Money is one of the major reasons couples fight. A study out of Utah State University found that couples who fight frequently about money are more likely to get divorced. That’s compared to any other issue they might fight about, child rearing, their love life and household chores (as an example.)
Before your relationship moves to a new level, for example marriage or moving in together, its important to have the money talk. It will help avoid it becoming an issue later. Your financial situation should be discussed openly and honestly. It can be an awkward conversation so here are my tips on how to get it started and what should be covered.
Set up the money chat
I wouldn’t recommend you spring the topic of money on to your partner out of the blue. Start the conversation by setting up a time to talk about your finances. Tell them how important it is to you that they know what your financial situation is, good and bad, and that you should both make time to talk about it. This way the other person has time to prepare their own financial information to tell you too. They might have some really bad debts and may need time to figure out a way to tell you about them. Make this an afternoon chat, preferably on a day when you’re both off. Try not to do it during an evening when you both have stuff going on the next day.
Talk about debt first
In my experience it’s always good to deal with the bad news first. So start with the debt. How much debt are you carrying and what kind of payments are you making everyone month to pay it off. It’s important that you and your partner both understand how each of you is working to get your debt down. It’s also important to explain how that debt came to be. Was it student debt or was it consumer debt racked up on a credit card or loan made for a business decision that didn’t work out. Your partner deserves to know what your attitude is when it comes to borrowing money. You should also be asking pointed questions. To not only understand how much debt your partner is in, but how they got into it in the first place.
Saving and income
It’s not polite to ask people how much they make or how much they have saved, but in this case those are the questions you should be asking your life partner. Salary, savings and debt are the three bits of financial information that help you determine realistic financial goals for your future together. Maybe your partner has no debt (awesome) but their salary is such that it barley covers their monthly expenses, that’s something you should know about. Also your partner may have a large amount of money saved in their RRSP, for example, but be carrying huge student loans. That is also something that you should know.
It’s vital that both you and your partner know exactly what financial situation each of you are in, but it’s also important to talk about the future. It’s not just about your current income and salary, but also where you forecast your job going and the salary and savings you expect to make. You should talk about what your individual financial goals are. Things like, do you plan to buy a house in the future, where do you imagine that house being. Talk even longer term, when do you plan to retire and what do you imagine that retirement to look like.
End on a positive note
After your talk try to do something just the two of you. Even it’s having a glass of champagne toasting to your healthy financial future, it’s important to seal this event with something positive. In Canada one of the major reason couples split up is over finances. I’m a personal finance expert not a relationship exert, but in my experience, being up front and honest about money will help your relationship grow and thrive.
Image Credit: Chad Raynard