21% of divorced couples say that disputes over money were the primary cause for their breakup. Maybe the Notorious B.I.G was right—more money, more problems! But what many couples don’t understand is that money doesn’t have to be a scary part of your relationship. If you establish an open line of communication about money from the get-go, talking finance with your significant other can actually be a great bonding exercise.
While every couple handles their own money matters differently, there are some key conversations that everyone should have across the board. Take a look to see if you’re having these talks with your partner—and if not, there’s no time like the present to start!
Start Off Slow
A common misconception for couples is that they have to disclose all of their financial details to their partner right away. Take it slow! As you get to know each other more, you can gradually ask more in-depth questions about one another’s money habits. If you notice your partner pays for everything with a credit card, ask them about their repayment methods. This could gradually open up a conversation about debt. Or perhaps your partner doesn’t ever want to eat out because they’re saving money. Ask them what they’re saving money for, and you can start chatting about financial goals that the two of you have.
Discuss Attitudes Toward Money
While it’s always possible that you may have opposite attitudes toward money as your parents, more often than not our families significantly shape our financial viewpoints. Once things get more serious between you and your partner, talk about how you discussed money growing up. Did your parents value it above everything else? Did they avoid talking about money at all costs? Did they give you an allowance or set up a savings account for you early on?
Understanding the attitudes that were instilled in your partner at a young age can be a great way to understand their spending and saving habits. You don’t need to psychoanalyze their every move, but it can be helpful to predict future behavior if the two of you plan on merging finances at some point. Once you’ve covered everything about your past, talk about what your current attitude toward money is. If you didn’t like how your parents handled money, dive into how you plan to handle your finances differently.
Get a Grip on Current Finances
Piggybacking off the section above, get into the nitty-gritty of your financial details when you feel the time is right. Remember that many people prefer to be more private with their money, and pushing for too much information too fast can be upsetting. Many couples like to set a specific time to go over their income, debts, loans, and savings habits so the two of you aren’t distracted by other topics. Planning a “financial date” is not only a great bonding activity to get to know each other better, but it can save you from disastrous fights in the future.
During your discussion about current financials, make sure to set goals for the next few months ahead. Want to pay off credit card debt? Start investing more in your 401(k)? Taking in extra income with a side hustle? Outline the steps you can take toward those goals so your partner can help you achieve them, and vice versa. By understanding each other’s financial priorities early on, it’ll save you a lot of arguments over how to be responsible with money.
Plan for Combined Spending and Saving
The final step in talking about money with your significant other is planning for combined finances. While this probably won’t happen early on, you can easily talk about the possibility of joined accounts without actually having one. Plenty of couples never join their finances, but if you decide that it’s something you want to do, set up very specific guidelines for how that money is managed. Do you each have a monthly budget? How much will you put away in savings? Do you want to track purchases or just go by the honor system? To set the groundwork for a happy and healthy future, these kinds of conversation are a necessity for any couple.
No matter who you are, a serious relationship is going to impact your finances. Spending habits might change, priorities might shift, and looking at challenges as “we” instead of “me” might create more tension than you thought. But as long as you’re willing to dig deep on money talks with your partner, finances should be a source of common ground instead of a dealbreaker.