Money can be a touchy subject. It’s a big part of our lives, as we work for it and use it to pay for our wants and needs. Our attitudes toward money are shaped by how we grew up, what our parents modeled, and how we’ve processed our backgrounds and created our own path. So when we enter a serious relationship, it is important to be open and honest about money, even when you and your partner don’t have the same experience or ideas about how it should be spent and saved.
Here are some important conversations to have when your relationship begins to get serious — and periodically throughout your relationship.
What is your history with money?
This can be one of the most important conversations, as so much of our money information comes from childhood and early adulthood. Discuss your feelings about money, where those feelings came from, and how you both feel about money now. How did your parents handle money? What lessons did you learn from them? And what do you prefer to do differently? As you both discuss your personal and family histories, you should see where your money attitudes are similar and different.
What are your financial dreams?
What does the future look like to you financially? Make a list of what you’d like to purchase, save for, invest in, and perhaps give to charity… and work together on ways to meet these goals. If you’re ready to assign dollar values to these goals, use our financial calculators to create a savings plan.
What is your money philosophy?
Having the same values and attitudes about money will help you avoid conflicts down the road. Make sure both of you share the same values including how much to save for emergency funds, using credit cards, paying off debt, or investing in retirement accounts.
Should we have joint accounts?
Decide how to manage your joint bank accounts, like what percentage of the bills each person will pay or how to handle split expenses for big things like vacations. Discuss who is responsible for tracking spending, setting savings goals, and paying the bills. Be sure you both agree and understand your financial roles in your relationship — and that you have check-ins to ensure that both of you know exactly what is going on with your money.
Should we pool our funds?
If you’re considering a combined bank account, this is a great time to go over the pros and cons. When everything from your paycheck to your savings goes into one pot, it can make budgeting easier. But money management often becomes an issue for couples when one person wants to save longer for something big while the other isn’t as patient!
If you don’t think your spending habits will align, consider creating joint accounts for shared expenses and savings and separate accounts for daily personal spending. You can each deposit a set amount each month or a percentage of your income, depending on your needs as a couple. This can prevent some of the money arguments that often hurt relationships.
As a bonus, separate accounts can be a great way to keep gifts you purchase for your partner a secret.
Do you have any debt?
Sharing how much debt you have can be a tough conversation, especially if one of you has more debt than the other. But it is important to know exactly where each of you stands financially as you go through life together. You can strategize to help improve both of your financial situations so that you will qualify for the best financing options when it is time to make large purchases like buying a car or house.
What is your attitude toward debt?
Philosophy is also an important discussion. Debt isn’t always a bad thing. In some cases like buying a home or paying for education, debt may be appropriate, and even necessary. Decide which types of debt are okay to take on and which you prefer to avoid as a couple.
If any of these conversations seem scary to have, that’s okay. It can be hard to bring up money, especially early in a relationship. But it is important to get over your discomfort for these key conversations. Your relationship will be stronger if you’re not hiding financial information from one another. Hiding truths about money can influence you to hide information about other areas of your relationship. The good news is that when you have these conversations regularly, they become less scary.