One of the least romantic things to talk about with your partner is finances. While the thought of bills and loans probably won't turn you on, it's imperative to discuss to make your partnership strong. Building a stable financial relationship can establish a healthy understanding of how the both of you want to manage your joint finances. Plus, it can spark the conversation for future financial scenarios (i.e. buying a home, paying for your future kids' colleges, etc). However, even if you're single or you and your partner are not at that stage of your relationship yet, it's always good to know how to talk with loved ones, especially when it comes to money. If you're in a long-term relationship, you want to communicate about money as soon as possible so you don't get ambushed with not-so-great surprises later on in your relationship.
"Good communication is the key to any successful relationship and when it comes to money — ignorance is not bliss. Couples don’t always agree about money, but it’s important to have open and honest conversations with each other. Make it a priority to communicate openly, work as a team and develop a plan. This plan should help guide your financial choices, manage your expenses and investments, and finally keep you on track to reach your short and long-term goals," says vice president of Fidelity Investments Megan Speeth, CFP®, in an interview with Bustle over email.
Don't be afraid to open the can of worms when it comes to your money situation. Here are 15 ways to build a stable financial relationship with your SO.
1. Look Into Your Past
A lot of our financial habits come from how we were brought up. For instance, if your partner's parents never taught them how to manage their money, then they may not know how to communicate about their finances at all. "You have to look way back and be honest with yourself about where [your] views on money come from. Did you not have money growing up? Did you scrape [by]? Did you have a very unpredictable financial situation? Due to that, are you careful with [your] money? Do you have to have a certain nest egg to be careful? Or do you spend because you have it, and you know that you need to find a happy medium in all cases, especially if you have a partner with their own set of values towards money," says psychologist Nicole Martinez Psy.D., LCPC, in an interview with Bustle over email.
2. Make Communication A Priority
While you would probably love to only watch puppy videos with your partner all day, being in a romantic relationship means you need to be comfortable with having those tough money discussions. "It’s important to have open and honest conversations with your partner about finances. Talking about how you view your future — from buying a house to raising a family to even your thoughts on retirement — is important to ensure that you understand each other’s long-term goals and make sure you’re on the same page," says Speeth.
3. Begin A Budget
If you want to take a trip to Sweden or purchase a home, you need to establish a monthly budget with your partner. Grab a bottle (or two) of wine and meet each month to discuss each of your spending habits to help stay on track. "While budgeting isn’t especially romantic, doing so can keep your relationship 'in the green rather than red.' To get started on your budget, list all income sources, day-to-day expenses, and discretionary expenses. If you need some help getting started, here are some budgeting guidelines that can help," says Speeth.
4. Create A List Of Both Of Your Finances
"Make a list of all income, assets, and debts — including credit cards and loans that you each bring to the table," says Speeth. Being in a stable financial relationship with your partner means knowing exactly how much they make and debt they have. While no one likes to feel judged based on their finances, a great partner will communicate with their SO about any worries and figure out a way to help grow their finances together.
5. Discuss Short-Term Needs
Let's say you've been dating a person for a few years and things are getting serious. Before you move in together or decide to share bank accounts, you want to discuss short-term goals to see if you're both on the same page. "It’s also important to talk about short-term needs, such as paying for a wedding, combining your finances, or building up an emergency savings fund. These are great conversations to help you decide how you are most comfortable merging and managing your finances, today and into the future," says Speeth.
6. Review Your Financial Goals
"Set aside one day a month when you can both sit down to review your financial goals, budgets, questions and concerns. Another idea: create a 'Money Date Night.' Open a bottle of wine, make a bowl of popcorn or order your favorite take-out. Make the experience positive and you'll be inclined to do it more regularly," says Speeth. Make talking about money sexy. It sounds silly, but the more you discuss your finances with your partner, the easier it can be.
7. Avoid Financial Secrets
Keeping secrets (especially financial secrets) from your SO is a total romance killer. Leave your ego at the door and opt for an open and honest discussion with your partner — no matter how uncomfortable you feel. "When you’re in a committed relationship, it’s important to talk about how you’ll manage money together and avoid keeping financial secrets if you want to ensure a stable financial relationship. Some people — both men and women — feel uncomfortable talking about money — but they shouldn’t! Saving, spending, creating financial goals and managing our money — it’s all part of [our] daily [lives], so there’s no reason not to talk about it freely," says Speeth.
