By Benjamin Temin
Welcome back for Part 2 of our series having conversations about money with ourselves and people we love. In Part 1 , we discussed the importance of self-reflection and knowledge of one’s own money habits and influences. This installment is going to expand on that and address talking with your partner about money – date night, anyone?
I want to break this topic into two relationship statuses. First, new relationships where partners can start to have healthy conversations about money while they build trust and communication and consider a life together. Then, more established relationships where couples can get on the same page, stay connected to what is happening with their money, and evaluate whether their values and goals are reflected in their spending and saving habits.
For new couples, even if not outwardly discussed, money contributes to the dynamic right from the start. Think about subtly negotiating who picks up the tab at dinner and deciding what kinds of activities are of interest to do. However, it is a good idea to gently bring up and be open with your financial situation. Casual topics that may come up could include:
- How you have spent money in the past – on yourself and on others
- What your current budget looks like and your preferences for managing your money
- What big ticket or wish list items are on the horizon
- Where you see yourself financially in the next 5, 10, 20 years
As these conversations become a bit more involved, topics may include:
- If you have any debt and if so, what kind
- How the financial dynamics of your upbringing impact your attitudes about and habits with money
- How you feel about lending money to friends and family
These conversations and topics might feel uncomfortable at first, but they are critical in building trust and intimacy into a maturing relationship.
In a marriage or more committed relationship, talking about money is best done in a regular, structured way – think of it as a financial date night! Make sure you are in a comfortable environment clear of distractions and try to have a topic or two prepared. Generally, the goal is to review and evaluate your financial picture or budget, which helps keep you on the same page when it comes to shared finances. It can be a time to set specific roles or responsibilities and set goals for the household. It should be forward focused, ending with action steps, even small ones.
As in every important conversation, healthy communication skills are key. Remember to:
- Give full attention and listen when the other is talking so that each side feels heard and acknowledged
- Be respectful and try and empathize with each other
- Lean on each other for emotional and practical support for these financial tasks
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes as this is a learning process that will take time to get comfortable with
Finally, recognize that this may be harder for some than others. Seek help from a therapist or financial coach if it feels like too much to handle on your own. If you both are confused, take classes on personal finance through your bank or credit union and learn together. The Cash Campaign of Maryland has great classes to help build your financial IQ. Having these conversations can make a good relationship even better and be an important part of financial wellness in your life and the lives of those closest to you.
In Part 3 of our series, we’ll talk about engaging your kids with money, so stay tuned!
Benjamin Temin is a Coordinator for Economic Sufficiency at Jewish Community Services
JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.