How often do you talk about money with your partner, your friends, or even your coworkers? Are you comfortable discussing money?
My husband I talk about money every couple of days. We don't have long, in-depth discussions multiple times a week, but we have short conversations all the time. Most of these conversations are along the lines of, "I'm going to transfer some money to the savings. How does $XX.XX sound?" or "Car insurance is paid. Did you pay the phone bill?". It might sound a little obsessive talking about money so much, but a lot of these conversations are about "money maintenance". Spending a few minutes every week to check in with each other and our money keeps our finances on track.
Image: MoneyBlogNewz via Flickr
Why is it so important? For one thing, it keeps your eyes on your money. Healthy finances require upkeep and knowing where you stand. You can't ignore your money and expect it to do well. Have you heard the phrase "practice makes perfect"? The concept applies to talking with your spouse about money as well. The more you talk to each other, the more comfortable you become discussing finances and you get better at it. Regularly talking about the little things helps make the bigger issues less intimidating to broach.
About every 4-5 weeks, we have a bigger talk about our money. We go over how our savings is doing and how we think we are doing with our spending. Sometimes we'll make an adjustment to the budget, but we don't always. We always check our retirement accounts, both to review the amount we are contributing and what we are investing in. This is also when we discuss long-term goals, five years from now and 20 years from now.
Here are tips for making the money conversations go well.
Find a good time to talk. I don't want to think about bills right before I drift off to sleep, or as I am walking in the door from work. Pick a time to talk that works for both of you, when you aren't stressed or frustrated. It's better to wait a few hours to talk than to talk at a bad time. But...
Talk sooner than later. If you think there is a problem, or you are worried, it is better to speak up sooner than later. Don't ignore the potential problems or they might become real problems. It's also better to bring things up before either of you are too stressed about the situation.
Write it down if you need to. If there is an important issue you need to bring up, write it down. It's easy to get sidetracked or forget what you meant you to talk about. Write down what you want to talk about and you'll be sure to bring it up.
Nothing is off-limits. We have this rule for our money talks. Everything on the table, no matter how bad you think it is. It's always better to let your partner know what is going on than to try to hide it. The situation may not be as bad as you realize, but hiding it will make it worse. And to make good decisions for your family, you need accurate information.
Listen. Really listen--don't interrupt each other, or think about what you are going to say. Ask your partner to clarify if you don't think you are understanding what they are trying to say. Along those lines..
Don't make it personal. If you notice that spending is getting out of control, be careful how you word it. You don't want to make it seem like you are attacking your partner, so avoid accusatory language. State your concerns like a fact without getting emotional. If you are on the receiving end, know that while it is never fun, try to focus on what the other is saying, not how they are saying it. It's ok to take a break from talking if you need to.
Agree to disagree.. about some things. Decide what issues are most important to both of you, and focus on reaching a consensus on those issues. Other topics that aren't important to either of you, or only one, agree to disagree and let it go.
Talk often. Set up a regular time to talk about your money, whether it is once a week or once a month. Make it clear to both of you when you will talk so you can prepare. Choosing a regular time to bring up financial tissues will put both of you more at ease and less likely to feel attacked. But again, if there is an issue that needs to be discussed right away, like a job layoff, don't delay.
Should you only talk about finances if you have joint finances? No! Even if you keep your money separate, or partly combined, or whatever, it's important to keep the lines of communication open and talk often.