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Financial Topics & Tips

How to Talk Money with Your Partner

What happens when you and your partner have different approaches toward money?   It's a common scenario.

One partner seemingly knows where every earned dollar goes, while the other is a carefree spirit who thrives on spontaneous decisions and purchases. One partner loves fine dining and thinks nothing of blowing $200 on haute cuisine, while the other is happy with pizza and would rather spend that money on another pair of shoes. And on it goes.

Money is personal. We all have our own ideas of how we think about it, spend it, save it and try to earn it. But, when you're sharing so much of your life with a partner, it's inevitable that your individual approaches toward money will sometimes clash.

How do you bring up this loaded topic without it spiraling into a heated argument?  
Read on for the 'ultimate guide' to discussing finances with your partner.

1.) Dedicate a time

Let your partner know you'd like to talk about money and, together, choose a time and place that works for both of you. Make it a time when you both can completely focus on the topic without distractions. Allow up to an hour for this discussion.

2.) Prepare your thoughts

There's no need to rehearse what you want to say, but it is important to prepare a mental list of topics you'd like to discuss. Include the basics, like budgeting, saving and sharing living expenses, along with any specific issues that are bothering you or that you'd like to change.

3.) Start with a vision

Don't jumpstart the discussion with accusatory statements like: "Do you realize you bought seven pairs of shoes this month?" or even, "I think we should stop eating out so often."

Instead, start with a vision or a goal. Here are a few to get you thinking: 

     •  Would you like to spend a month touring Europe?
     •  Wouldn't it be amazing to move out of this apartment and buy a home of our own?
     •  I'd love to retire at 55. Would you?
     •  I've always wanted to open my own business and be my own boss. Do you think that's possible?

Talking about future goals will set a positive tone for your conversation before you get into the nitty-gritty details.

4.) Attach monetary values to your goals

Now that you've shared your goals and dreams, you can start talking numbers. How much would it really cost to spend a month's vacation in Europe? How much would we need to save for a house in our neighborhood?

5.) Create a saving plan

You've got your numbers; now work out the plan!

Together with your partner, create a reasonable savings plan that will help you reach your shared goal. If you're saving for a vacation, a house or any other dream, work out how much money you'd need to put away each month, and how long it would take to reach your goal.

6.) Build a budget

You're ready to turn that dream into a reality. But first, you and your partner may need to trim some of the spending. Here's where you can gently discuss specific ways to cut back. Don't point fingers; give your partner the chance to admit to their own shortcomings and be honest about your own vices.

Together, work out a monthly budget that accounts for all of your expenses and your new savings goal.

If you want to create a detailed budget, now's a good time to get started. You'll need to begin tracking all your expenses for the next three months so you have a clear idea of your expenditures and income.

You can easily create a budget using a personal finance app like Mint, or just do it the old fashioned way, using a pen and a paper.  Having a clear idea of where your money is going will make you a conscious spender and a bigger saver.

7.) Discuss money management

If you aren't already sharing some expenses, now's the time to bring it up. There are no hard rules here; every couple has their own system.But,if you're living together, it makes sense to split some basic costs, like rent and food supplies. You may want to go 50/50 on this or make another arrangement that better suits your individual incomes.

At this time, consider linking one of your accounts or opening a shared account at [credit union.] We've got convenient checking and saving accounts to suit every preference. Just stop by and ask how we can help.

However you choose to manage your joint finances, be sure to keep at least one credit card open in your own name. It's important to establish your own credit history independent of your partner's. Otherwise, qualifying for later loans can be challenging due to a limited personal credit history.

8.) Recognize your partner's strength

When dividing financial responsibilities, assign appropriate tasks that play to each partner's strengths. Is your partner a stickler for dates and deadlines? Have them assume responsibility for paying the bills on time.

Are you a numbers freak? You might want to be in charge of managing your joint investments.

Is your partner the more thrifty shopper? Let them do the grocery shopping while you split the costs. 

Congrats! You've made it through the big money talk without any major fireworks! Now go and make those dreams happen!