Compatibility is an important ingredient in most successful life relationships. In order to make things work together, you and your partner need to be able to see eye to eye on some pretty serious stuff, including how to handle money.
Discussing savings plans and investment options isn’t exactly the most romantic material, so it can often be a challenge to have the money talk with your spouse or partner. It’s even harder for couples whose financial philosophies don’t entirely line up, or those who argue about money matters.
Of course, bickering or burying the problem won’t make it go away – at some point, you and your partner will have to work out your financial differences. Here’s some advice on how to make that happen as smoothly as possible.
Build mutual understanding by addressing the roots of your financial feelings
Imagine you’re a saver and your partner is a spender. Instead of getting bent out of shape by the other person’s financial preferences, focus on understanding what drives them.
The best place to start is by talking about what we learned about money matters from our parents, or other financial lessons learned in childhood. The way we were raised is a big contributor to how we handle money, so build an understanding of how your partner’s ‘financial feelings’ came to be.
In some instances, current-day conditions may be having an impact on financial behaviour. Your partner may be spending money on a new hobby or activity they enjoy or saving for something they’ve long wanted. Whatever the situation, understanding why your partner acts the way they do will help you resolve any issues.
Understand where your partner is right now
When one partner earns significantly more than the other it can lead to different behaviours and disagreements. Likewise, if one partner has a different debt load than the other, the imbalance can be problematic.
Some couples address their income inequality by having the higher-earning partner pay a bigger proportional share of all expenses, rather than splitting costs down the middle.
When debt is the issue, decide whether you’re going to combine forces to address it. Teaming up together can help eliminate debts sooner, but the essential element is understanding where debts come from and cutting out any wasteful spending habits that may be causing them.
Find common ground, focus on the essentials first, and allow room for freedom
You and your partner may feel as though you’re on opposite ends of the financial philosophy spectrum, so find some common ground to start from. Focus on paying off all your bills every month and choose a modest, agreeable amount to commit to long-term savings.
As much as possible, let one another do what each wants to do with their share of what’s left over once those basic financial obligations are met. If one partner wants to spend some cash while another stashes away extra savings, each person should be comfortable with those choices.
Add some fun to your financial conversations, but don’t forget to tackle big questions
Some couples who find it hard to talk about finances try to make things easier by scheduling date nights to discuss money matters. Combining the chat with another fun activity, such as a meal or an activity, can make the whole matter a little more appealing.
When the money talk happens, it’s important to be honest, open, and establish important long-term financial goals and expectations that you both feel good about working towards. Maybe you want to be able to afford a special trip down the line or are eager to help pay for your children’s post-secondary education. Work together to understand each other’s hopes and dreams and establish a financial road map that can help each of you achieve what you want with your money, and your life.