Money is one of the most important topics to talk about with your significant other, no matter what level your relationship is at. From casual dating to being in a relationship to a married couple, if you’re not on the same page regarding finances, it’s likely to cause stress and/or lead to divorce. According to research conducted by Jeffrey Dew, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Family, Consumer, and Human Development at Utah State University, couples who argue about finances at least once a week were 30% more likely to divorce than couples who argue about money less often.
For National Couples Day, in this article, we are going to explore a few ways to talk to your significant other about finances and how to set financial goals as a couple, no matter what kind of couple you are.
Turbo’s #RealMoneyTalk survey
In February 2019, Turbo commissioned a survey that was conducted online by The Harris Poll in order to better understand behaviors and attitudes around talking about money-related topics with others.
One of the findings that came out of that survey was that 90% of people in a relationship said that they are open and honest with their partner about their finances and 85% believe their partner is open and honest with them about their finances. It’s possible however that this is a misperception since 23% also admit they sometimes hide purchases from their partner, 17% admit they have accounts/debt their partner doesn’t need to know about, and 14% of those who have individual debt in their relationship admit they are currently hiding debt from their partner.
How to talk to your partner about finances while casually dating
When you’re only casually dating someone, there is not as much of a need to discuss finances. At this point, it’s likely that your finances are completely separate, with each partner still living on their own and contributing to their own expenses. The only discussions you’re likely to have involve expenses for shared activities.
If you and your partner are in a similar financial situation with similarly paying jobs and expenses, then the expenses from these joint activities is an easier calculation. Each partner can plan on paying equally for any shared activities. Where things get more complicated is when you and your partner are not on an even financial footing. If you have a lower-paying job and/or more debt while your partner has a high-paying job and no debt, this can cause friction. Your partner may often suggest more expensive activities than you feel comfortable with. The key here is open communication about your feelings to find out what is the right path for you and your partner.
Talking to your significant other about finances in a serious relationship
As your relationship progresses, you will want to have more in-depth conversations with your significant other about finances. Start talking about your own financial habits and goals, and observe the habits and goals of your partner. You shouldn’t necessarily try to change your partner, but it can be valuable to talk about your own feelings and experiences. How comfortable you are talking with your partner about money is likely similar to how far your relationship is progressing as a whole.
If you start contemplating either moving in together or getting married, it’s important to open up more about your financial situation. This can be a bit of a tricky situation, especially if you and your partner are in wildly different financial situations. It may be tempting to try and hide or downplay negative financial information about yourself (lower-income, amount of debt). But hiding this kind of information can start the relationship off on a bad foot. A better idea is to be open about it and come up with a plan that you both can agree on.
How married couples can talk about finances with each other
There are several ways for married couples to organize their finances. Some married couples keep all of their finances completely together, with maybe a small amount for each couple to use as an “allowance”. Other couples have a combined account for shared expenses and then keep separate accounts for personal expenses. In either case, good communication is the most important factor.
According to the #RealMoneyTalk survey, those in a relationship do see their partner as financially beneficial. 86% of those surveyed said that they trust their partner to contribute as much as they can to their combined financial well-being.
How to set financial goals as a couple
As we’ve said several times in this article, honest and open communication is the key to talking to your significant others as a couple. One good way to make sure you’re both on the same page is to set financial goals as a couple.
Remember, it’s not just about spending. You may be a saver while your partner is a spender. That isn’t necessarily a red flag that should keep you apart – instead, consider a way to compromise. Stay open and honest about your finances and what is important to you.
Starting the conversation by talking about financial goals can be a better way to keep the conversation productive. So instead of complaining about their spending habits, talk about where you see yourselves in 6 months, a year or more. That can help open up the discussion to start discussing more day-to-day topics like budgeting and spending.