Agreeing on a single set of goals as a couple can be challenging. While it’s possible that you’ve managed to settle down with someone that happens to be your exact money twin, what’s more likely is that you and your partner will have different money philosophies. As you work towards building your life together, you’ll have to learn how to mesh those differing viewpoints so that you can create joint financial and life goals. These tips will help you do just that.
Commit to Complete Financial Honesty
If you want to create financial goals that work for you both as a couple, you are going to have to be completely honest with each other about money. That means talking about your current financial situation, like how much money you make and how much debt you have. Even if you plan to manage your finances separately, your financial state will have an effect on each other’s lives. It’s better to be honest from the beginning than to have to deal with unexpected surprises later on.
It also means being honest about lifestyle goals and preferences like whether you want to have kids, where you want to live, and how often you like to go on vacation. Your partner should know what a good life looks like to you and vice versa. That way you start to have an idea of what you both want and why you want it.
If you aren’t used to having these kinds of raw conversations about money, it might be uncomfortable at first. But the more #RealMoneyTalk convos you have with your partner, the easier it will get.
Be Prepared to Compromise
If you have a partner, chances are you are already used to doing this, like whose parents’ house to visit for Thanksgiving each year. Deciding on joint financial goals as a couple works the same way. As much as we all wish that we could fit in all of our financial goals in one shot and never have to choose, the reality is that we have to prioritize. There will always be limits to what we can feasibly accomplish financially especially in the short term.
You and your partner will likely have some differing ideas of how you want to spend your money or how quickly you want to accomplish your goals. Even something as simple as where you want to live can be a source of disagreement that you will have to work through. The key here is to be open to modifying your original expectations so that you can fit in the things that matter the most to both of you.
Outline Your Life Goals as Individuals and as a Couple
Taking the time to figure out what you both want as a couple and what you want as individuals helps give both of you perspective. Before you get together to agree on your joint financial goals, you should each take some time separately to write down your goals beforehand. Each of you should make a list of your own personal goals and the goals that you are hoping to accomplish as a couple. The more inclusive the list is, the better. You can always cull the list later.
Using your two lists as a starting point, get together and start talking through your goals. Do you have any goals in common? Are there goals on there that surprised you? This exercise is a great way to learn some new things about your partner that you might not have known about.
Remember that while you’re only working on financial goals, you’ll want to consider things that may not seem like a financial goal. Many of the things that we think of as bucket list items or life goals, like climbing Kilimanjaro or cruising in retirement, are actually financial goals in disguise. It will cost money to actually make them happen. So be sure to include the not so obvious financial goals in your discussion.
If you find that you and your partner are worlds apart, don’t fret. Figuring out where you both stand is just the beginning. You can always choose to compromise later. Financial goals change over time and the key is to keep them growing and changing together.
Decide Which Goals Are Most Important to You
Once you have a comprehensive list of goals that you’re both working from, it’s time to start prioritizing. That means you are going to each have to rank which goals matter the most to you and which matter the least. You’ll also want to consider the urgency of the goals and how long it will take to accomplish them.
Prioritizing your goals make it easier to decide which ones to focus on first. It also makes compromising a lot easier because you can choose what is most important to you and what you are willing to give up in order to have it.
Starting from a place of wanting to fit in as many of each other’s top priorities as possible will make it that much easier to decide on your joint financial goals. And if you aren’t able to fit in some of your high priority goals right at the beginning, it gives you both something to work towards as a couple.
Use Real Numbers to Define Your Goals Where Possible
As you work through deciding which financial goals you want to focus on, take some time to estimate exactly how much those goals are going to cost. It’s really easy to get carried away with goals and underestimate how much money or time it will take the accomplish them.
Taking the time to attach a real number to your financial goals makes for more realistic goals.
Use those real numbers in your actual budget to see how your financial goals will affect your day to day lives. A goal that seemed reasonable in theory could turn out to be unbearable in practice because of how it affects the rest of your life. If you set both of your expectations in advance, it will make it a lot easier to stick with your financial goals.
Have Regular Check-Ins to Make Sure You Are On Track
Deciding which goals you want to prioritize as a couple and fitting them into your budget is just the beginning. As time goes on, you might want to add new goals in or you might find that one or both of you don’t actually want the things that you thought you wanted when you initially set your financial goals. That’s okay. People change and goals change too.
Having regular check-ins with each other about your goals will help you adjust your goals as you go so that they continue to reflect your financial goals as a couple.