If we’re talking about money, we need to include your partner in the conversation
In my first ever blog post, I highlighted the need to talk about money. This was focused on me as an individual but like many of you, I have a partner. And ultimately, should we decide to get married or stay together for a while, they will have rights to my money and vice versa. If you’re going to get better with your money, it makes sense to take your partner along for the ride so that you’re able to support each other and lift each other up. Should you decide to lose weight, you want a partner who will back you and hand you a celery stick rather than tempt you away from the green juices with a slice of chocolate cake. It’s the same with your money – if you have a partner who can back you up, it will amplify your impact and what you can do with your money together.
Part of why I wanted to write a feature on money and relationships is because it’s something I struggled with. I don’t see many people write about money and acknowledge their partner and their influence, which is weird because for anyone in a long-term relationship, it’s fairly likely that you have joint expenses, a joint account and perhaps a co-signed mortgage. You’re not fully independent as an individual in those scenarios – you’re part of a team and it makes sense to talk about money in that way, particularly if you’re trying to make changes to take control of your money.
Starting to have these conversations can feel about as comfortable as being in the same room as your partner’s ex – money is so taboo for many of us that you might rather face the dreaded ex than have a potentially awkward conversation about money.
It’s important to know what you’re inheriting before you buy-into a future with someone that you’re choosing to spend your life with. And that’s why you must start with knowing your partner’s beliefs about money.
We often inherit these beliefs from our parents either in terms of echoing their behaviours or using them as an example of what to avoid. Once you consider and start talking about those beliefs, it can reveal our differences in how we think about money and what it can do for us.
Here’s some questions to get you started:
- What did your parents teach you about money?
- What are your goals when it comes to money?
- What do you think it means to be wealthy?
Once you know where your partner is coming from in how they approach money, it’s important to then know their current money situation.
People don’t like to talk about their net worth, but it’s important to know what assets they’re bringing to a relationship and the debts they’re still carrying through life. People don’t like talking about their debt and a partner may hide this from you or try and change the subject. But before you co-sign anything, it’s important to be aware of your partner’s complete financial picture before their debts risk becoming your shared liability.
What if your partner is paying off a debt? You motivate them, you cheer them on and support them to pay down that debt but please do not, I repeat, do not pay it off for them. Debt is difficult but they’ll learn not to get into that situation again by getting themselves out of it – not by you bailing them out or taking on their liabilities. You could turn it into a friendly competition by checking your respective credit scores and setting a challenge to improve your scores over the course of a year. If you’re sure that the person sitting across from you at breakfast is someone that you want to spend more of your life with, you owe to your future with them to start having this conversation about money now.
Here’s some questions to guide this part of the conversation:
- What’s your current net worth?
- How much student loan debt do you have left to pay off?
- What’s your credit card balance?
If you’ve managed to have the conversation, firstly congratulations as this is something we aren’t taught to talk about society and you’re breaking new ground in doing so. Like a muscle being trained in the gym, talking about money with your partner gets easier the more you talk about it. Check in with each other regularly about your progress towards your money goals and celebrate milestones together, including hitting your emergency fund target (and if you don’t have an emergency fund, start one now), setting up and sticking mostly to your budget or paying off your credit card in full that month.
One of the bonuses of having a partner is having someone to celebrate your wins with and to have your back and set you on course when you’re experiencing doubt or uncertainty. You’re on the journey together and given the influence that your bank balance will have on your future, it makes sense to start talking to your partner about money.