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How Can I Communicate with My Partner About Money?

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Money can be a major source of arguments in even the best relationship. Often, couples aren’t open with one another about their spending habits or aren’t clear about their personal financial goals. If your partner’s money habits are significantly different from your own, financial conversations may cause stress, lead to arguments or fail to happen at all.

If you can learn to listen to and understand how your spouse feels about money and how those feelings may affect their saving or spending habits, you’ll be more likely to build a financially secure partnership.

1. Be clear about the role money plays in your life and your relationship

Is your spouse a spender or a saver? What about you? Sit down with your partner and be prepared to answer the following questions honestly:

  • How much money do I need to live comfortably?
  • What do I want and need in terms of housing, children, travel and career opportunities?
  • With what level of debt am I willing to live?
  • What is my philosophy about using credit cards?
  • What experiences from my past affect the way I view money and its role in a relationship?
  • Who handled finances in my parents’ relationship? What worked or didn’t work for them?

It’s important to know not only your own answers, but also where your partner stands on these questions. More importantly, be able to note the instances where the two of you agree or disagree and the reasons behind any discrepancies.

2. Schedule a meeting with your partner to discuss – and agree on – overall goals for financial responsibility in your relationship

When you have your answers to the questions outlined above, meet with your partner to discuss why you each feel the way you do. While it’s unlikely that the two of you will see eye to eye on every point, you may find that there are certain financial issues on which you’re willing to compromise. On points where you aren’t able to meet in the middle, keeping in mind why your partner feels the way they do about money will make it easier to anticipate and understand the disagreements.

There are, however, some issues that you will almost certainly have to agree on in order to move forward successfully. These may include:

  • How will we make decisions about major purchases?
  • Who will handle bill paying?
  • How will we work through disagreements about finances?
  • How will we allow individual freedom for purchases?
  • What structure will we set up for managing finances? Will we use joint accounts, separate accounts, or a mix of joint and separate accounts?

3. Create shared long-term goals

While you need to acknowledge one another’s differences, it’s equally important to talk about what the two of you want to accomplish together down the road.

Long-term goals can help unite couples with different spending styles by providing a middle ground. For example, if you agree that you both need to save $650 a month so that you can live comfortably in retirement, the partner who likes to save will feel good about the progress you’re making together. However, once that shared goal is met each month, there should be agreed-upon room for spending, which will appeal to the partner with more relaxed spending habits.

These shared long-term goals provide a way to work together and bring you closer, and the positive feelings that result make it easier to compromise.

4. Do not discuss long-term financial matters in the heat of an argument

Hopefully, you and your partner will be able to manage your discussion calmly, but if an argument occurs, it’s important to keep a level head. With emotions running high, you run the risk of saying something you’ll regret later.

If you feel yourself getting sidetracked and the conversation becomes contentious, do your best to avoid a fight and go back to tips 1 and 2. Always try to keep your partner’s needs and relationship with money in the back of your mind.

Money often represents larger issues in a relationship such as control or stability, which is one reason financial disagreements can be so stressful. It’s rarely just about money. If you find yourself getting upset, think about what’s causing your negative feelings and do your best to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. You may both be angry but for different reasons. Understanding why can help you resolve the issue and communicate effectively again.

5. Be proactive with communication

Whenever possible, discuss financial needs and wants before they reach a boiling point. If you have the foresight, it’s best to cover money issues at the beginning of your relationship, before you run into trouble.

If you’ve been with your partner for a long time, consider taking a fresh look at your finances. Do you need to plan for any upcoming expenses? Do you have any looming decisions to make concerning your retirement or insurance needs? If you can handle problems before they reach a critical point, you’re less likely to feel pressured into a decision you’re ill-prepared to make.

Addressing financial issues and asking questions regularly, calmly and with mutual understanding will help you make sound decisions, including managing a monthly budget, buying or refinancing a home, and investing in long-term savings programs at work.

It’s not always easy to compromise when it comes to finances. Understanding and mutual respect are important when discussing money and will put you and your partner in a better position to keep the peace, even if you don’t always agree.

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