I admit to being completely baffled by the number of divorces that occur due to couples not communicating well regarding money. The way I see it, from date number one you both are entering a dialogue about money. If you’re out to dinner, you communicate about who pays for what. If the first date is a walk in the local park, you’re communicating about a low-cost lifestyle. Even if you’re not having an explicit conversation about your views on money and everything that goes along with that, by your very actions you are communicating about finances.
Obviously, as time goes on in a relationship the need to have specific conversations about finances deepens. This is so very important. If you are not doing so in your relationship, and you think you have a future together, sit down with your partner immediately and start a dialogue. What are their financial priorities? Do they line up with yours? If they do not, what is a valid compromise that satisfies both parties?
Having open communication about money, and keeping that line of communication open over the years, will solve many a problem before it even starts. Take Spouse and I, for example. We’ve been together seven years, married over three, and we’ve never once had an argument about money. Read that again: not once. We’ve purchased cars, a home, home improvements, student loans, and retirement accounts together–and never had a problem.
Is this to say we will never fight about money? Of course not. But–and this is the key–when we first started combining finances we agreed on our priorities, the basic structure of our finances, and we keep each other updated on a weekly basis (or more frequently, as needed). Communication is key–and BOTH parties need to be involved, no matter who is in charge of managing the money.
Do it for yourself. Do it for your relationship. Tonight after dinner, grab your bank statements, a bottle of wine (if you so desire), and your partner. Start out with some basics:
- I’d like to take a look at our finances together and talk about our plans for the future.
- Where is our money now? What patterns do we see in our spending? What would we like to change?
- What are our goals for the next month? The next year? The next ten years?
- What is our biggest financial priority? How can we make that a reality?
And remember, this is an open discussion! No blaming, no anger–just start from where you are now. Don’t worry about the past; it’s in the past. Focus on where you want to go, and how you both can make that happen. And don’t be afraid. Even the darkest nights have a dawn.
If your discussion causes alarm, there is help. I recommend:
“Knee Deep in Debt:” A Guide from the Federal Trade Commission
Dave Ramsey’s Website I am not officially endorsing his products or services, but I do know he is very popular among the debt blogging community and a lot of people really value his advice.
The No-Credit-Needed Blog, one of the Money Network blogs, has some great ideas–as do all the blogs in the network.
Add your favorite financial management/debt blogs in the comments!