Couples argue about money more than almost anything else and these conversations are often fraught and unresolved. In fact, it’s safe to say you probably have the same conversation with your partner over and over again, with variations.
Here are some tips on how to talk about money with your loved one.
- Work on communication skills
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many of us become hostile, uncommunicative or defensive when the subject of money comes up. Even the best relationship can take strain. So agree on how you’re going to approach your money conversations. Will you set aside some time and come up with an agenda? Will you agree to give each other room to express your needs and fears? Are you willing to compromise, or will you just agree to disagree? Whatever the case, be mindful of the fact that any sarcasm, anger, coldness or belittling comments will scupper a fair, honest conversation, undermine your goals and leave your partner feeling as if he or she is not being heard and appreciated.
- Set some financial goals
If he’s saving up to buy a house and she’s spending like crazy on luxuries (or vice-versa), there’s likely to be more than a little friction. Have you set goals together? Do you know what you’re both working towards? If not, get together and discuss where you see yourselves in a year’s time, in five years’ time, in 10 years’ time. Then agree to work towards a common goal, bearing in mind that dogmatism isn’t helpful – allow each other a little leeway from time to time, without criticism. Your partner’s entitled to spend some of his or her money on something just for him or her. Of course, if you find your goals are wildly divergent (you want six kids, he wants to buy a yacht), you may have to consider your future together – but it’s better you know sooner rather than later.
- Stick to a household budget
Yes, it seems unromantic to sit down and work on a household budget – even more so if you’ve been told you’re a big spender and you’re sabotaging the household savings. More often than not, one partner will be blamed for undermining household goals. But it’s been found that men and women spend equally, only on different things. Set a basic household budget and discuss how much you’re going to spend on groceries together. Then discuss bigger purchases, like plasma-screen TVs, computers, clothing. Decide how you’re going to pay for those and come to an agreement. And don’t spring an expensive surprise purchase on your partner, unless it’s his or her birthday (or Valentine’s Day).
- Don’t wait for a crisis
If your partner has maxed out his or her credit card, it’s not a good time to discuss financial behavior because you won’t be able to look at the problem objectively. Have a conversation before one of you is in financial trouble. If you’re getting into debt, take action before it becomes a huge financial issue for both of you. Smaller problems are managed more quickly and easily.
- Getting married? Sign an antenuptial contract
If you’re not married but are planning a wedding, remember to sign an antenuptial contract. If you don’t, you’re automatically married in community of property. That means that you share assets and liabilities equally. This may not seem like a bad thing, but if you divorce and your spouse has a mountain of debt, you’ll be held liable for this and you may lose everything you’ve scrimped and saved for. Bottom line: a contract isn’t unromantic; it’s a future safeguard.