Over the past seven years of our relationship, we’ve changed jobs a collective six times, owned three homes, lived in four different cities, and added a new child to our family. There’s no way that we would have been able to navigate all of those changes without having quite a few money talks along the way.
Nowadays, we talk about money almost daily, whether it’s reevaluating our own financial plans or writing about money here on Turbo. These conversations have helped us pay off over $120,000 worth of debt and sock away over $350,000 in our nest egg.
Having regular money talks with your partner is an important part of building a sound financial future and hitting those big life goals you both have.
Talking to each other about our finances didn’t come naturally to us in the beginning. It took some time for us to take the next step in our relationship and expose our true financial selves to each other. We were both carrying lots of student loan debt from law school plus we had lingering debts from previous relationships–not exactly something that you want to have to admit to your beau.
Prior to our first major money talk, we’d had smaller, more general conversations about our finances. We were both money nerds even back then. So we eased into our financial talks with easy topics like which cell phone carrier we each used and whether we were taking advantage of employer matching (something we were both doing right even back then). Those were safe topics that allowed us to explore some money concepts without having to touch on the more sensitive parts of our finances like our debt.
Deciding How We Would Manage Our Finances
After we’d been dating a while, we decided to move in together and to start managing our finances together. While some couples choose to manage their finances separately until after marriage or even beyond, for us, combining our finances just felt right. We figured that by combining our efforts we’d reach our goals faster and make it easier to for us to both stay on the same page when it came to setting those financial priorities.
Once we’d decided that we would manage our household finances together rather than keeping everything separate, the next step was for us to actually talk about what our individual finances actually looked like.
We knew that if this was going to work, we had to be completely honest with each other about the state of our financial affairs. That meant talking about how much money we made, how much we had saved, and how much debt we were carrying. And boy were we collectively carrying quite a bit of debt.
Between our private student loans, credit card debt, car loans, and personal loans, we were carrying almost $50,000 worth of debt that we both wanted to pay off as soon as possible. In order to do that, we were going to have to put together a budget and create a debt repayment plan that we could stick to.
That’s when we discovered that we had completely different money management philosophies.
Bridging Our Different Money Management Styles
Joseph took a more laissez-faire approach, counting on his natural spendthrift tendencies to make everything work out in the end. In fact, when we sat down for our money talk, Joseph admitted that he didn’t have a budget at all–pretty shocking given his accounting background.
The problem was that habits that worked so well for a college student just didn’t quite cut it for an adult with student loans payments coming out of deferment, a mortgage to pay, and a house that needed repairs. Not tracking his overall spending, allowed his debt to creep up higher than he’d intended.
I, on the other hand, was all about budgets. In fact, I was budgeting for a full year at a time. I kept my budget in an excel spreadsheet that included my day to day expenses, savings, and my planned debt payoff schedule. The minute Joseph saw it, his inner accountant came out and he was all in. In fact, he immediately pointed out missing categories and suggested beefing up some others.
I have to admit that while I was excited about him being all in on my budgeting method, it was hard for me to accept his suggested changes at first. I’d been managing my own budget for over a decade at that point. It felt strange to suddenly have input from someone else on my budget. Of course, I eventually recognized that it wasn’t my budget anymore. It was ours.
Creating A Financial Plan For Our Future
During our very first #RealMoneyTalk, we hashed out a working budget for our new shared living arrangement and created a debt payoff plan for the debt we brought to the relationship. Now, that plan wasn’t perfect by far. We definitely bumped heads about things along the way and had to tweak things that just weren’t working out like we thought they would. But the more of those conversations we had, the more confident we became in our ability to work through financial decisions as a couple.
We also started to trust each other even more. Finances can be very personal and most people do not openly share what’s going on in detail like we do, especially in the beginning. It wasn’t easy for us to be open either. We had to be very raw and talk about things that we weren’t happy with like our student loans and lingering debts from previous relationships. But being willing to be vulnerable with each other about our money situation ultimately strengthened both our relationship and our finances.
Having that real money talk also allowed us to start taking advantage of each other’s strengths. We each had our own life experiences and expertise to bring to the table. I had years of experience managing a family household budget, including planning and making projections for major life changes like moving across the country for a new job. And Joseph had a wealth of knowledge about investing thanks to his time as a day trader. Plus he was a master at organizing and paying the bills.
It’s been seven years since we had our first #RealMoneyTalk, and our finances have improved so much over that time. That first challenging money conversation strengthened our relationship and our finances which helped us come together and work through every new life challenge we faced. Getting on the same financial page early on in our relationship made it possible for us to create financial plans that have allowed us to follow our dreams, pay off debt, save money, and life a full and happy life with our children.