After 25 years of working as a financial professional, I’ve learned that my job is part financial advisor part therapist. The challenge of helping a family through making tough decisions requires more than financial planning software and the skill of creating an excel spreadsheet. Just second to love, money becomes one of the largest items that separates couples from talking to each other. If you don’t know how to talk to your spouse or partner, I’ve put together my five ways to talk to your spouse or partner about money.
- Start With The “Lottery” Question?
One of the great equalizers to open a conversation without an argument is to ask the question, “If you won a million dollars today, what would be the first three things you would do with the money?” We often don’t know our spouse’s attitude toward money and this can be a very non-intrusive question so you can get some insight. Would they pay off the mortgage? Would they donate to a charity? Is there a new car or a luxury item that they would want to buy? Is there a fancy vacation they would want to take? This is a great question for an icebreaker so you can get a feel for the priorities around money from your spouse.
- Ask About Their Family Money History
Since we meet our partners later in life, many of their habits are already baked from their DNA and formative years growing up as a child. We can see easily items such as how our spouse or partner feels about traditions or raising the kids, but the thoughts usually don’t come up around what they saw as a child about money. This is a great time to explore whether they had a family that always talked about money or never talked about money. You can learn if they were taught to balance a checkbook or their parents just gave them money when they needed it growing up. You’ll often discover some interesting data asking and discussing this subject.
- Be Completely Transparent
Relationships are supposed to built on honesty, but when it comes to money we often see secrets amongst spouses and partners. Many times, I have seen one spouse come to me when they learned that their significant other had racked up a ton of debt without any discussion whatsoever. Creating these types of debts or hidden transactions can create a lot of resentment in a relationship. Other times, I have seen one spouse set up a ‘special’ side account or have cash stashed on the side without telling the other spouse that money exists as part of their finances. The relationships I have seen be the strongest are the ones where money and whereabouts of money are extremely transparent.
- Get Common Goals You Can Both Agree On
Whether you can do this as a family or you need the assistance of a third party (ahem…Ted!), you must get to some common ground around the financial goals for your family. For the short-term goals, the big questions are what do you need to buy or accomplish over the next twelve months? Are you going to redo your bathroom? Do you need a new car? Is it time for the kids to get braces? This will help you plan for those one-time expenditures…and where is the money coming from to pay for those goals. For the longer-term goals, it is important to sync up because you may have never discussed these before. What age do you want to make work optional? Will you stay in your area or move somewhere else? Do you want to travel? How much of the kid’s education do you want to pay for down the road? Who will be the custodian for the kids? These are all good questions for a goal setting session.
- Set Up Your Family Roles
Once you set up goals, then it is time to really lay out the roles. Who is going to pay the monthly bills? Do all of your checks go into one joint account or will you have separate accounts? How do you each maintain your own independence and freedom with money, but have restrictor plates on so you don’t overspend your budget. I’ve found over the years the role discussion is important so you don’t get to a meeting and say, “They don’t know anything about our money (and then laugh).” Even if one of you handles the finances, you should have a ‘money date’ several times per year (Ahem…again with Ted) so you can make sure you are on track and everyone is informed on how the family finances are doing.
These conversations are never easy and couples don’t often see 100% eye to eye on how to make family money decisions. This is where oXYGen Financial can help, so go to www.oxygenfinancial.net today and set up a time for a little money therapy.