7 Expert Tips for Better Money Conversations With Your Partner

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Happy older couple looking at and talking about their finances on laptop.
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Talking about money can feel uncomfortable — especially since many Americans were told at some point or another that it’s impolite.

This can unfortunately carry over to relationships. A survey of 2,000 American adults by financial company Empower found that, although 66% of Americans believe open conversations about money are essential for financial freedom, 46% don’t talk to their spouse about money.

This lack of conversation, or poor communication, can have disastrous side effects.

A study from the American Psychological Association found that 41% of respondents said money is a source of conflict in their relationships. A Credit Karma poll found about a third of Gen Z and millennials have ended relationships over money, and so have a quarter of Gen Xers and 11% of boomers.

Tough or uncomfortable conversations can be an important component of maintaining a functioning relationship. So how should we approach the topic of money? Money Talks News spoke to financial experts across the country to find answers.

1. Just do it!

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If you’re reading this, you might be gearing up to, or have already started, having conversations about money with your partner — perfect! Talking to your partner is important for a healthy relationship and healthy finances, even if it feels hard.

“Talking to your significant other about money can be awkward, but only at first, and it’s pivotal to future financial success,” Andrew Herzog, a certified financial planner and associate wealth advisor at The Watchman Group tells Money Talks News. “This topic is simply too important to ignore.”

Ideally, these conversations should begin before a relationship gets too serious to ensure you’re involved with someone who has a compatible mindset. But it’s better to start now than to never start at all.

After all, “The key to solving problems in any relationship is communicating openly and honestly — and financial trouble is no exception,” Charlie Pastor, certified financial planner and contributing expert at The Ascent, a Motley Fool service, tells Money Talks News.

2. Prepare

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Take inventory of yourself before initiating a conversation with your partner.

What is your individual financial situation? Consider your own spending habits. What are your financial goals? Know what your goals and hopes for the future are before comparing notes with your partner. Be ready to answer the questions you’ll be asking your spouse — a well-rounded conversation goes both ways.

“I also recommend having a budget of your own to point to first, explaining how much you earn and where the money goes, before attempting to pick apart your partner’s cash flow,” Herzog says.

3. Ask questions

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Once you understand yourself and where you’re at financially, it’s time to approach your partner.

Marisa Rothstein, an attorney, certified financial planner and personal financial advisor at Siena Private Wealth tells Money Talks News, “Creating a safe space for financial discussion begins with asking open-ended questions about your partner’s goals.”

According to Pastor, here are a couple of questions to consider:

  • “How confident do you feel about your ability to make the best decisions with money?”
  • “What worries and/or excites you the most when you think about money?”
  • “What was your relationship with money growing up?”

Getting to know your partner is essential to any relationship, and money isn’t excluded from that equation. Our past experiences with money can shape our views and habits today, for better or for worse. Take the time to understand each other’s personal experiences and relationships with money.

4. Listen and be empathetic

Couple having a serious conversation.
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We likely all want a caring and empathic partner, and we should be that kind of partner in return. So after you’ve asked your questions and brought up any concerns, it’s time to really listen to your partner’s answers.

“This entails more than just muting your phone; it requires muting your own internal dialogue,” Rothstein says.Resist the urge to interrupt or mentally develop counterarguments, no matter how unconventional your partner’s ideas may seem at first glance. If you’re busy building your defense, you can’t really be listening to your partner.” She adds, “This empathetic approach not only strengthens communication, but also lays the foundation for aligning mutual financial goals.”

Even if you don’t agree, responding calmly and empathetically creates a space for both your partner and yourself to continue open and honest discussions.

5. Be involved

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Get a good idea of each other’s strengths and weaknesses to find a sense of balance, even if that means tasks aren’t handled 50/50. Some couples might like splitting responsibilities equally. Others feel that one person is better than the other at managing money and want them to take the lead. That’s perfectly okay as long as there’s still thorough communication.

Carla Adams, certified financial planner and founder of Ametrine Wealth, explains to Money Talks News that having a division of labor is totally normal in households. But things like finances need to be regularly discussed even if one person is taking charge. No one should be left in the dark.

“I’ve seen this become disastrous because confidence around money does not necessarily equal competence with money,” she says. “It’s really key that both partners know what’s going on with the money. Even if the one in charge is really great, they could always get hit by the proverbial bus, leaving their partner clueless about where the money is and what to do with it.”

6. Know it’s okay to ask for help

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Maybe you’re having a hard time getting started, or conversations between you and your partner are just not going in the direction you’d hoped. Or maybe everything’s going smoothly and you just want another perspective. Whatever it is, there’s nothing wrong with seeking help from a professional.

“Some relationships need a little extra help to deal with money conversations that can be stressful and emotionally charged,” Pastor says. “In that case, it may be best to seek help from a couples therapist with experience in financial counseling. A good counselor can act as an intermediary to destigmatize financial matters and provide expert advice.”

A financial counselor can help you talk out your concerns and frustrations, but if you can’t agree on a financial path, a financial advisor can help push your fiscal plans in the right direction.

7. Stay on the same page

Happy couple talking about their finances.
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Finances aren’t a one-and-done conversation. You and your partner should agree on a way to consistently follow up with each other.

Pastor says, “Prioritize checking in with your partner on a regular basis. Set a financial goal and find ways to measure and celebrate important milestones. Schedule time to touch base on your budget, emergency fund and debt load, and if you have kids, consider involving them in the conversation.”

These check-ins can happen every week, month, quarter or whatever works for you and your partner. Consider even making a date out of it. Sit with each other with your favorite foods or drinks and talk about your goals and where you stand with them. Being consistent and avoiding making these conversations emotionally charged is key.

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