Discussing financial issues can be one of the main causes of arguments in a relationship. For some it is extremely uncomfortable. For others it has always been taboo to talk about money. And for some people money issues run bone deep and can be very difficult to talk about. Just know that most couples (if not all couples) experience tension around financial issues at some point in their relationship.
So what can you do about it?
Money Talks Rule #1 First of all, it is important to be open and honest. Discuss your values around money as well as your spending habits. You might be surprised to learn that you have different ideas about saving or spending or even making money. Be sure to listen as much as (or even more than) you talk.
Money Talks Rule #2 Next, make a list of the goals you’d like to reach, both in the short term and in the long term. You can then look at which goals do you share, which goals are complimentary, and which goals do you want to rethink. This will help start the conversation about where you are headed individually as well as together and how your finances need to line up with your plans.
Money Talks Rule #3 Finally, make some plans. If you don’t know where to start, here are a few tips that like to share with couples. These will give you a solid foundation to creating a healthy financial future together.
Walking the Walk: Beyond the Money Talk
Save a little every month.
Start a separate account just for savings Even if you contribute small amounts – $10, $20, $50 each month – it will add up. Most importantly, it will get you in the habit of saving. Once you save a little then you can invest it and watch your money grow. Setting yourself up to be in a good financial position for emergencies or retirement is just that easy.
Invest in yourself.
This is an important element to include in your financial plan. There are many ways to invest in yourself including your physical health, emotional health, career, education, creative pursuits, and special interests. It doesn’t always have to cost a lot but it should be in your budget. Putting your wellness first always pays off.
Have 3-6 Months in Savings.
Unexpected things can happen as we all learned in 2020. Whether it is a pandemic, a severe storm, illness, injury, job loss, or any other thing that can be thrown your way, if you have 3-6 months of basic living expenses in savings set aside, you will be able to weather the storm and figure out your next steps. This is a security net that everyone should have in place. It can be accumulated a little at a time.
You don’t not need too many lines of credit.
It is important to have at least one line of credit to build a credit history. I suggest keeping it simple. Maybe start with one credit card that you pay off each month. This will help you build a positive credit score while keeping you from overcharging or getting into too much debt. Credit card debt is easy to accumulate and hard to pay off.
Review your school loans.
Student loans can be debilitating. I have heard of couples delaying marriages out of concerns for their partners taking on their enormous student debt. While these loans can be overwhelming, they can also often be refinanced. If you haven’t reviewed your student loan payments and options in a while, it is time for a review. You might be surprised at what can be done with your payments to free up some cash and relieve some stress. Here’s a good video on college planning.
I suggest that you always treat your money conversations just like you would a business meeting. You can do this by keeping your focus practical and your emotions in check. Schedule a time once a week or once a month to discuss money. If it is hard at first, don’t worry. Be gentle with yourself and each other. Set a timer so you only have to talk for a short time and you can increase the time as you get more comfortable. Most importantly, don’t stop the conversation.
Before you know it, you will not only be easily and comfortably talking about money but you will also be building a strong foundation for a healthy financial future.