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How to Make Talking About Finances Fun, Not a Fight

February 13, 2018 · 5 minute read

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How to Make Talking About Finances Fun, Not a Fight

Do you find yourself bickering with your babe about budgets or credit card points? Rest assured: You’re not the only ones mad over money.

Almost one-third of couples—31%—fight about finances at least once a month, according to an Ameriprise Financial study . Some of the most common clashes are over major purchases, decisions about finances and children, a partner’s spending habits, and investment choices.

Sound familiar? While dealing with money isn’t always easy, it doesn’t have to drive a wedge in your relationship. These strategies will ensure your financial discussions are productive and (gasp!) maybe even something to look forward to.

Schedule Timed, Regular Meetings

Set aside time in your calendar to have a once-a-month conversation about all things money, advises SoFi Certified Financial Planner Alison Norris. That’s a good amount of time to judge progress because you’ll have paid monthly bills and have gotten a couple of paychecks since your last sit-down.

At the meetings, plan to review your net worth (everything you own minus everything you owe) and cash flow (what money is coming in, being spent, and being saved), and track headway toward any joint financial goals, like buying a house, saving for daycare or a nanny, or creating a will.

If you’re already dreading these sessions, keep in mind that, done right, they can actually streamline your financial conversations and prevent them from creeping into the rest of your life. “If financial debates edge into your one-on-one time, set a timer and spend no more than 30 minutes having an honest discussion about your finances.

When the timer goes off, agree to not talk about finances until the next meeting and go back to being a regular couple, knowing that there’s a special time and place for this type of a conversation,” says Norris. “The trick is boxing it in and treating it almost like a business meeting.”

If you can’t swing monthly meetings, then shoot for quarterly, biannual, or at least annual sit-downs—anything is better than nothing.

Make It a No-judgment Zone

These types of conversations can get very personal, and it’s important to make sure that you don’t judge your partner’s choices. After all, you wouldn’t want the same done to you. “We’re human and we all have our vices,” says Norris.

When you make the other person feel guilty, they’re less likely to share anything that makes them feel even remotely uncomfortable with you again, and being open with each other is key to having financial success.

If your partner is shy or tends to get defensive, it’s a great idea to lead the way and start things off by revealing a spending habit that you’re not proud of. This might encourage your partner to reciprocate. You can even keep things light by making a joke about it. “Ready for my biggest financial faux pas? I blow $150 on a massage every month that I don’t technically need but am totally addicted to. What about you?”

Let Go of Resentment

Norris says that two of the most common sources of tension in a relationship are when one person has a lot of debt or when there’s a large disparity between incomes. If you’re madly in love and want to be with this person in the long term, these are the types of issues that you’ll need to accept and work past together.

If you feel like one person’s debt is holding you both back, remember that it doesn’t have to last forever. Schedule a meeting with a financial advisor who can help you come up with a plan to knock it out. Especially when you’re dealing with multiple types of debt that have different interest rates (like credit card debt and student loan debt), a planner can help you prioritize, budget, and sometimes even refinance to break even faster.

When it comes to an income disparity, that may or may not disappear, you can learn to change the way you think about it. “The person with the higher income or the sole breadwinner may feel that they’re more valuable or that they should have more control over the finances because they’re the only one bringing in the money, but they’re forgetting about the intangibles that the other person is contributing,” says Norris.

“With one couple I worked with, the wife was a homemaker and she wrote down the market rates for all of her services—cooking, cleaning, watching the kids—and how many hours she spent doing each task each week and then presented the exact numbers to her husband.

She said, ‘You can consider this my income, because this is what you’re saving by having me around.’ And he was surprised to see everything she did listed out like that and what it was worth, numerically speaking. It was a reminder of how much they’re both bringing into the relationship.”

Reward Yourselves

Do whatever you can that will entice you to go through with each financial meeting. Maybe that means making homemade mimosas or bringing home a box of doughnuts before you begin talking, taking your laptops to your favorite coffee shop, or going to a movie after. (You could even create a competition to see who can come up with the silliest, funniest name to call the meeting on your shared Google calendar.)

Another idea is to reward yourselves as a couple after you hit a predetermined financial goal or milestone. “I worked with a couple that would never go out to eat until they increased their emergency fund by $500 each month. Every time they did, they’d treat themselves to whatever type of cuisine they were in the mood for,” says Norris.

Of course, you don’t want to break the bank with a lavish reward, especially if you’re trying to save more, but even a free indulgence—like a walk around your favorite lake after the discussion—can be effective. Just make it something that you both enjoy (bonus points if it’s something that you don’t do all the time so it feels extra special). That way, you’ll look forward to it.

Need some extra help talking finances—or just want an unbiased third party to weigh in? SoFi can help. Set up a complimentary appointment with one of our licensed financial advisors, who can help you and your partner plot your path forward.


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