By Abbey L. Henderson, CFP®, RLP®, CPCC®
As a financial life planner, there are times when I can feel the tension in the room when a couple doesn’t see eye-to-eye on a financial decision. Financial planning for couples can be difficult, especially since many couples simply don’t know how to talk to each other about money… so they avoid the subject. Then they walk into my office not realizing how completely out of sync they are with each other!
This is an important issue to address, not only when it comes to financial planning for couples but for day-to-day living as well. According to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis, money issues are the third leading cause for divorce!
So, it’s obvious that learning how to talk about money as a couple is paramount to a successful relationship. But how is it done? Over the years, I’ve seen that couples who follow the following four secrets have more constructive, positive interactions about money with their partners:
Start the conversation off right
Your mindset as you go into the discussion can have a huge impact on the end result. I found it fascinating that John Gottman, an acclaimed relationship researcher, asserts that 96% of the time one can predict the end of a conversation by how it begins. So start the conversation on a reasonable, diplomatic note and you’ll reap the benefits.
Try to maintain an attitude of openness and curiosity. Instead of trying to change your partner’s mind, endeavor to see their point of view. Actually listen to what your partner has to say, without interrupting.
Discuss your financial philosophy and background
Knowledge of your partner’s financial past and philosophy can be enlightening. Were your spouse’s parents frugal spenders? Was money a taboo subject in their family? How much money did your spouse have growing up?
It’s also important to talk through your adult financial history. Often, couples will keep money, debt, or expensive charges hidden, but keeping financial secrets from your partner is never a good idea. When the other partner inevitably finds out, it can drive a wedge into the relationship, leading to guilt and a lack of trust.
Everyone has their own “style” of money management—learn your partner’s. Are they misers, spenders, or amassers? This understanding will help you to work better as a couple working on a reasonable financial plan together.
Explore your spouse’s life vision
Do you know what your spouse really wants out of life? You should because your life vision, not just your goals, should drive your financial plan. This approach allows you to focus on the “why” behind your decisions and it gives you permission to go beyond run-of-the-mill solutions and really tap into what you truly desire.
When it comes to financial planning for couples, you both want to be aware of each other’s life visions. A couple that acknowledges and respects each other’s hopes and dreams will have a more successful relationship and a brighter financial future. So take the time to have these deeper conversations together.
Financial expectations and priorities shift (and you need to talk about it)
Life happens and your vision may change. Make sure that you communicate this change with your partner. It’s a good idea to sit down at least once a year and discuss what future you are working towards—you need to be on the same page.
If you follow these secrets it will not only make financial planning much easier, your entire relationship will benefit as well. Of course, financial planning for couples is easier said than done. And for some enlisting the help of a third party is the way to go. Could you use some help in working through some sticky financial issues with your partner? Click here to explore financial life planning options. Or feel free to schedule a complimentary Financial Life Plan Discovery Session with me to learn how to make your life vision work within your relationship.