You and your partner might sometimes think to yourselves, ‘maybe we should get some help so that we can actually talk about money.’ I have to say, this Podcast Episode with Carl Richards has some great pointers.
I whole-heartedly agree that when you find yourself about to get defensive, aggressive, or using any shaming or blaming language in a money conversation, the best advice is simply to put yourself on a ‘time out’ and start the discussion when you have the energy and are feeling good. Starting conversations about spending (or overspending) and goal setting are best done when both people are in a good mood — and it can usually wait.
Even as someone who engages in this work full-time, I agree that it’s best for my partner and I to set a date to have specific conversations about money, and preferably not at the end of the day. I find that couples who set aside time at least once per month have great success, partly because ‘money’ becomes something that is no longer taboo, but is engaged with regularly.
Think there’s nothing to talk about? Here are some ideas for topics to cover.
By addressing some of the questions below, you may find that ‘with your powers combined’ you could transform your relationship with money into one where you reach your goals faster, do more things that bring you joy in life, and feel empowered with how you are choosing to spend your hard-earned money.
The work we do in financial coaching is incredibly similar to that in the best-selling book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. By looking at your spending, savings, and debts with open eyes and bravery, you can start to answer the question, ‘is what I’m spending my money on bringing me joy?’ If you’ve been spending more than you ever thought possible on groceries, is it bringing you enough joy that you are OK with it, or would you much rather be putting some extra money toward paying off debt, taking some time off, or buying yourself a paddle board?
Take Stock. How much do each of you have in your savings and retirement accounts? If you haven’t checked in a while, you could have a working-session to look these things up. No matter your age, it’s never a bad time to talk about how much you have, how much you’ve been saving, and compare that to what you might need in retirement. It can be complicated to know how much you might need to live off per year once you’re 65 or so, especially if that’s pretty far away for you. However, you could take a moment to talk through what sort of lifestyle and budget you might need then, which will allow you to work backward from there.
Take stock on your debts. Do you have substantial savings earning no interest, but a few debts carrying high interest? Perhaps it’s time to pay those debts off, as long as you would be left with an emergency fund that feels comfortable to you. How much are you paying in interest per month, total? Is there room in your budget to pay off your debt faster? You can use this awesome debt calculator to enter your info and then decide how quickly you’d like to pay them off based on how much you’re willing to throw down each month.
What excites and inspired you, and how does that relate to your finances? You could compare bucket lists and see what things you might be able to do if you put your mind to it.
Are you planning on having kids, and if so, how far away might that be? Will one or both of you get any paid time off? If not, how much would you need to save in order to take care of your kiddo at the beginning? How much more might you need to earn to afford child care, or would it make more sense for one of you to stay home (if you can afford that on one income). Having this conversation ahead of time can help set you up for a much less stressful entrance into parenthood. Will you get life insurance policies, and for how much?
The list goes on, obviously. Do you plan to help pay for your kids’ college? Will either of you need to support an aging parent? Do you have wills? Healthcare Directives? These things can seem overwhelming when ignored and faced all at once, but by talking about them regularly, they can simply become part of your everyday life. Small successes lead to greater confidence and less fear around facing the unknown.
If you’re feeling resistant to planning that next money meeting, perhaps take some time to sit with that resistance. Where does it come from? What is the worst thing that could happen? How could you go into the meeting intentionally, assuming a great outcome? Good luck!