments and resentments (and guilt) regarding purchases. Once you both understand that a purchase was planned and budgeted for, spending doesn’t seem so stressful.
The power of a weekly family budget meeting
Discuss upcoming expenses with your partner and find ways to fit them within the budget. The benefit of a weekly family budget meeting is that you can review your budget together, discover whether you are within spending limits or actually over, and then plan how to adjust your spending categories to account for areas of overspending.
Not sure how to start a new budget? Visit The Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Budget You Can Stick To.
Creating a strong financial team
As you both go through the process you will be reviewing what makes each of you happy, what you want to add or subtract from your life, what your dreams and values are, and how to come together as a team to create a plan together. These steps bring you closer together and strengthen your relationship.
Creating a strong financial team is so important to nurturing and maintaining a happy and healthy partnership. And it has the power to shape a more fulfilling future.
Setting family goals for a happy life
What did you each learn from your list of the 10 things that are most important to each of you?
If you were to combine the two lists and again limit to just 10 things, what would you include on the family list?
Have this discussion with your partner then pick the top goals you want to focus on as a family.
For example, do you want to focus on renovating the back yard and creating a new outdoor living space or, is it more important to save money so you can travel?
Picking your top priorities and money goals will help shape and define your family values and clarify what is important in your budget and what you could likely give up or delay.
Learn how to define your long term vision and set financial goals at:
- How To Define Your 10-Year Goals And Live Your Best Life
- How to Design a Happier and More Fulfilling Life
- The Stepping Stones to Goal Setting Success
Creating a family financial plan
As your top goals become more clear you can better define and prioritize your top financial goals to focus on. Once you have a clear goal, you are significantly more likely to achieve it.
Start by clearly defining your most important goals and what it will take to achieve them. Put a timeline on them and adjust your budget to accordingly.
For more info on creating a family financial plan, visit How To Make A Family Financial Plan in 7 Simple Steps.
As you step through this process, it’s important to remember to be open, honest and willing to listen without judgement. We all make mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities to learn, discuss and creatively brainstorm how to fix the mistake and what you want to do differently next time.
Express gratitude that your partner is on your team and that together you are creating the life you love. Be forgiving and focus on your future rather than the past.
How To Combine Finances as a Couple
Managing Money as a Couple: What Works (and doesn’t!) For These 12 Couples
Fighting about money is a leading cause for divorce. However, holding regular money meetings can easily prevent this. According to a Ramsey Solutions survey, of the interviewed couples that reported having a “Great” marriage, 94% of them openly discussed their money dreams. Compare this to only 41% of couples in the “Okay” or “In Crisis” marriage category. Additionally, 54% of couples in “Great” marriages discuss money daily or weekly, compared to only 29% of couples in the “Okay” and “In Crisis” groups.
Simply put, openly discussing money and planning financial goals together makes for a stronger, healthier and happier relationship.
The best way to ensure proper communication is to establish a family budget together and meet regularly to review expenses, discuss future purchases and dream up those big financial goals together. After all, team work is dream work, right?
This was a great article, Dawn! When Jon and I got married I knew nothing about financial stuff, but Jon’s parents had been good money managers. So we just did things his way, and it turned out that we both were real compatible financially. We always thought it was important to live below our means so that we could save money. But we never really talked about money or argued about it which is kind of odd because I had always heard that that was a big problem in marriages. I think because we both got married so young, and I was still in college, neither of us had developed a spending style. Anyway, great article!