Life happens and before you know it, your relationship with that special someone has turned serious and excitedly toward a bright future together. It could be that you’re moving in together, buying a home, getting engaged or are newlyweds. No matter where you’re at as a couple, these moments offer the perfect opportunity for talking money with your partner.
When to Talk
Discussing the subject of money doesn’t have to be as awkward as deciding who will pick up the tab on that very first date. If you’ve just started going out, keep it light and focus on easy conversations around money and relationships. This could be about your online shopping preferences, or if you use Venmo, Zelle or PayPal to pay others or about the price of things today compared to the pre-pandemic period.
Once you and your partner move on to deeper levels of commitment, it’s time for harder relationship talk and discussions of money. These could be about how you pay your bills, car payments, rent and insurance or, perhaps, money and marriage. These talks help you understand each other’s financial habits and preferences. For example, you’ll discover if your partner is a spender or a saver, if they have significant debt and/or savings and if they consider money management as a chore or as something to champion.
Finance is one of the key things to talk about before marriage. Money issues you learn about your significant other might be different from your style but keep in mind that it provides both of you with the background information needed as you evolve (or decide to evolve) to a serious commitment so you can start planning your future together. A key to a successful relationship is communication. Being transparent and willing to discuss money topics upfront will make it easier to have more in-depth talks in the future.
How to Start the Talk
Understandably, not everyone is comfortable and/or willing to bring up the topic of money, especially if one or both individuals are bringing debts such as student loans and credit card balances to the table. You can jumpstart the conversation by offering some open-ended questions.
For example, you could ask your partner: “If you received $50,000 from an inheritance or a contest, what would you do with it?” If they respond they would save it, ask them how and where.
Another way to break the ice is to ask your partner about their thoughts on the way you manage your money. Maybe you crave a latte every day, are an impulsive online buyer or a frugal make-it-at-home person. This simple question will reveal a lot about how closely you align on your spending and saving habits.
Travis Tip: Ask your partner where they like to bank and if they know the differences between credit unions and banks. Learn more here.
What to Talk About
There are a wealth of topics to cover when talking about money. Typically, the top areas are income, debt, spending habits and savings practices. These conversations will lead to other discoveries, based on where your focus is as a couple. For example, if you’re preparing to buy a home together, you might want to discuss your credit history and credit score, employment history and mortgage preferences (30-or 15-year loan, fixed or ARM, etc.). Did you know you can raise your credit score immediately with Experian Boost?
Another conversation focused on couple finances would be a talk about budgeting. Who will manage what bills in your new household? How much should each of you contribute to a joint savings account? Everything needs to be discussed and agreed upon including utility bills, property taxes, insurance, groceries and even pet food, if you have furry dependents.
Typically, couples combine their financial accounts, keep them separate or take a hybrid approach. Each couple handles these matters in their own unique way. Now’s the time to set those expectations with each other as you build your financial life together.
If you’ve recently become engaged, saving money for the big event is likely the top priority. By combining finances, identifying ways to save money, and having a solid financial plan, you can both work openly toward this milestone moment.
Travis Tip: If you have entered the phase of your relationship where you both talk about marriage, set aside a time and place to review your financial picture together. Make it a “Money Date and make it fun. Set great goals together and challenge each other when it comes to how you both want to succeed as a couple financially. First and foremost, enjoy the conversations around finances in marriage together!”
What Happens Next
During your life together, the conversations about money and finances will evolve. Each stage of life – dating, marriage, a mortgage, children, college and retirement – should trigger new discussions about money and what’s needed to get where you want to be.
Travis Credit Union offers a wealth of financial education tools and resources to help make these conversations easier. For example, you and your partner can take our free Financial Wellness Assessment and use the results as another starting point for a money talk. From free webinars on “Finances for New Families” to online tools that track your spending, we’ll help you achieve your financial goals together. Learn more at traviscu.org.