Money Matters: Do You And Your Partner Have The Same Values?
It’s a fact of life: it’s hard to talk about money. Add a romantic relationship to the equation, and the situation becomes even more taxing because. After all, while dual-earning couples may earn more money, spouses often bring debt from earlier in their lives to their marriage, and differing financial values can make it hard to set and achieve goals. That’s why it’s so important that couples learn to openly discuss finances, both in the practical and philosophical sense. Though it can be stressful, especially at first, over time you’ll reap the personal and financial benefits.
Open Up About Debt
While it may be considered ill-mannered to ask friends and acquaintances how much money they earn, talking openly about debt, even with those close to us, can be much harder. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to experience depression due to debt, feel anxiety at the prospect of spending money or trying to address their debt, or generally feel a great deal of shame about their financial past and prospects. Some kinds of debt, such as student loans, tend to be easier to talk about than others, like credit card debt.
For couples, talking about debt is important for several reasons. First, failure to open up about financial pressures can force people to hide in other ways, such as by canceling plans because they feel they can’t afford them. In the longer term, though, most couples at least partially combine their finances, and it’s important to decide together about how to manage pre-relationship debt based on other goals and financial concerns.
Focus On Financial Skills
Another major issue that couples face when trying to talk about financial issues is a disparity in financial knowledge, or at least perceived knowledge, which is why it often falls to one person to handle bills, investment decisions, and related issues. As a couple, though, it’s worth building these skills together and working as partners to make major financial decisions so that both people feel invested.
What does financial skill-building look like in practice? It might mean taking financial management classes together or researching car loans and interest rates as a couple. It may also mean asking questions about how your partner would handle a situation, such as an emergency expense or allocating an unexpected windfall, so that you can compare approaches. These steps can prevent long-term problems, such as one person feeling ill-equipped to handle household finances in an emergency, as well as mitigate trust issues.
Explore Your Goals
Talking about your financial past and ongoing issues can be challenging, but for couples, one of the most pressing issues involves discussing long-term financial goals and priorities, and this issue often comes up when planning a wedding. Is it important to you not to borrow money, even from family? Would you rather ask people to contribute to your honeymoon than give you gifts? These types of questions can provide initial insights into bigger concerns, like how or if you plan to save money towards buying a home, your retirement goals, and other major financial issues.
One thing to always keep in mind when talking to a partner about money is that there are hardly any right or wrong paths, only different strategies. That means that when you have different priorities or approaches, you need to talk them through carefully, explain how you arrived at your conclusions, and figure out how to proceed. As long as you’re honest with each other and willing to be vulnerable, you’ll be able to find a way to reach your goals together.