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How to talk to your partner about money

Neli Mbara, Certified Financial Planner at Alexander Forbes says a healthy and successful relationship requires consistent effort from both parties, and for one to be fully present with their partner, they have to be willing to open that door and invite their partner into some of the most vulnerable and intimate details of their life. Below, Mbara has some advice on how to enjoy success in these often difficult money conversations with your spouse or partner:

The money conversation is one of those uncomfortable and difficult areas to navigate. We all have our own beliefs about money. These beliefs form the foundation of how we relate and communicate about money to others and ourselves.

Just like any other area of our lives, to enjoy success in the money conversation with your partner, you have to set goals and then be intentional and consistent to pursue them. How does one start to navigate this money topic in a relationship?

We often avoid the money discussions in our relationships

It is based on the fear of “putting pressure” on the relationship or the other person. If our beliefs and values differ fundamentally from our partners, it invites conflict. We must do the hard work to identify our own money values and align them with our partners. This will require transparency, effort and commitment from each party. The degree to which we align our money values will define the success or failure to achieve the money goals in your relationship.

Here are some guidelines that I have found to be useful in discussions involving money:

Establish a safe and no judgment space

Open yourself to your partner and be completely honest about your beliefs, fears and emotions towards money. This is indeed the first step to creating positive money values. Your past experiences will affect how you manage money. It is best to address these so that you can both establish what works best for you as a couple and align your money values.

Discuss individual money commitments and obligations

To get to where we want to be, we must start where we are presently. To create positive money qualities, each party must be willing to disclose their obligations such as debts and fixed expenses. It is difficult to reach common combined goals if individual goals are not broken down and addressed to align with the common goals.

Find common ground

What are those things that you agree on when it comes to your finances? It will also help to include items in your budget that you both enjoy and that connect you as a couple. Remember to be realistic with your budgeting; the aim of the budget is to get you to the desired end goal that benefits both of you.

Work on each other’s strengths

We each have unique strengths. One person might be good at making plans (creating saving plans) and the other might be good at implementing the plan (finding good deals, planning menus). Use your strengths to work for your relationship. If having a complicated budget creates conflict, simplify it and find ways to make it fun and easy to understand.

Set financial goals

This will require effort, as you need to know how much you both earn and can afford to spend. Setting financial goals will help you:

  • identify what you are working on as you plan to grow your finances
  • prepare for any changes that might come up as you will be somewhat prepared for the unexpected

If there is a large difference in earnings between your partner and yourself, this can cause issues over time as you make financial decisions and set goals. Remember to communicate your needs early to avoid later frustrations. Breaking down your goals between short-term and long-term goals will also help to ease the pressure and make them more attainable.

Review your plans

As we go through life changes, it is inevitable that our plans change too. Remember to review your plans so that they are aligned to your current circumstances.

There is no right or wrong way to discussing money in a relationship. Of course, the conversation you have in a new relationship will differ from how you would have it in a more committed or long-term one. At all times, you should keep your eye on the ultimate prize, which is to achieve those things that bring joy to both of you. Your future goals will require your full discipline.

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