One of the most rewarding moments in being a financial advisor is when I witness a light bulb go on for a client. I recently experienced this when two of my clients realized just how important communication around money can be and purposefully set time outside of our planning meetings to talk about it. It was clear early on in our relationship that the members of this duo had very different attitudes toward spending and saving (not an uncommon occurrence in my line of work).
Our meetings together had provided a safe space for them to sit and talk about money openly and through this simple act of communication, they observed a small shift in their relationship. Suddenly, they noticed feeling less stress around the money topic. So, they decided to take this a step further and schedule time each week to talk specifically about household finances, and it’s made a difference.
Managing your own personal finances is challenging enough, but when you are navigating as two, there are going to be added obstacles and emotions.
I’m not a fan of generalities but I will use one here. Typically when I work with couples, there is one person who takes charge of the household finances. The reasoning for one to take the lead versus the other is varied, and this generalization is true across all types of couples; gay, straight, married, cohabitating.
So, “What’s the big deal?” you might think. Bills are getting paid and savings are happening, so why does it matter if one person is in control? After spending enough time with couples talking finances, I began to see a trend. Often what eventually comes to the surface is that one partner (or both) feels undo stress because of the divided financial responsibilities. The one in charge often feels a burden for making the right financial decisions. The one taking the back seat often feels stress for not knowing exactly what is going on or guilt for not doing their part.
If you are in a relationship where you share household expenses, even if you think the house is running smoothly, I encourage you to do as my clients have done. Schedule time to talk about money. Pick a specific topic even if it feels a little uncomfortable at first. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- What’s working: Talk with each other about how the household is running, focus on the positive.
- What’s important: Until you ask the question, you might not realize or understand your partner’s priorities around money. Learn what each of you value most and find the middle ground.
- Goals – short-term and long-term: You would be surprised at what progress can be made when you intentionally talk about the future and how money plays a role.
- Organization: Review your bill-pay procedures together. Are you utilizing your bank accounts and are these accounts working as one or duplicating features and fees. If you’re the one in charge of bills, spend some time sharing with your partner what you’re doing.
Approach this scheduled time with your mate with openness and intention. You will soon find that talking about money with purpose can build trust in your relationship, help you feel accomplished together, and bring important family goals into focus.