Ask couples what they fight about most, and money is sure to be mentioned often. Decades of research have shown that some of the most common clashes are over major purchases, decisions about finances and children, a partner’s spending habits, and investment choices.
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 with your partner are productive and—dare we suggest—maybe even something to look forward to.
Schedule Timed, Regular Meetings
Set aside time in your calendars to have a monthly conversation about all things money. 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 childcare, or creating a will. If you haven’t already, this is also a great time to make a monthly budget.
While these sessions may seem uncomfortable at first, streamlining your financial conversations may actually prevent them from creeping into the rest of your life.
One way to time-box the conversation is to set a timer and spend no more than 30 minutes having an honest discussion about your finances. Once the timer goes off, go back to being a regular couple, knowing that there’s a special time and place for this type of a conversation.
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. Being open with each other is key to having financial success.
If your partner is shy or tends to get defensive, it might help to 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. “So, I realize I blow $150 on a massage every month that I don’t technically need but am totally addicted to. What about you?” This can open up a dialogue about what’s important to each of you, and what expenses may be easy to curtail. (How about a massage every other month instead?)
Let Go of Resentment
Financial inequity between partners—say, if one person has a lot of debt or there’s a large disparity between incomes—can be a common source of tension.
If you feel like one person’s debt is holding you both back, remember that it doesn’t have to last forever. There are many strategies for paying off debt—talking it through will help you find the right path for you both. You might also decide to meet with a financial advisor who can help you prioritize, budget, and sometimes even refinance to break even faster.
In cases of income disparity, it may help to reframe each partner’s contribution to the household. Yes, one person may bring in more (or all) of the household income, but be clear on the non-monetary intangibles that the other person is contributing. Cooking, cleaning, watching the kids, caring for aging relatives—these duties all add up and represent what each of you is bringing to the household.
Create incentives to stick with your financial meeting schedule. Maybe that means taking your laptops to your favorite coffee shop, or treating yourselves to a movie night afterward.
Another idea is to reward yourselves as a couple after you hit a predetermined financial goal or milestone. For example, every month you successfully increase your emergency fund by a target amount, you might choose to enjoy a nice restaurant meal.
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.
The best way to take the sting out of discussing finances with your partner is to make it a regular part of your life together. Scheduling time to talk monthly (or whatever cadence works for you) allows you to save that time for money talk, and get back to the fun of living your lives together the rest of the time. And make it fun—build in little incentives to stick with your regular financial check-in.
One topic of discussion that might come up during monthly money talks? Investing. SoFi Invest® might be a great place to start—members can trade stocks, ETFs, and crypto, and participate in upcoming IPOs at IPO prices, or start automated investing.
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