Valentine’s Day is all about celebrating the love in your life, but ask anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship, and they’ll tell you successful relationships take work, commitment, and open and honest conversations about what matters to each of you – including financial conversations.
Money can be a leading stressor in relationships, but regular financial conversations can lessen this stressor and help lead to healthier relationships. By starting financial conversations early, you can avoid future conflicts about money. And while those discussions can be intimidating, these five tips can make getting the conversation started much easier:
Tip 1: Talk: Learn to love talking about finances
People have different attitudes toward money, which can stem from upbringing, cultural differences, and varying personal goals. To understand your partner’s financial values, it’s helpful to have candid discussions about what matters most when it comes to money. You can start with simple questions like:
- Is paying down debt a priority?
- Do you want to own a home? How soon do you want to reach that goal?
- What are your retirement goals? How do you want to live in retirement?
- Do you want to prioritize spending money on travel and other experiential purchases?
- What charities do you want to give to? How much?
Tip 2: Assess: Love means being honest about money
Once you understand how you view money, you’ll need to get a realistic picture of where you stand. Pull together items like your credit score, your earnings, spending and savings habits, and debts, and ask your partner to do the same. Sit down together and share this information. Be open, honest, and nonjudgmental about your situations. Understanding how you got where you are, and how long it will be until you pay off debts and/or reach your savings goals, will help you plan and ensure you’re aware of issues that could surface later and derail your plans.
Tip 3: Decide: What’s mine is yours … or is it?
Sharing finances requires careful thought and consideration, and having a clear picture of your resources and debt will help you understand what financial approach works best for you. Before combining your money, ask yourself, and discuss as a couple, how much you want to share and how much financial autonomy you hope to maintain. You may consider merging your accounts to make it easier to pay for shared expenses, but you may want to keep certain accounts separate to maintain some personal financial freedom.
Before you decide, consider factors like, what personal expenses you will still be responsible for, how aligned your daily money-spending routines are, what a household budget will look like and what income you will have available to cover expenses.
Starting with an honest assessment, and shared understanding of the big financial picture, will help you make the best financial decisions for you and your partner.
Tip 4: Plan: Growing old – and financially healthy – together
Now that you know where you stand, it’s important to talk about your goals for the future as a couple and what that means financially. That may include asking questions like:
- Where do we want to live in five years? The answer may affect the area you choose to live in, whether to rent or own a home, lifestyle, and other factors.
- What big purchases and life events should we start saving for? Do we need a car, a down payment on a house, a nest egg for retirement?
- How should we plan for unexpected expenses?
As you talk through these goals, consider other existing and potential responsibilities, like:
- If we plan to have children, what will we need to save for? Do we want to send them to private school? How much should we save for college?
- Will we need to be caretakers for parents, siblings, or other family members.
Tip 5: Repeat: Keep talking about love and money
Regardless of how long you’ve been in your relationship, it’s important to keep the financial dialogue going. Your approach to finances can change over time, so check in with each other regularly and maintain honest conversations, without judgment. That will help keep the financial stress out of your relationship … and keep the romance in Valentine’s Day.
Author: Don Pearson is a Wells Fargo Regional Banking Executive.