Here are three tips on how to approach the first conversations about money with a future partner, based on my own marriage and the experience of guiding many women towards financial independence, before marriage and after divorce.
Start money conversations early, even if they’re uncomfortable
You don’t have to go into the deepest details on the first date, but when it gets serious enough for you to consider a long-term future, you can make it less awkward by prefacing your questions with statements that are not. I don’t feel critical.
Here are some questions you can use to open the conversation with a more positive spin:
- Are you saving for something special? Why is this important to you?
- What’s your favorite thing to spend money on? What don’t you like to spend money on?
- What did your family teach you about money?
- Are you investing? Why do you like to invest in it?
- Sometimes I worry about the money. Is there anything about your money that worries you?
- Debt can be very difficult to manage. What do you think of the debt?
A survey of American couples explored their relationship with finances and found that 32% of Americans keep a financial secret from their partner. A surprising 50% never plan to share this financial secret.
I’ve never met anyone who didn’t carry some sort of shame or guilt around money and was completely comfortable talking about the subject, including my husband when we first started dating.
Know your own financial independence numbers and goals to communicate them with confidence
I work specifically with female students in my financial education coaching to build confidence because they’re often afraid of looking like they’re bragging.
According to Pew Research, 29% of current marriages have both spouses earning roughly the same amount and 16% have a female breadwinner. Yet I still see a lot of wives leaving the financial decision-making to the husbands, and I rarely meet a new student who has their own cold financial numbers.
Before you expect a potential partner to share the ins and outs of their finances with you, it’s in both of your interests to be clear about what yours looks like by calculating your total net worth, keeping it in a safe place and performing regular updates. .
With these easily accessible numbers, you and your partner can have more direct, fact-based financial conversations about each of your unique situations and account mix.
Budget together, even if you don’t share expenses
When I started out as a financial coach, I was a firm believer that married couples should combine their finances no matter what. But since I’ve worked with more diverse couples over the years, it might not make sense for credible reasons, including past traumas, significant asset differences, or learning to rebuild trust after that. she was broken.
I coached a couple who have been together for almost 20 years, and because the woman was raised by a single mother, she was used to managing her own finances. Instead of forcing them to combine all of their accounts, we focused on areas of their separate budgets where they could share solutions or make decisions together, such as upcoming vacations or holiday gifts.
This couple has since paid off all of their credit card debt, a car and nearly $20,000 in student loans without having a joint budget.
Even if you’re doing two separate budgets, sitting down regularly as accountable partners can provide transparency into not only your partner’s income, but your loved one’s spending as well. It also creates a recurring dialogue about priorities and constraints, and allows solutions to be shared with each other on how to solve them.
Don’t ignore gender and racial wealth gaps
It’s important that both partners also recognize that while women have made great strides in their finances, there’s still a big gap when it comes to both salary and total wealth. I have personally seen women of color, myself included, being ashamed of not earning as much or owning as much as our partners. In truth, there is still a long way to go to have a level playing field financially.
According to Harvard Business Review, “In the United States, women who work year-round earn about 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, but they own only about 32 cents for every dollar of wealth held by their male counterparts. . These two gaps are much more acute for black and Latina women.
Recognize that talking about money can be difficult for both of you at first, especially with other factors you can’t control like inflation, recession, and volatility that cause financial stress.
I strongly recommend that you share your money story and ask your partner to share the details with you early and often. This will help create a relationship where you can share long-term financial decisions.
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