Talking about money with your partner can be awkward, but it's necessary. Taking the next step with your partner is an exciting time, but don’t do so without talking about money first! Money is an uncomfortable topic for many people, but it is essential for any long-term relationship. Studies have shown that money is the top reason why couples fight and a leading cause of divorce. The more you start talking openly with your partner, the easier it will get. If you are conversing with your significant other about the future, children, religion, dream houses, etc., you definitely need to have conversations about your finances and future goals as well. Here’s how to get started.
Schedule Money Dates
Plan “money dates” with your partner, which are open conversations to better understand each other’s current financial situation, feelings about money, and priorities for the future. Set these dates in advance to give each other time to prepare and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Important topics include:
- Saving and investments
- Debt, such as credit cards, student loans, car loans, etc.
- Credit scores
- Budgeting strategies
- Current or expected large expenses
- Employer benefits, such as retirement plans, health insurance and vacation time
- What’s important to you about money?
- What were your experiences growing up with money?
Don’t forget to share any future financial goals as well, such as:
- Career growth or taking time off
- Saving for a house, wedding, travel, children, etc.
- Paying off debt
- Investing for a desired retirement age and lifestyle
- Taking care of family members
You do not have to cover all of these topics at once, so take your time and schedule reoccurring money dates, such as weekly or monthly, to keep the conversations going. Make the dates fun by adding your favorite coffee or wine and planning an activity you both enjoy after. Remember to be open-minded, honest, and avoid any judgment so that you and your partner can plan a stronger financial future together.
Determine How You Will Split Expenses
Once you both have a good understanding of each other’s current financial picture and priorities, you will want to decide how you are going to share costs and fund joint goals. Start by determining which expenses will be shared. This may include groceries, rent, and entertainment costs, but not clothing, gym memberships, or individual debt payments. Consider how you will fund large expenses, such as travel, furniture, and/or a wedding.
Some couples split expenses 50/50; however, that may not be fair if each partner’s income is not equal. It may make more sense to split expenses based on the proportion of each partner’s income. To do the math, add all income together. Divide one partner’s income by the total household income to get the percentage that person should contribute toward shared costs. Multiply that percentage by the total amount of agreed-upon shared expenses for the month.
For example, if Partner A makes $60,000 and Partner B makes $40,000, their total household income is $100,000. Partner A would be responsible for 60% of shared expenses and Partner B for 40%. If total shared expenses for the month were $4,000, Partner A would pay $2,400 and Partner B $1,600. Any income not used toward shared expenses could be used toward each partner’s individual expenses and goals.
Also, discuss if and when the right time is to open joint accounts — such as bank accounts and credit cards — and how they will be used. For instance, will you pay all expenses from the joint account and keep separate bank accounts for personal expenses? If one partner has significant amounts of debt (a.k.a. student loans), establish how that will impact the split of expenses.
Keep Frequent and Open Communication
Money conversations can be stressful and downright awkward, so be patient and kind to your partner. The more you talk about money, the easier it gets. You may not be on the same page after the first conversation, but after several talks, you can work to align your financial values. Don’t wait until a problem arises to have a discussion. Plan your money dates in advance and often.
The key is to understand your income coming in, how expenses will be paid and use extra dollars to fund your financial goals as a team. Both partners should be educated on their finances and play a role in all joint financial decisions. Your relationship will be stronger and less stressful because of it.