For many couples, having a money conversation is a major point of vulnerability in the relationship. In fact, money disagreements are a major reason why couples end their marriages. Consider this: your spouse likes to spend money and live for the moment – while, on the other hand, you like to save money for a rainy day. Is it possible to move forward and build a future together? Will your marriage survive the uncomfortable conversations around money you will need to have throughout your relationship? Read on to learn about the top 5 steps you will need to take to stop having money arguments with your spouse.
- Share what matters to you with your partner.
How are we currently spending money? How do we want to spend money? What financial goals do we want to accomplish together, and what goals do we want to accomplish separately? How might these goals change as life happens?
A great way to bridge this conversation is to schedule regular meetings around the family’s finances to discuss shared and individual financial goals. For example, when discussing shared goals, consider: are there major expenses, such as home repairs, coming up and you will need to plan for? How will those expenses be divided? How will they be financed? How long will it take to pay for these expenses? On the other hand, when discussing individual goals, such as retirement, talk about how the individual goals will impact your plans overall. You and your partner will need to discuss your goals and work toward getting on the same page.
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- Build a family budget and net worth statement.
When scheduling a money meeting, it’s important to know your family numbers intimately. This includes how much income you and your partner earn, how much you spend, how much you pay in taxes and what is left over to save for individual and family goals. It is difficult to have a productive conversation about money if you have no idea where the family’s money is going. You can use this information to build a family cash flow and net worth report. Not sure where to start? There are budget apps out there to help you such as Mint, and You Need A Budget to name a few. You should also review pay stubs from each of your employers to see what is taken out before you receive your paycheque such as taxes, benefit costs, and employer savings plans.
Building a net worth statement essentially means creating a complete record of what you “own” and “owe” as a couple. You will also want to separate assets you can get your hands on easily, such as investments and cash in the bank, versus assets that are difficult to liquidate like equity in your home or funds that are in locked-in retirement accounts. Next, you will want to take charge of how much you owe. Do you have a credit card, loans, line of credit or mortgage debt? If yes, how much is the interest rate and how much do you owe on each debt? Having a consolidated statement of what you and your partner owe will help you both to understand where you are financially. It will give you a starting point to grow from each year. Set aside time annually to talk about the budget and if changes will need to be made to the way funds are being allocated. Update the net worth and budget to reflect new priorities and to document planned versus actual net worth and spending as a couple each year.
- Create a “mine” yours and “ours” budget that includes “fun funds” set aside for each of you.
Remember to get buy-in from your partner. Everyone’s needs must be addressed. Ask yourself, what will motivate each of you to stick to the budget? Is it reaching certain savings goals or paying off a certain amount of debt as a couple? Is it putting aside funds for your spouse’s Harley that he has dreamed of owning and wanted to purchase before he turns 50, which is 5 years from now?
- Make an effort to understand each other’s money values and where they come from. Are you or your partner from a family of savers or spenders? How does this influence you or your partner’s outlook on finances? Are there financial goals you can work on together that won’t be derailed by your different approaches to money? Can you and your partner discuss your money issues as a couple without blaming or shaming each other?
- Before attempting to have an annual conversation about money it is a good idea to not be upset about where you both are financially. This will set the stage for an unpleasant money conversation. Facing money issues in a relationship head-on will help will foster open communication about money and avoid ‘blow-ups’ that often lead to a divorce. Seek financial counselling before getting involved in a common-law relationship or marriage to prevent problems later on.