The Conversation: the Financial Talk Married (and Engaged) Couples Should Have

Maybe you’ve been married for 30 plus years or maybe you’re just engaged and planning your wedding. Either way, you are a team and that includes your finances. Yes, it’s a touchy subject; yes, it’s one of the main reasons for divorce; and yes, your parents did it differently, but you have to Have The Conversation.

You know the one. The one where you both communicate about your financial habits and goals. The one where you get some issues out on the table before they become crises so you don’t blow up your relationship. The one where you learn to communicate about something uncomfortable with the person you love.

Having the convo? Cover these topics:

  • Money management needs – “I need to have $200 in my wallet at all times.” “I never carry cash.” “I need a slush fund for my hobby.” “I have to be able to get money out of our account without being watched.”
  • Pre-retirement Goals – “I want to be debt free except mortgage”, “I want to stay home with the kids for a few years”, “I want to change careers and oh, by the way, I will make less”. “I want the kids to go to private school.” Of course, you don’t know everything the future holds, but you probably still have a few goals.
  • Hot buttons – “my mother yelled at my father about never having enough money so I can’t really talk about money very well.” “I don’t like keeping a budget, I feel too constrained.” “I don’t want to share accounts, I feel a loss of control.” Maybe one person makes more than the other and feels very vulnerable about it.
  • Points of controversy – “I don’t like the way my fiancé doesn’t keep a check book”, “my wife is too obsessed about money, I don’t see why she can’t relax.” “I don’t like to think about money and my husband thinks about it all the time.”

Find some communication tools– “let’s have a finance meeting once/quarter.” “Honey, can we talk about some upcoming expenses this weekend.” “We spent too much last month, can we talk about where we can cut back.”

Do not have the discussion when one of you is in the heat of the moment of being angry about some money issue. Get an unrelated, third party involved if it seems like you cannot do it on your own and it’s affecting your relationship.

These are difficult topics to talk about even between married couples. Before you have the conversation:

  1. Check yourself – Do some real thinking about what you would say for yourself on all these topics. Try to make yourself comfortable with these topics before suggesting you have a talk together.
  2. Timing is everything – Don’t have the talk in the middle of big life change like a new baby, new job or new home.
  3. Don’t have the conversation when you know you have significant financial issue – It’s too late for the conversation to help you and you either need to concentrate on that specific issue or get a third party to help you with it. You still need to have the conversation, but after you’re out of the woods on that specific problem.

And lastly, DO NOT SNIPE! Don’t throw sarcastic, mean or even annoying one-liners out about money issues. Have the conversation calmly, knowing you love this person.

Good luck and you will both be better for it afterwards. Fewer fights, less anxiety and more enjoyment of life when you’re not walking on egg shells or stressed out all the time about money.