Money means so much to people and is a representation of our values. Strangely, this is why you are not supposed to talk about it or ask about it. If your parents didn’t talk about it, how are you supposed to know how to talk about money and communicate with your partner.
According to Financial Therapist Dr. Sonya Britt-Lutter, only 50% of couples talk about money before marriage, and 12% of couples NEVER talk about money. If you don’t talk about it, you will eventually fail. It may not be divorce; it may be failing to achieve your goals like saving for retirement or college. You can hide for a while, but eventually it will come out.
Spending is emotional, and money is unpredictable and not rational. As a financial planner, my goal is to help make talking about money more manageable. Knowing where to start is the toughest part. Not everyone is ready to jump into financial planning and numbers. That’s okay.
Opening up about money can happen over time. You don’t have to sit down and do this all at once. Be kind and flexible.
#1 Talk about your family history. What’s the back story? What’s your earliest memory about money? Listen to each other share this memory. Be curious. We are great at making assumptions about what the other person wants. But you need to understand the other’s experience to understand what they value when it comes to money.
#2 Talk about what matters to you. If you find yourselves talking/fighting about the same topics or spending, you are probably mis-communicating. Typically, it comes down to value. You value something that your partner doesn’t understand. Time to explain it to him/her.
For example, I had a client who really wanted to remodel their bathroom and the partner didn’t think it was a priority. It kept coming up and finally become an ongoing argument about where it is better to spend $10,000. My client finally told her partner a story about growing up with a dirty bathroom with leaky faucets and how much she hated it. She just wanted a master bathroom that no longer leaked. Her partner finally understood where she was coming from. They decided together that they would fix the plumbing and replace the fixtures for now because spending $10,000 on a full bathroom remodel wasn’t aligned with their financial goals as a family.
#3 Pick a good time to talk about money. Be aware of your energy level and physiological stress. If you are tired or stressed, the “Fight or Flight” reaction can be triggered. In this state, the brain may not be making logical decisions. Your reaction will likely be based on emotions. This is NOT a good time for a money conversation.
Most couples should avoid talking about money between 6-9 pm on weeknights. Find a time when you will not be stressed or distracted to have regularly scheduled conversations in a relaxed environment. Try to make it enjoyable and not a painful task.
Why does this matter? Because you care about your partner, yourself and your children. Financial Therapist Dr. Sonya Britt-Lutter says that the most predictive factor of your own children’s financial behavior is through watching their parents. The less parental arguing about money and greater warmth when discussing money, the healthier your children’s relationship will be with money.