Most couples avoid talking about money. When done correctly, however, talking to your partner about personal finances can actually make you happier and bring you closer together.
Here are some tools on how to broach this critical subject with your partner, as well as my experience as a newlywed learning how to talk about money with my husband.
Let go and be transparent
Clear and honest communication about money gets you on the same page as your partner, and encourages a sense of empathy and teamwork within your relationship. A survey by CIBC found that a whopping 99% of couples believe it’s important to discuss how to manage finances together, but only 35% of those couples actually talk about money.
If you’re casually dating, it’s probably best to avoid talking about money until you’ve reached some level of exclusivity or commitment with someone. For those in a serious dating relationship, each person should have a general idea of what their partner earns and what their expenses are, in order to avoid unrealistic expectations or misunderstandings.
Married and common-law couples need to be totally honest about all aspects of money, but especially about debt, since 66% of people bring some form of debt into their relationship . The great news is that the more transparent you are with your partner about money, the less you’ll argue about it.
Don’t wait — talk about it before money stress crops up
Money affects nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives, so it’s no surprise that the stresses associated with it seep into our romantic lives. In fact, a survey by the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) found that 42% of Canadians listed money as their greatest source of stress. For those who are married, money problems are often cited as the leading cause of divorce — that’s why addressing money issues head-on is a critical part of a healthy, thriving, and long-lasting relationship.
Most people avoid talking about money because they feel like their financial status is a reflection of their self-worth. Nearly half of Canadians surveyed by the FPSC reported feeling embarrassed by a lack of control over their finances, so it’s no wonder most of us would rather talk about anything other than money.
For my husband and I, learning to discuss money matters in a productive way has been critical to the health and well-being our marriage. In fact, we began communicating openly about finances while we were still dating. Eventually, this became a habit which continued as we became engaged and came in extra handy during the wedding planning process. What’s normally a highly stressful season for most couples was made easier for us because we communicated frequently and remained transparent about our budget, our expectations, and what we could realistically afford.
As a result, we were able to cash-flow a $23,000 wedding in Toronto without having even one money fight during the whole 9-month engagement period. These positive results encouraged us to keep up the momentum after the honeymoon and pay off the remainder of our student loan and credit card debt. And, after a lot of hard work, communication, and patience, we managed to pay off $15,000 of debt in just five months, and have been completely debt-free ever since.
Work together. Co-operation is key
One of the most effective ways to foster healthy and productive communication about money is to create a budget together. Budgeting as a couple helps to align your long and short-term goals. Whether you want to start a family, buy a home, start a business, or travel the world, these shared dreams require communication and co-operation, which can lead to a greater sense of connection.
If you’re considerate of one another’s differences, understand when and how to bring up the money subject, align your goals, and work together to reach shared goals, the chances of your financial and relationship success are exponential.