You’re having a nice evening together. Maybe the sun has set already and you’ve just finished dinner. That’s when your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, or partner decides to bring up the most awkward topic of the century–finances. Ugh. Why now? Why ever, for that matter?!
In serious relationships, many people try to avoid talking about money for as long as they can. With someone as important as your significant other, though, this can turn out to be disastrous. Discussing your financial life and goals can help both of you plan better for the future, especially if you live together (or ever plan to do so). Read on for a few tips for on how to navigate your discussion in a productive and respectful way.
Take It in Stages
Of course, how much information the two of you share will depend on your relationship status—that’s okay! If you’ve only just started dating and don’t live together, you may not want to share much, and it’s good to be a bit cautious at the outset of a new relationship. You can still talk about money in general ways to find out more about how your partner views financial success. It’s totally fine to keep the conversation broad. On the other hand, if you’re engaged or moving in together….you should probably both know quite a bit more about your individual and shared finances than a newly-dating couple.
Struggling for what to say? Here are some general questions you can ask, even when you’re dating someone new:
Do you believe it is easy to save money? Why or why not?
What are your financial goals? Where do you want to be in ten years?
Do you think money can buy happiness?
Should people save a lot for retirement, or enjoy more of their money today?
What do you think is a smart investment?
What is your opinion on debt?
You can still have a meaningful conversation while keeping things general and comfortable for everyone, so don’t push too hard at first. People can be shy about discussing their personal finances and it’s not always easy, especially for young adults.
Share Your Values and Views
Talking finances means more than just sharing financial details. Your partner should know your values around money too. How you view money, what you think it should be spent on, and how you plan to use it in the future are all important ideas for a couple to share. It also helps your partner get to know you a lot better! If you start planning a long-term future together this can help to shape that conversation too.
Be Honest and Upfront
Whatever you do, be open about your views on finance, particularly in a long-term or committed relationship. Avoid lying to your partner about your cash, debt, or views. It can only hurt later when the truth comes out. A shared loan application, for instance, could bring out all the ugly details later and end up embarrassing you when you least expect it. Fine for a sitcom, but not for your real life!
As you discuss your future (and present!), talk about the finances that can make it a reality, and remember that holding information back here might not exactly pay off later either. Communication is key to keep things on track.
Support and Encourage
Of course, once you start talking more about money, don’t use it as an opportunity to discourage your significant other. Support and encourage them even if you have disagreements. Find ways you can work together to grow your finances. Take advantage of your shared financial strengths and be open to new ideas yourself.
Be a team, and it may just get a little easier to have that money conversation on a regular basis.