Financial Wellness

How to Have A Meaningful Conversation about Joint Finances

Starting a financial conversation early can help avoid future conflicts about money.

Talking about money with your spouse may not sound exciting, but it is important for both your individual and joint financial stability. A lack of communication and planning now may lead to busted budgets and underfunded savings accounts in the future.

A couple and family’s shared financial goals, such as managing debt, preparing for retirement, buying or moving to a new home, and paying for your children’s college tuitions take time and planning. Along with organization of finances and a timeline, success in this requires candid and ongoing discussions.

Let's Talk About Our Finances

Use these 7 steps to help you get started.

1. Set a Time and Place

Having a conversation about financial goals will take longer than a commercial break. Make an appointment for your “money talk” with one another to discuss your finances, like budgeting, saving, spending habits, and future goals. Choose a time where you both can focus on the conversation without distractions.

2. Come Prepared

Learn each other's financial goals by outlining your financial plans. Be open and layout your financial past, how you've handled money, and whether you think you were raised with good financial habits. This will give you insight into the each other’s “money mindset.”

3. Listen, Ask Questions and Take Notes

After covering your financial past, discuss your present and future goals. Consider adopting joint goals for financial matters that affect housing, children and retirement.

If an issue requires more explaining, use this opportunity to go over details and ask questions until you understand the issue. Remember, you both need to be honest so that you can work on figuring out a way to compromise.

4. Think “We”

Share your values and what!s important to you regarding your finances. This will help your partner understand the motivations behind your spending decisions. Don’t assume that you know your partner’s spending motivations and priorities. Let them tell you.

5. Establishing a Joint Financial Plan

You've taken a big step to open the lines of communication around your finances. Expect that it will take more than one “money talk” to set your joint plan for your money.

  • Acknowledge that you will not agree on everything. So, start with a few things that you do agree on. For some couples that might mean using financial apps to organize spending. For others, this may mean choosing to give yourselves an allowance or setting ground rules, such as “purchases more than $500 should be a joint decision.”
  • A budget or spending plan are key tools. Your financial dreams are more likely to become reality with a plan for your goals and how to achieve them. Your plan should include some of each of your goals, show you both what you're working towards, and how much there is to spend, that all of your bills and debt payments are being taken care of, and what your future will look like.
  • Focus on progress, not perfection. There is no “one” right way to budget and manage money together. Draw on each other's strengths and work together; do what works best for the two of you. This will establish a foundation from which you can build and tweak at various life cycles.

6. Define What Debt-Proof Means in Your Relationship

Many couples say spending is the hardest to talk about with their spouse. This means being completely honest and upfront, sharing each other's credit card and bank account statements, and discussing debt and payments. Remember, your debt will affect your spouse too, especially if you have applied or are applying for jointly for loans.

7. Call for a Third-Party

Refer to a professional for financial matters that you may not understand. This can be helpful and is very common for items related to tax, investments and inheritance.

A happy financial future will not happen by default—plan for it! Your financial dreams are more likely to become reality with communication about your goals and a plan on how to achieve them together.