Is there anything more romantic than talking about money with your partner? Well, yes.
But making decisions about money is part of building a life together, and the best way to take control of your finances is as a team.
Like many household chores, the division of labor when it comes to finances is rarely split 50-50. One partner may take a more active role in decisions about long-term investments and retirement, while the other may be better at managing the day-to-day budget.
In most households, someone will take the financial lead, but both partners need to work together to set goals, prepare for challenges and ensure good financial health. In other words, it’s OK to take a back seat on some decisions, but it is essential to stay informed. When both partners play an active role, couples can have greater confidence about their financial future.
As most couples know, money can, at times, be a source of conflict in relationships. When partners aren’t on the same financial page, it can cause friction. If one person is saving and the other person is spending, it’s likely someone will ultimately become resentful.
Growing up, I saw this firsthand with my parents. One of them paid the bills and handled all financial decisions while the other went out and spent freely. It created tension and they lived relying on credit cards to make ends meet.
I was determined not to repeat this pattern in my own marriage. Even though I’ve worked in the financial industry for 16 years, my wife takes a more active role in managing our household finances. However, I make sure I have a solid understanding of our financial picture and we discuss it regularly.
So how can you ensure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to finances? Here are a few ways couples can work on their finances as a team:
Set aside time to talk about money. Don’t plan on having one marathon discussion; instead, have short check-in chats regularly. Talk about finances often so the topic doesn’t feel uncomfortable to discuss. Encourage each other and make sure you are staying on the same path. When you have these conversations regularly, your financial future will remain top of mind for both of you.
Write down your goals to help keep you both on track. This includes big-picture financial goals, as well as smaller everyday budgeting goals. Thinking about your financial wants and needs as a couple and putting them down on paper helps you to be honest, transparent and keep each other accountable. You want to make sure each member of the relationship is helping to work toward those joint goals.
Celebrate your successes. Set small, attainable goals in the beginning and recognize when you hit those mile markers along the way. Did you pay off the balance on a credit card? Treat yourself to a dinner out. Rewarding positive behaviors can help keep you both on track.
Recognize that life happens. One or both of you may start deviating from your financial goals. Mistakes happen. Emergencies happen. Life happens! Be honest about your spending and get back on budget as soon as possible. Also, make sure that saving for an emergency fund is part of your conversation; because for many couples, not having one causes a lot of stress.
Talking about money may not seem like the most romantic thing to do, but a lack of financial communication can cause a lot of damage in a relationship.
I encourage you to give it a try. Use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to spend some time with the one you love, roll up your sleeves and tackle your financial future together.