How to Talk About Money with Your PartnerBy Joseph N. Filosa, CFP® | August 15, 2019
What makes a relationship go the distance is an emotional bond that goes beyond the physical. Intimacy, connection, safety and respect—these are the pillars of a healthy partnership.
When you take a moment to look a little closer, you’ll realize that all of these components are driven by our values—and these values influence every major area of a relationship, whether we’re talking about money, parenting or any other core issue in a marriage. The only way to align our values, find common ground, and foster a real and lasting connection is through effective communication.
Nowhere is this more evident than in our financial lives. Over half of all stressed-out Americans say that money contributes to their worries, according to a report by the American Psychological Association. If one or both partners are bringing this energy to the relationship, it’s bound to take a toll. Open and honest communication is the antidote.
Where wealth management is concerned, we believe strongly in the power of understanding the things that drive us; the underlying details that actually shape our behavior. At Opal Wealth Advisors, we have access to tools that help couples really grasp how they each operate. The Behavioral Assessment Tool, for example, is one such resource that specifically homes in on building better communication in relationships.
Here’s how couples can talk about money in a real and effective way.
Get on the Same Financial Page
Money is an emotionally charged topic, especially when you’re in a committed relationship. Researchers at North Carolina State University say financial uncertainty has a lot to do with it. This doesn’t just apply to folks who are having trouble making ends meet—high-net-worth couples appear to experience it equally.
A prime example is fretting over whether or not to invest in a new business or sell a second home. Not surprisingly, the research team also found that effective communication can help couples cope and figure things out.
This is the perfect opportunity to leverage data to your advantage. Opal Wealth Advisors uses a number of Wealth Building Assessment Tools to help couples get to know each others’ attitudes toward money. Having this knowledge opens the door for better understanding and communication.
This begins with getting on the same page, financially speaking. What assets and debts are we each bringing to the relationship? What does your investment strategy look like? How does your spending and saving style mesh with mine? These are big questions designed to help each partner be more open and vulnerable.
Deep listening is a crucial part of the equation. Hear your partner out and resist the urge to pass judgment regarding past or present financial missteps. We’re more likely to shut down and put our defenses up when we feel criticized, which is the last thing you want when working toward a brighter financial future together.
Get to the root of any communication blocks—then make a plan for transforming them so that the two of you can begin working in partnership with one another. Again, openness and nonjudgment are key. If this feels like too big of a task to manage on your own, a skilled financial advisor and/or couples therapist can help untangle these blockages and get you moving in the right direction.
Unpack the Logistics
Once you strike the right emotional tone, it’s time to make a concrete plan for how the two of you will manage your financial lives together. Do you prefer to maintain separate bank accounts or joint accounts? And what’s the best way to distribute your income?
Some couples, for example, earmark one partner’s salary for certain bills and the other’s earnings for savings goals. These are details that will become clear based on your personality types and lifestyle preferences. Still, making a plan for the financial logistics is key.
Create Shared Money Goals
An equally important part of financial communication is each of you sharing your long-term visions for the future. In other words, look beyond the day-to-day logistics of your money life and think bigger about where you really want your money to take you in this life.
Remember: Money is a tool that helps us live our values. Maybe your passion lies in entrepreneurship, so stepping away from your 9-to-5 and launching your own business is on your bucket list. Share this with your partner in a way that really conveys the why behind this goal.
In return, be an attentive listener. What are your partner’s big-picture money goals? If, say, it’s eventually retiring abroad, how can you align this vision with your own financial dreams? The right financial advisor can help create a path forward.
Part of this journey involves completing a thorough assessment called the EVOKE Life Planning Questionnaire. It’s a creative activity that nudges people to dig deep and ask themselves what they really want out of this life—both in the short term and the long term. It’s designed to help uncover what a meaningful life looks like to you.
The end result? Crystal-clear goals and a roadmap for getting there. That’s when the Opal Essence Process comes into play. It’s a philosophy created to sync up your financial attitude and behaviors so that you can make real movement toward achieving your goals, as individuals and as a couple. We call it Money/Mindset/Mark.
Make Financial Communication Part of Your Routine
Strong financial communication doesn’t end with these initial talks. Instead, it relies on keeping the conversation going as you grow and evolve together—both individually and as a couple. Life throws us curve balls and our goals may change over time. That’s ok. In fact , it goes hand in hand with the human experience. What matters is keeping the lines of communication open so that the two of you can adapt your financial plan together.
Set aside some time to periodically check in with each other. Are you on track to achieve your joint goals? Did one of you recently get a pay raise or bonus that changes your financial game plan? Talk about it with openness and respect toward one another.
At Opal Wealth Advisors, we’ve learned firsthand that this lays the foundation for financial health. How we feel about money shapes our beliefs, and these beliefs dictate our behavior and our success—whether we’re partnered or single.
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