Commitment and the money conversation

3 MIN READ | #blog

Congratulations, you’re ready to commit. Perhaps you now share keys to the same front door, or there’s a ring in your near future. Whatever commitment looks like to you, every time you think of your partner, you hear music. Your playlist has kicked up the beat, and the dance of partnership has begun.

The topic of personal finances is not a romantic one, but it’s important to remember that money will now be a part of daily life between you and your partner. Starting a committed relationship is often the first time people share money and resources. It’s not easy.

A leading predictor of divorce

For married couples, arguing about money is cited as one of the top reasons for divorce. Furthermore, this is the case regardless of the couple’s income level or net worth. So, it’s about how couples talk about money, rather than the amounts of money discussed. With this in mind, let’s walk through some specific topics to help your lifelong money conversation get off to a strong start.

Family history with money

Our parents are typically our first role models for all aspects of our lives, including money. Whether or not they were sterling examples for saving, their behaviors influence our own behavior with money. Ask your partner about the attitudes concerning money at home. Did their childhood feel financially secure? Did they feel anxious because of money worries? What do they want to do differently from their parents? What family money behaviors would they like to continue?

Your partner’s financial confidence

Research has found that 37% of American workers said they avoid dealing with their finances because it’s too overwhelming, and more than three in four feel stressed and concerned. Does this sound like your partner? Financial and emotional confidence are inextricably linked. No one can change their finances overnight, but making small, meaningful changes around money can increase an individual’s financial and emotional confidence.1

That four-lettered word: debt

Consider these staggering statistics: The latest statistics for 2022 show there are 45 million borrowers who collectively owe approximately $1.7 trillion in student loan debt.2 And for borrowers with federal student loans, the average student loan debt in America is $37,013, according to the Department of Education’s most recent data from Q1 2022.3

Does your partner have any debt? If so, how much? How are they currently paying it off or planning to start? Do they have any other debt, such as credit cards? When you each add up your assets versus liabilities, where do you stand? During this conversation, if the debt talk starts to feel overwhelming, remember that a professional can help you two put together a plan to pay it down before it weighs you down.

How will you manage your money together?

Here are a few questions to ask one another: Do we plan to keep separate checking accounts, or is it time to open a joint account? If we open a joint account, what will it be used for? What about savings?

As you start your money life together, consider taking this short quiz. Through 10 easy questions, the quiz can help you assess your financial personality. For instance, are you a Day-to-Day Decision Maker, an Ambitious Spender, a Retirement Realist, or a Confident Planner?

Set a money date

In addition to the nuts and bolts of how you’ll manage your money together, how will you communicate about it? Will you sit down once a week or monthly and discuss all things financial? Or will you mention that you purchased an $800 grill for the backyard as you race out the door to work? (Note: not recommended.) If balancing the checkbook isn’t your idea of date night, there are apps that can do the talking for you, and allow you to track a joint budget, joint accounts, and even credit scores.

Shared financial vision for the future

Keep in mind, the money conversation shouldn’t feel like a job interview. (“Where do you see yourself in five years?”) Instead, set the intention to have the money conversation with love  and a vision for a happy future together. You can also speak to a financial professional who can serve as an experienced, impartial resource to guide you as a couple. Just think of the arguments it might prevent.

Sure, it may make you feel vulnerable. But good, honest conversations about your financial reality and goals will strengthen your relationship for the long term. When you’re able to talk clearly and openly about money, you’re able to build your financial and emotional confidence together.

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1 The Guardian Study of Financial and Emotional Confidence™, 2021