We’ve already written about how having shared goals will help defuse money fights.
If you’ve been chugging along like most people, struggling to pay bills, worrying about your job, and trying to figure out how you can afford a house, the idea of picturing an idyllic dream-come-true situation in the future might seem a bit…unrealistic.
“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time” – Zig Ziglar, motivational speaker and author
Goals are important. Think of everything you’ve ever accomplished in your life. Whether it was in school, in your career, sports, or whatever, you probably had a clear idea of what success looked like before you got there.
Seeing the goal is equally important with your partner. Knowing where you’re both going will keep you motivated and excited, and help you make difficult decisions that threaten to sidetrack you.
Step 1: Take Stock Of Your Current Situation
You have to know where you are before you can know how to get where you want to go. Make a list of things like:
- All Debts
- All sources of saving
- Salaries and sources of income
Step 2: Establish Some Boundaries
This being a website dedicated to getting rid of debt, a good first boundary would be “no more borrowing money”. This becomes an operating principle that both of you understand implicitly moving forward. Then, when you hear about that amazing investment opportunity from your sketchy uncle who “has a really good feeling about this one” and you don’t have the cash, you won’t have to have a conversation about taking out a loan to go for “such a sure thing”.
Think of other baseline principles you have and make sure your spouse is on-board. Think about other situations like borrowing money from family, gambling, tax evasion, etc.
Whatever you can think of to make sure you’re on the same page will help with both your goal setting and your execution down the road.
Step 3: Start Thinking Long-term
Get out some notepads, spreadsheets, or non-permanent markers and some windows (the non-permanent part is important) and start thinking about what you want your life to look like in 10, 15, and 25 years.
Are you on the same page as your partner? You might have to have several conversations about your respective visions. Try to compromise, keep some things open-ended, etc., but generally come up with a path you can work towards.
Make sure to include things like:
- Your debt goals
- Saving goals (Retirement, school for kids, etc.)
- Things you want to buy (Nice car, boat, condo in Florida, etc.)
- Things you want to do (Travel, live abroad, learn how to renovate a house, etc.)
- Your living situation (Do you want to own a home, live on a yacht, etc.)
- Kids (Do you both want kids? No kids? Open to adopt? Etc.)
Step 4: Short-term Goals
Now that you have an idea where you want to go, you can start working backwards. To reach your 10 year goal, where will you have to be in 5 years? To reach that, where should you be in 3 years? What about next year?
As you get closer to today, you can start breaking down specific goals. If your goal for next year is to pay off all your credit cards, you can drill down and list each one you have, how much you owe, and make a plan to reach your goal.
Be as detailed as possible. Are your goals achievable? If not, should you change your goals, or figure out how to accelerate your situation somehow?
Aiming With A Target
Once you’ve gone through this process, you should be in a great position. Take that image of your future, put your arm around your partner, and grin a little, knowing you’re one step closer to it.
Having a shared target means one of you won’t be aiming in the opposite direction. If your 1-year target is to pay off your credit cards, then it should be an easier conversation when one of you suggests buying that couch on a payment plan.
Above all, remember that money conversations should be had facing the same direction – towards your goal, and not in each other’s faces, as at least one of you will be facing the wrong way.