Talking about money with your partner can be difficult. While you might be a saver, your signifiant other might be a spender. When planning for the future, you may be looking at what your financial needs will be in 10-15 years, while they may be thinking about next month.
A money date is time you set aside to align with your partner around money. Sharing your financial history, as well as your hopes for the future can help build trust. Having regular conversations about money can help you develop shared financial goals—and the plans to achieve them.
If you’re at the stage in your relationship where developing shared financial goals and building trust around money are important to you, using regular money dates to get on the same page can be a good way to go. Here’s how to make a money date work for you.
Keep your money date focused—and fun—by treating it like a real date. This means setting aside time just for the two of you in a space that’s comfortable, private, and free from interruptions. A quiet restaurant, a picnic table at your favorite park, or snuggled up on the sofa are all good options. Pick a time when both of you will be fresh, rather than exhausted from a long work week. If you have children at home, ask a family member or neighbor to watch them so you can focus on your conversation. Stow cell phones and other distractions out of sight.
Before your money date, think about what you want to focus the conversation around. For example, if this is your first money date, start by exploring bigger questions, like:
If you already know the answers to these bigger questions, or if this isn’t your first money date, try focusing on what’s coming up financially right now. For example:
Also, consider where you are in your relationship. The questions you ask and, most importantly, the information you share, on your money date will be a lot different than if you’re still getting to know each other versus if you’ve been together for years and are in a committed relationship.
After determining what you want to focus on, take the next 30-45 minutes to jot down all your current debts along with your income and savings. Of course, this steps assumes you’re in a committed relationship and you feel comfortable sharing with this person. If that’s not the case, or you’re not ready to, or you just don’t want to share this level of financial detail, consider disclosing only your FICO score.
When you’re ready, take turns sharing what you’re comfortable sharing. You can start by talking about your money attitudes and beliefs, anything you might be hiding, or are afraid to admit. Approach what your partner has to say with an open mind. Listen, and try not to judge. This may take some patience. Be prepared for surprises and feeling a bit uncomfortable at first. Remember that honesty and taking it slowly builds trust in any relationship.
Avoid making accusations or using words like “always” or “never.” Using “I” statements will help keep the focus on your feelings, rather than what you may think your partner is doing wrong. Focus on how you can work together. For instance, saying, “You always run up our credit cards by impulse shopping,” can create tension and put your partner on the defense. Try instead, “I feel anxious when our credit card bill gets too high. I’d really like to see us pay our balance in full every month. How could we make that happen?”
You and your partner may have diametrically opposed views about money, which can lead to disagreements on a money date. Remember that you’re on the same side. Making eye contact, holding hands while you talk, or sitting together on the sofa instead of facing off across a table can help you keep your relationship top of mind even if it the money topic is stressful.
Unless talking about money for hours is your idea of a good time, it’s best to limit your money date to an hour or so. Discussing finances can be stressful, and as you get tired, tempers can flare. (If you feel yourself getting upset or angry, you may want to call a time-out.) If you don’t cover all the topics you planned during this time frame, just pick up where you left off at your next money date.
Even if you’re tackling big challenges like credit card debt or a big medical bill, make an effort to focus on the positive. After all, teaming up to figure out how to tackle student loan debt, or any money issues together can be incredibly bonding. End each money date by celebrating your progress, whether big (paying off your student loan) or small (shaving $100 off last month’s grocery bill).
Your money date conversation can vary from one money date to another. If your financial life is going smoothly, for example, you might simply want to revisit what you discussed on your last money date, the decisions you made, and how they’re working out.
When you have immediate money needs, however, you’ll want to make them a priority. For instance, you might be dealing with a sudden job loss, healthcare expense, a personal loan for home improvement, or a cross-country move. In this case, devoting a money date to mapping out immediate, or short-term, money goals can help you address how to adjust your spending and how to grow your savings plans together. Even if you’re not in a financial bind, you can still talk about what you each want more of in the short term, such as more dinners at home, to save money for the holidays, a job closer to home, or agreement on sticking to a budget.
As the year draws to a close, completing an end-of-year financial checklist together is a good way to review your progress toward your financial goals.
Regular, ongoing money dates are for solving problems or inconsistencies that inevitably crop up in daily life together. Here are some topics you can address any time of year to keep the money conversation going strong:
Some couples split everything 50/50, even if one makes more money. Others divvy up expenses based on income. Some couples opt for more creative solutions, such as one person paying all living expenses while the other saves up for a big purchase or vacation. Talk about how you’re currently dividing expenses and whether it’s working for you.
Are your savings and/or checking accounts separate or shared? Does the way you’re doing it still make sense for you? If you’re juggling separate accounts, jointly saving for a large purchase or down payment on a new home, or sharing a joint checking from which you pay for groceries or recurring expenses, can help you streamline and simplify your money life.
Having a financial safety net is critical to long-term financial health. A good rule of thumb is to build emergency savings that will cover your essential living expenses for three to six months. Use money dates to track your progress toward that goal and figure out ways to cut expenses so you can save more. Once you’ve got an emergency fund tucked away, then you can drill into your options for life insurance and disability insurance.
Are you happily renting or looking to buy? You can use money dates to plan how to save for a down payment on a home and monitor your progress. Talking to a lender can help you figure out your mortgage loan options and how to avoid loan scams, why your credit score matters, and how much of a down payment you’ll need.
Are you on track toward your shared retirement goals? Online retirement planning tools can help you both assess your personal situations, and if appropriate, merge them to come up with a complete retirement picture as a couple. Try using your money dates to identify what you may need to work on and create, or make adjustments to, your plan. You may even want to consider bringing in a fiduciary financial advisor who can help you plan for your retirement together—and keep you both accountable. Most fiduciary advisors offer both flat and hourly rates, making their services both customizable and affordable.
When you’re building your lives together, the path to money stability and financial health requires a commitment of time and energy from both of you. Schedule money dates monthly or until you discover your own rhythm. As you get more comfortable talking about money, having conversations about your personal finances will become second nature, and eventually, a normal part of daily life.
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