Navigating love and money can be tricky, but it’s simpler when you learn to communicate about finances in an open and transparent manner. Sometimes easier said than done, we know, but with a few simple tools you could end up reaching your mutual goals sooner and finding more fulfilment in your relationship.
To help us navigate these sometimes challenging conversations, we are joined by Financial Adviser Gretel Chiswell. When it comes to love and money, Gretel knows better than anyone there is no ‘one size fits all’ but she has seen firsthand that communication and transparency can go a long way in finding what works for you as a couple.
I see many different relationships come through the door, from couples that share bank accounts to others which have separate accounts their whole life, where one person is responsible for buying the groceries and the other for paying the bills. Each to their own, what works for you works.
However, working together as a unit can often be beneficial in the long run as it allows you to combine finances (resulting in a larger kitty) and achieve mutual goals and dreams sooner. For example, buying a house or saving for retirement.
We’re conditioned as children not to talk about money. It’s rude to ask someone’s salary, and unbecoming to whinge about finances. There’s often good reason for keeping mum around friends and acquaintances, but in intimate relationships, things are a little different. Being transparent about finances with your partner, in general, leads to better outcomes. Shaking habits we’ve learned as kids can be difficult, but getting used to communicating about money is well worth it in the long term.
So, with that said, let’s look at some ground rules:
1. Don’t keep financial secrets.
2. Consult on big purchases.
3. Talk about how you were raised and what informs your attitudes towards money. Chances are your relationship to money either mirror your parents or are a rebellion against either their perceived thrift or carelessness.
Not discussing your finances (income, expenses, assets and liabilities) in a trusted relationship can cause large problems. Hiding credit cards is often the biggest secret partners keep from each other and with credit card debt earning approximately 19%, this is a debt that can quickly get out of hand and causes stress when the other person does find out. The key is communicating, not hiding your debts or spending habits and sharing your views on money to ensure you respect each other and work together.
Interested in learning more about your money type and how it could be affecting your behaviour? Read our fact sheet on what’s your money type?
Budgets, like new exercise regimes, work best when you have someone to hold you accountable. That said, when it all just becomes about numbers on a spreadsheet and saving every last penny, things can start to look a bit bleak.
Try instead to reframe the conversation. Chances are you and your partner are together because you share the same tastes and values. Logically then you might have similar dreams. Talk about your goals together and use them as your focus in money talks. It’s much more attractive than scrimping for scrimping’s sake.
Similarly, if you both have debt, you can make it a team effort to pay it down. There’s nothing so unifying as a mutual nemesis.
Building like-minded goals to save for together is a great way to start holding each other accountable and ensure you are both working towards the same goal. This can ultimately bring you closer together, just ensure you are doing your best to understand and respect each other’s views on money and how you both like to spend and save.
If your partner is a spender, or you’re just curious about how to better manage your finances as a couple, read our article on managing joint finances.
Need help defining your most important mutual goals? Try our goals workbook.
Money is an ever-present force in our lives and the sooner you have ‘the chat’ the better. Okay, so maybe not your first date. But in any relationship, there are a series of milestones which present an opportunity for the talk.
If it’s early days, the first joint holiday, moving in together, or opening a shared account are all good times to start the dialogue. Or, if you’re already well into your partnership, buying a house, saving for your children’s education and preparing for retirement might prompt a chat.
And it’s not a conversation you only have once and then forget. Endeavour to make time to touch base on a regular basis—once a month is a good starting point. This will allow you to check in regularly rather than only dealing with differences in approach at times of financial emergency.
Remember too that just because a particular savings method works for you doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for your partner. Empathise with what informs their approach towards money and use this knowledge to shape budget plans.
And don’t fret if you’re in a long-term relationship and you still haven’t quite got the money talk down pat. It’s a conversation that changes over a lifetime as your goals, expectations and circumstances change. However, if money is becoming a source of resentment in your relationship, remember it’s never too late to open up the dialogue.
Your view on finances is always evolving and changing, from when you are young and happy to use every last dollar that you earn week to week to have a good time, to saving for a house, providing for children, wanting to spend money on your own hobbies, to ensuring there is enough saved for retirement. Always having open discussions about budgets and goals throughout life builds for a strong relationship foundation that will work throughout all situations.
At the end of the day, we will all experience conflict over money at some point in our life, but by making financial communication a regular and comfortable thing, you’ll likely deescalate these situations before they blow out of control.
Finally, while we all want the happily ever after, it would be remiss of us not to mention that sometimes things just don’t work out. If you and your partner are having trouble finding a resolve or your money types just aren’t compatible anymore the separation guide can help make divorce simpler, more manageable and less expensive.
If you and your partner would like to talk about your joint financial goals, give us a call.
What you need to know
This information is provided by Invest Blue Limited (ABN 91 100 874 744). The information contained in this article is of general nature only and does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. Therefore, before making any decision, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice with regards to those matters and seek personal financial, tax and/or legal advice prior to acting on this information. Read our Financial Services Guide for information about our services, including the fees and other benefits that AMP companies and their representatives may receive in relations to products and services provided to you.
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