8. Be Aware Of Your Partner's Salary
Knowing your total household income can alleviate any confusion you may have when it comes to your partner's finances. "According to Fidelity Investments®' 2015 Couples Retirement Study, although the overwhelming majority of couples (72 percent) say they communicate exceptionally or very well when it comes to financial matters, more than four in 10 (43 percent, up from 27 percent in 2013) couldn't correctly identify how much their partner makes — and of that, 10 percent were off by $25,000 or more," says Speeth.
"If you don’t know this basic fact about your partner — something that likely impacts your household’s day-to-day finances — this might be a sign that you’re not on the same page about other financial topics as well," continued Speeth.
9. Plan Your Spending and Savings Together
"Particularly if you have different ideas about how much you should spend. Make agreements up front about day-to-day spending, as well as big-ticket item purchases," says Speeth. If everyone was on the same page about how someone should spend and save their money, then I probably wouldn't be writing this piece. If you're sharing a bank account with your SO, your spending and saving habits will affect them. Be mindful and communicate your wants and needs before you make any large purchases.
10. Pay Off Your Debt As Soon As Possible
Ugh. The word "debt" just sounds awful, but even though you might love to get rid of that word altogether, it's something you have to live with and know how to manage, especially when a romantic partner is involved. "It’s common for one person to come into a relationship with more debt or to have different opinions about how much debt is okay. Tackle your decisions together and pay off debt as soon as possible to free up more money to save for future goals," says Speeth.
11. Recognize Each Other's Strengths And Weaknesses
Not everyone is perfect when it comes to money (guilty!). But as long as you talk about it and recognize where you need to grow, then things will get easier with time. "Recognize each other's strengths and weaknesses, and play to those advantages. It’s also important that individuals pay attention to the telltale signs of a poor money manager: [They're] always short on cash by payday, can’t keep a steady job, [have] bad credit, a knack for chronic debt, [and don't think] ahead/not concerned with things like saving for retirement," says millennial expert and Circle spokesperson Chelsea Krost in an interview with Bustle over the phone.
12. Be Vulnerable
While it's hard to discuss money, you really need to leave your pride at the door to build a stable financial relationship. The more open you are, the better. "It’s important to air out all of your bad laundry with your partner early. This way you can work together on solutions to better manage your money and tackle debt as a team. My rule of thumb: If you share a bank account, purchases over $400 should be discussed together," says Krost.
13. Use Finacial Apps
Thanks to technology, there are so many ways you can manage your money. Use financial apps to keep track of your bills and IOUs. You won't freak out about money when you and your partner know exactly what's going on. "Finances shouldn’t be a scary topic for couples, and it’s becoming easier than ever with social payment apps like Circle that easily integrate money sharing into platforms you are using every day to communicate with your partner, like Circle for iMessage. Circle enables and encourages couples to celebrate the moments you share together and eliminate the awkward 'I owe you’s,'" says Krost.
14. Don't Let Gender Get In The Way
"My biggest piece of advice for couples trying to build and maintain a stable financial relationship would be to not let traditional gender relationship roles define your unique relationship. Every couple is different and everyone’s financial situation is unique — determine what works best for you," says Krost. When you discuss finances with your partner, you both need to be open about what your financial values are. Most couples both work to maintain the household, so it's vital to understand how much each person needs to contribute.
15. Don't Judge
You and your partner are a team and the last thing you want to do is make them feel bad for the way they've handle money. Instead of pointing the finger, communicate about the future and how you want to improve your finances together. "We each grow up with different experiences and perspectives. You may have different ideas about saving, spending and planning than your partner. That’s ok! It’s also why it’s so important to have these discussions and come up with a collaborative plan for how you’ll handle your finances together that works for both of you," says Speeth.
No matter how long you've been with your SO, it can feel awkward to talk about money. But if you want to have a stable relationship with your partner, it's a good idea to be vulnerable and leave that ego at the door to get a handle on both of your finances.