This article was written by Sophia Bera of Gen Y Planning.
My father is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist, and he’s been working with couples for over 35 years. Couples seek therapy for many reasons, but the two reoccurring issues he’s noticed have been: problems with money and problems with sex.
According to Psychology Today, arguments about money can be one of the leading causes of divorce. In the past 35 years our society has become much more comfortable with talking about sex, but we haven’t become much more comfortable talking about money. That’s what I do every day. I’m a Certified Financial Planner™ and I talk to people about their money—how they’re spending it, how they’re saving it, how to invest it, and how to talk about it.
Want to know the secret? Communication is key. Here are 5 ways to improve how you communicate with your spouse about money:
1. Determine Your Goals and Values Together
Sit down with your spouse and talk about what’s important to you. What do you value as a family? Write these things down. It’s a time to listen to your partner and write down matters what the most to them.
Share why your values are so important and why you want them to be central to your family, then take a look at your bank accounts and see if your spending matches your values. If there is a disconnect, then it’s time to make some changes.
Next, spend some time discussing your short-term and long-term goals. If you want to plan a summer vacation next year, buy a cabin in 10 years, or save $20,000 for your child’s education, these are important things to talk about so you can start planning for them.
2. Talk About Money on a Regular Basis
So many people use the phrase, “We need to talk,” to indicate that they’re not happy about something. If you only talk about money in a negative light, then you will continue to have a difficult time talking about money.
Maybe you associate money with shame, secrecy, greed, fear, or another negative emotion. It doesn’t have to be that way. Money can mean stability, freedom, opportunity, or any number of positive emotions. The way to become more comfortable talking about money is to talk about money on a regular basis.
3. Set a Weekly Money Date or Go on a Walk Together
I know couples that have a weekly money date with each other where they talk about their budget, upcoming expenses, savings goals, etc. This is a great way to focus on the positive changes you are making on your finances instead of dwelling on the negative.
My husband and I invest in our relationship by going on financial walks and talks. It’s a way for us to discuss the big picture items like our goals, values, upcoming expenses, and dreaming about our next vacation. This has done wonders for our relationship and our savings account!
We are both much more willing to cut back on our discretionary spending if we know we’re going to be able to use the money towards our next trip.
4. Be on the Same Team
I’ve known married couples that manage their incomes and expenses almost entirely separately, and this doesn’t work as well as the couples that manage their money together. You can each have your own spending money, you can each save for goals than are important to you personally, but you need to remember this: You are on the same team. It’s time to help your teammate.
Some people don’t like to hear this, but you will reach your financial goals 10x faster if you manage your money as a team. For example, it’s really easy to point fingers and say, “Well, he’s the problem because he won’t stop buying things,” or “She’s the problem because she won’t stop going out to eat.”
The truth is that neither of you are the problem; the debt is the problem. Stop blaming each other. Instead, team up against the debt and you will solve this problem quicker than you ever imagined. Working together as a couple on your finances will also help you plan for major purchase, taxes, and most importantly, retirement.
5. Bring On a Third Party
If having a conversation with your partner about money always leads to arguments, then it’s time to seek some advice from a trained therapist or counselor. It may also be beneficial to find a financial planner who you can help formulate a comprehensive financial plan to help you reach your goals together.
My client couples who are the happiest are the ones who communicate with their partner about money on a regular basis and who consistently use their money to match their values. Start by taking a small step forward: Go on a walk together.
What other useful tips do you have for talking about money with your honey?
Sophia Bera, CFP® works with clients all over the U.S. and is passionate about bringing financial planning to Gen Y to empower her generation. She is the Founder of Gen Y Planning, which aims to deliver comprehensive financial planning advice to people in their 20s and 30s for the price of their gym membership. Sophia has been quoted on various websites and publications including Forbes, Business Insider, AOL, Yahoo, Money Magazine, The Fiscal Times, Fox Business, and The Huffington Post. She was recently named one of the “Top Financial Advisors for Millenials” by Money Under 30.