Finding a partner for life is a challenge, but basic money management is perhaps harder.
Discussing how to manage your finances and save for retirement – as a couple – is an important component when combining two financial households. It’s a discussion that must be had before you say ‘I do’. It goes beyond financial goals, to envision the future and how each partner sees it. To work as a team, it’s important to know what your teammate is thinking and doing.
Talking about each other’s’ priorities with money can also help you avoid misaligned goals. If your financial values and objectives are not aligned it will cause friction and an uncomfortable situation. That doesn’t mean both parties must have identical values. One may be the saver, another the spender, but being open and honest about each other’s intentions with money can help each spouse understand the other and plan accordingly.
Everyone was raised differently when it comes to money and managing it. Your parents may have been dependent on charity or government grants to raise and feed you. Or, you may come from a wealthier background, or from one that’s more middle class. No matter how you were raised, you could have learned frugal spending habits — or not. So before getting married, it’s essential that you and your partner discuss your attitudes about money.
Talk about how your families dealt with money, and what you liked and didn’t like about their style. Share your observations about how various friends handle money, and what you think. Then make the discussion more personal by talking about how you feel about money, spending, saving, and your future dreams.
Even if you and your partner differ when it comes to money, you should both be aware of where the other is coming from. It’s important to get on the same page, so that no one feels like they must be dishonest later.
If you never had the money talk at the beginning of your relationship, have it now. Put it all out on the table.
What is success?
These conversations can offer a lot of insight into what your partner might be looking for in assessing progress in your own lives. Talking through these topics can also give you more concrete milestones to think about or discuss. You might find that certain things that drive you crazy about your partner – his or her need for ‘nice’ clothes or that habit of spending weekends tinkering with investment accounts – have a deeper meaning than you thought.
For some, the ability to afford quality is a critical signal of progress. For others, being financially successful means being an investor. In all these questions, the answers can be highly informative – but they’ll be useful only to the extent that you can hear each other out and share in good faith. Money talks can be incredibly tense for many couples, so the more you can make them into a positive experience in your house, the better off you’ll likely be.
Keep in mind that you and your partner might not understand everything about how the other thinks, but by learning what you can from your fiancé and accepting his or her point of view – without trying to change it – you can start laying the groundwork for a financial life that accounts for both of your unique needs and perspectives.