Money management can be a little challenging for anyone. But many people find financial planning even more difficult when they have to do so with a romantic partner. Disagreements about spending or long-term goals can quickly turn into fights. If couples are unable to resolve these disagreements, they might end up feeling resentment towards each other.
But you can’t just opt out of financial planning with your partner. Whether you have a joint bank account or not, being a family requires cooperation when it comes to budgeting, saving, and financial goals.
What’s the secret? How can you turn those emotional financial arguments into constructive planning sessions? Follow these four tips.
Financial Planning Tip #1: Prepare for Discussions Ahead of Time
Money can be an emotional topic for many people. And that means ad-hoc discussions about it can feel like an ambush. You can make those discussions less stressful by planning them ahead of time.
By scheduling financial discussions ahead of time, you give yourself and your partner time to prepare mentally and emotionally for the discussion. You both have time to think about what you want to say.
If you feel like it’s time to discuss some money topics with your partner, work with them to schedule a time for the conversation. Make sure you are both clear on what you want to discuss and what you want the outcome of the conversation to be.
For example, if you want to talk about lowering discretionary spending, say that up front. Then, make it clear that you want to create a new budget that you both agree on.
Put the appointment on the calendar, and choose an environment that’s conducive to open and honest communication. For example, it might be better to have the discussion at home rather than in a restaurant where there’s a time constraint and the need to avoid a public “scene.”
Make a plan for disagreements
Even the best-laid plans can’t stop all financial disagreements between couples. But a disagreement doesn’t have to turn into an emotional fight. Work together beforehand to decide how you want to handle disagreements.
Are you going to try finding compromises? Would you rather set up individual accounts for discretionary spending? Should you set a threshold for purchases that require agreement from both of you? Will you take breaks in the discussion if things get emotional? Are there certain topics you want to make “off-limits” for this particular conversation?
These are just a few of the questions to work through with your partner. Doing so can help you create a plan to ensure that disagreements can be resolved instead of turning into fights.
Financial Planning Tip #2: Ask Curious Questions
Assumptions are the enemy of productive conversation. If you go into a financial discussion assuming that you know your partner’s goals, priorities, or reasons for making certain decisions, you make it much harder to actually have an open conversation.
Instead of making assumptions, take the time to ask each other questions. Set aside presumptions and judgments, and come to each other with curiosity. Maybe your spouse gets stressed about unplanned spending because of the way they grew up. Perhaps they aren’t thinking about retirement because they’d rather focus on the kids’ college funds first.
Before you start trying to make decisions about money, spend time learning more about each other’s financial thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Having that level of understanding makes it easier to see where your partner is coming from when you disagree. And it creates an environment that supports open, honest conversations.
Financial Planning Tip #3: Evaluate Your Priorities
Making financial decisions isn’t just a matter of running calculations and figuring out what you can and can’t afford. First, you need to decide what’s important to you and your partner when it comes to money.
For example, if your biggest priority is becoming debt-free and your partner’s top value is traveling and making memories with your children before they leave home, you’ll probably experience some conflict when it comes to spending. Neither one of you is inherently “right.” But before you can actually decide how to manage spending, you need to come to an agreement about your priorities.
Consider writing down what’s most important to you and having your partner do the same. Now, compare those lists. Are there any places where you agree or have similar values? Those priorities can be the center of your financial plan. Then, you can work together to figure out how to accommodate the priorities that you don’t share.
Financial Planning Tip #4: Consider Working With a Professional
There’s a reason that counseling is recommended when a couple fights a lot: An objective third party can help turn angry arguments into productive discussions. The same is true when it comes to talking about money. A financial planner can help you and your partner get on the same page and create a plan that works for both of you.
Along with facilitating conversations, a financial planner can also provide advice. They can help you find ways to reach your financial goals that you might not have thought about before. They can also answer questions and help you and your partner see things from a different perspective. If you feel like you and your partner need more support to manage your money, talk to a financial planner.
Financial Discussions Don’t Have to Be Fights
You’ll often hear that money is something that most couples fight about. And while that might be true statistically, it doesn’t have to be that way. A little pre-planning can set the stage for honest, productive financial discussions that don’t end in fights or tears.
If you share your finances with a partner, take the time to discuss your priorities and decide how you are going to handle disagreements. Approach discussions with a focus on learning more about the other person’s thoughts and finding solutions that work for both of you.
Many couples find it useful to work with a financial planner. Having a third party available to guide discussions and answer questions can be invaluable. Additionally, an advisor can help you create a financial plan that incorporates your and your partner’s resources and goals.
Are you ready to see how an experienced, caring financial planner can help you and your partner manage your money effectively? The Guiding Wealth team is ready to help. Schedule a consultation with us online today or call us at 214-810-3835 to get started.