If you’re just starting to date, there’s a lot of learning that happens: favorite genre of music, what you like to do on the weekends, and what your career goals are. While it might not be a first date question to ask about outstanding debt or long-term savings plans, it is critical that finances are a part of the conversation.
Having the confidence to ask about finances (and the competence to know when is the right time to do so) can help you and your partner open up to and support one another in different ways.
Here’s how to talk about money in a relationship and why it’s absolutely crucial.
Why You Should Talk About Money Before Marriage
Just because talking about something may feel awkward doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It’s uncomfortable for nearly everyone to talk about money or personal financial goals. But the truth is: it can be an obstacle for couples that will impact their relationship down the road.
According to CNBC, the leading cause of stress in relationships is finances, followed by annoying habits (although those can sometimes be one in the same).
Talking about money out in the open can help you understand potential issues that you may face down the road and help you determine similarities. By establishing these things you can figure out where you need to compromise with each other and if you are personally comfortable making those compromises.
How To Talk To Your Spouse About Money
Before you start talking about money with your partner, it’s important that you first understand your own attitude toward money—including your financial goals, your daily habits, and if you’re a risk-taker or someone who likes to be cautious with investments.
After you know your own answers, you can start to move forward with the conversation with at least a starting point.
Here are a few of our favorite money management for couples tips:
- Start slow
You don’t need to ask every single question right out of the gate. Start with the big, general questions at first and then slowly make your way toward more specific ones.
- Be honest
This one is important. Be willing to tell the truth no matter what the question is! Just like any facet of a relationship, total honesty is absolutely crucial to the overall success of your partnership. Even if you’re unhappy with your answers, lying about your finances doesn’t help anyone in the long run—especially yourself.
- Don’t force your opinion
Maybe you feel like you have the whole financial planning thing down to a T. Unfortunately, understanding your finances and understanding how to financially plan as a couple are two totally different things.
A lot of times, there’s not a right or a wrong answer to the question, “how should married couples handle finances?” So, go into the conversation with an open heart and an open mind, knowing that their answer isn’t wrong just because it isn’t the same as yours.
- Find your shared values
Do you both care about family or want to retire early? Or maybe you both love expensive coffee or want to eat very healthily. When you find your shared values, you start to understand that there are a lot of ways that finances play into your couples finances.
Maybe you’ll have to learn to meet in the middle on some values, but most of the time you’ll be surprised by how much you have in common and how that can expedite and strengthen your financial security.
- Focus on each other’s strengths
We all have things that we’re not proud of when it comes to money. Some people tend to spend money emotionally or others can be too practical in the moment. We are all human.
What you need to remember is that, even amidst the weaknesses, there are likely strengths that your partner has that offset your weaknesses. That’s why it’s called a partnership. Let your strengths be the key differentiators when trying to figure out what makes sense in your financial partnership.
What Financial Questions To Ask Before Marriage
Here are a few questions you can ask to get the financial conversation started with your significant other:
- Do you monitor your credit score often?
While not monitoring their credit report shouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker, it will help you determine how serious they take personal finance. It also may give you insight into how orderly they are as a person.
- What kind of financial obligations do you have? (student loans, credit cards, mortgage, child support/alimony, etc.)
Remember that you’ll take on many of these financial obligations when you get married and will have to budget accordingly.
- Do you have a backup plan or an emergency fund?
Are they someone that plans financially or do they budget by the seat of their pants? This question can tell you a lot about a person’s financial situation.
- How would you spend a $1,000 tax refund?
Would they put it in savings? Pay for a home upgrade? Blow it on clothes? Knowing how someone would spend a tax refund might speak to their priorities or how frivolous they are with money.
- Do you want to have children?
Obviously this is a question that speaks to many aspects of a relationship, but children are expensive! Knowing how many they want (if any) is extremely important for financial planning as a couple.
- Do you want to combine finances or have separate ones?
There’s no right or wrong answer to “should you combine finances after marriage.” But if you’re on different pages about this, you will need to figure that out sooner rather than later.
- What are your future goals within your career?
Maybe they want to become CEO but that involves moving to a new state. Or they plan on staying in the same role for the long-term. Either way, knowing this can help you see your financial future more clearly.
For most of these questions, the only wrong answer is not telling the truth. Building financial trust in a relationship is just as important as intimacy. When asking (or answering) these questions, be willing to listen to each other without judgment or expectations. Try to avoid scrutinizing their financial habits without first understanding the entire picture.
Consider Financial Planning Resources For Couples
So now that you know why you should talk about finances in your relationship, what questions to ask your partner about finances, and how to talk about money in your marriage—it’s time to actually do it.
If that sounds easier said than done, you’re not alone. That’s why we offer our money management for couples course: MPowered Couple. This online personal finance course helps you and your partner understand both where you’re starting and where you’re going as a couple in regards to your finances.
And we do it all with empathy, respect, and research-based facts. Learn more about our financial planning course for couples today!