Over the years, I have worked with numerous couples on their joint finances. It has always been amazing to me how many partners are not on the same page regarding their financial situation. In these instances, there is usually one spouse who is in charge of the money in the family, while the other one does not fully understand the family’s financial state. I have often found that women have a tendency to feel awkward or nervous about bringing up financial matters. However, being proactive with your partner when it comes to talking about money not only helps you grow together financially, but also allows you to better achieve your long-term goals as a couple. Use these five key strategies for having a productive financial conversation as a couple.
1. Always schedule a date to discuss your finances. Regardless of who is responsible for paying the monthly expenses, it is important to periodically schedule time to talk with your significant other about where you are financially. Here are examples of what to talk about during varying intervals:
- Monthly: Every month you should review your income and expenses to determine if you are on track with your spending plan. You can easily keep track of this type of information by using a personal finance program such as Quicken or Mint.
- Quarterly: When it comes time for your quarterly review, be sure to look at any 401(k), IRA, or brokerage account statements. Additionally, check your progress toward your goals. For example, if you are trying to pay down debt or achieve a savings goal, it will help keep you motivated to see that you are making progress.
- Annually: In terms of annual progress, review your strategies to see if they are working or if they need to be adjusted in order to reach your goals. If you are working with a financial advisor, schedule a meeting.
2. Understand each other’s perceptions. We have all heard the saying “opposites attract.” This can also be true in how couples approach their money. What happens when you are the saver and your partner likes to spend? It is important to understand each other’s perceptions and beliefs about money so that you can come to mutual solutions.
3. Plan your goals together. You should both have an understanding of the family finances to be able to set goals as a couple. You need to be on the same page regarding both spending and budgeting. Even though you and your partner may have different target dates for retirement, you should be in agreement about what your major life goals are and how much of the household budget you will be saving toward them.
4. Make a list of financial items you each need to know. If there was an emergency, would both of you be able to locate your important papers and have a handle on the family finances? In addition, make sure you are both protected financially in case something happens to one of you. You should each be able to step in and be knowledgeable about everything from the monthly budget to insurance to investments, at any point in time. It is also helpful to create a financial folder with a list of important items, such as account names and numbers, contact information, insurance policies, etc., so all of your information is in one location.
5. Schedule a meeting with a financial expert. If you and your partner can’t seem to see eye to eye when it comes to finances, or if the process seems overwhelming, it may benefit you to seek professional help. A CFP professional can help you:
- Identify and set realistic goals and objectives
- Evaluate your current financial situation
- Develop a comprehensive plan to meet your financial goals
- Implement your plan
- Monitor the plan to help you stay on track to meet your long-term financial goals.
The next time you have a financial conversation with your significant other, try incorporating these five strategies. You can both take comfort knowing there are two of you looking out for your financial health and over time you will enjoy seeing the progress towards your long-term goals as a couple.
Pamela Plick is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.