Date nights. Self-care. Enough time for just the two of you. You’ve likely heard all of the tips to keep your relationship on point. But there’s one that you may not have thought of, and it turns out that it just may be the key to having a successful and satisfying partnership.
That something is frank, honest, regular conversations about money. According to a new survey by TD Bank of nearly 2,000 couples, 60% of respondents in committed relationships talked about money with their partner at least once a week. This was regardless of whether the couples combined their money. Millennials were the age group that talked about money the most. Nearly 75% of millennials in relationships that were surveyed talked about money at least once a week.
Why talk about money?
Once you’re cohabitating, you’ve set your budget, you have a sense of how much you’re contributing to household expenses, and you have a sense of how much money each person makes, why is talking about money so often so important? After all, what can change from week to week?
While your overarching goals (buy a house, pay down debt) may stay the same, weekly check-ins may make it easier to share small wins (hello, argued down an interest rate!) and help you keep larger goals on track. It’s also a way of reminding yourself, no matter how you may divide your money, that you’re a team.
Getting used to talking about money can also help you overcome some uncomfortable assumptions and avoid coming up against different expectations. After all, no matter how long you’ve been together or how similar your viewpoints are, the fact that you both grew up in different families of origin, with different “money stories,” means you may have some blind spots. Talking about money can help you confront those and make a new money story for both of you — without the stress that comes when your money talks are only centered on a pressing issue.
How do you talk about money?
Does hunkering down to the warm glow of an Excel spreadsheet not sound like your ideal Friday night?
The term “money date” sounds awkward, and it is. A money talk doesn’t necessarily have to be an appointment on your shared calendar. Here are some ways to organically add money conversations to your everyday busy lives.
Add an app. Some personal finance apps allow multiple people to log into the same account. For example, HoneyFi and HoneyDue are two apps that allow two people access and offer the option to make accounts joint or individual. These apps can help you be on the same page with spending (how much did we Seamless?) without having to study statements at the end of each month.
See a pro. If every convo about money ends up in a fight, having a few sessions with a financial therapist can help you both understand your pasts and forge ahead without getting into fights. Financial therapy is a relatively new discipline specifically targeted at the intersection of the behavioral and emotional components of money management. It may help you and a partner figure out new avenues toward healthier money management.
Have a goal. Setting goals, including “fun” ones like trip planning, can make talking about finances seem less a chore and more fun. Even if you’re focused exclusively on paying down debt, finding ways to make it a challenge. Who can create the least expensive date night? Who can find the best under $10 gift? Shared goals can help you both feel like you’re tackling the challenge together.
Encourage each other on admin stuff. The great part of being in a relationship, even if you don’t share finances, is having an accountability buddy that can help you commit to things you might have been putting off. This may be getting your side business incorporated, talking about potentially rolling over a 401(k) or, of course, buying life insurance. Talking about financial goals — and planning follow-up conversations to ensure they are complete — can help you both get those nagging things on your financial to-do list done.
Do it in increments. You don’t need three hours to go through your monthly budget, talk big purchases, or connect on finances. Ten or fifteen minutes is enough. Find a regular time to do it — maybe over coffee on a Saturday morning, or as you have a glass of wine on a Friday evening. The more comfortable you get talking about it, the less it’ll feel like an “appointment” and the more it’ll feel like part of your everyday routine that could help give you and your partner financial peace of mind.
Talk roles and responsibilities. One of the things that can get tricky in relationships is people falling into financial roles without a clear understanding of their responsibilities. In general, someone takes the lead on bill paying. Talking about who that someone is, and how the other can help, can give you both the confidence that you know what’s going on and who’s doing what. One simple way to make sure that both of you are on the same page: for purchases that you tend to share (anything from Amazon to daycare tuition — however it breaks down for you) set an email address both of you can access, like MaryandJimautopay, along with a joint account, so you both have access to information about those expenses.
Share the learning. Finance touches on every aspect of our lives, and sharing articles, blog posts, or podcasts can be one way to segue from talking finance in the abstract to talking about how it impacts you — especially if you’re in a newish relationship or you keep your money mostly separate. For example, listening to podcasts about, say, blockchain technology or cryptocurrency, can be a low key way to move into talking about risk tolerance or future financial goals.
Remember: It’s whatever works for you
Financial talks can fall by the wayside and are easy to avoid because they seem super-serious, or require a big time commitment. But if you haven’t regularly talked finance, talking now — when kids are young or yet-to-be, or when you’re still in the planning stages of homeownership — can set up a great habit that can help you conquer financial goals together for a lifetime.
The convos can be awkward and silly, right down to confessing the five figures you spent following Phish around in your twenties. But the dual end goals of a stronger bond and bank account are so worth it.
Anna Davies is an editor at Haven Life. She has written for The New York Times, New York Magazine, Refinery29, Glamour, Elle, and others, and has published 13 young adult novels. She lives in Jersey City, NJ, with her family and loves traveling, running, and trying to find the best cold brew coffee in town.