When it comes to couples and money, I find people assume it’s all about who pays for what, who earns what, and whether or not to have a joint account.
Don’t get me wrong, this stuff is important – especially if there’s a disparity in your incomes. But there’s another side to the couple’s money conversation.
Money is complex. It defines our sense of security. It pays for our resources. It can represent power, choice, opportunity and freedom. And we all have our own unique set of thoughts and feelings when it comes to money.
Much of this comes from the way we’ve experienced money directly and indirectly throughout our lives.
When two people come together and begin sharing financial resources and decisions, that’s two whole brains worth of ‘money stuff’ coming together.
Not only do we need to establish financial alignment in the way we spend, save and manage our money, we need to dig behind the numbers and understand the way each partner feels about money.
These feelings often define the way we behave with money – and knowing each other’s money stuff can help make all of the practical stuff a lot easier. Here are a few ways to start talking about money with your partner on a much deeper level.
Talk About Your Upbringing
Our early years are when we start to form the foundations of our core money beliefs. The way money was talked about at home and the emotions that you associated with money and any significant memories relating to money can impact the way you behave with it as an adult.
If you grew up with very little money, you might have drawn a belief that money needs to be held tightly. If you grew up around emotional volatility around money, you might have drawn the belief that money causes conflict and that having money is a bad thing.
Talking about what money was like for each of you growing up can help you build financial intimacy with your partner, and highlight differences or similarities in the way you see money in your life together.
Create Safety To Discuss Money Habits
Getting to know one another’s money habits can really help you dig into the best ways to manage your money together. There can be a lot of shame associated with our money habits, especially if one partner is more of a spender than the other.
Conflict can arise when a spender and a saver couple up, because the other’s behaviour goes against their default setting.
Try to let go of biases you might be holding about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ money habits, and instead talk about what motivates your money behaviours. There are often ways you can build each other’s money preferences into the relationship by meeting in the middle.
Be Open About The Emotional Side Of Financial Decisions
Some financial incompatibilities can go undetected until it’s time to make a big financial decision like buying a car, buying a house, going into debt or navigating life events like redundancy.
We all have our own unique appetite for risk, and it’s important that you’re making decisions you’re both comfortable with. If you feel anxious about money or a financial decision, talk about it.
Build your ‘financial intimacy’ by being open with one another about how you’re feeling and where your worries are coming from in order to reach a common ground that works for both of you.
Get To Know Each Other’s Financial Values
We all have different things we value, and that’s often reflected in our financial behaviour. Talk to each other about what matters to you in life, what you like to spend money on, and what you can easily live without.
When you understand one another’s financial values, you can learn to appreciate why you both behave the way you do with money. This helps remove judgement from your financial conversations, and creates safety for differences in how you spend and save.
Set Joint Goals
Setting goals together can help you align your financial differences and get on the same page. Goal setting gets you thinking about your future together and what you want out of life, building on that financial intimacy even more.
You can have different approaches to achieving the goal, but be aligned in its importance to your life together.
Emma Edwards is the founder of The Broke Generation a destination to help millennials feel better about their approach to finances.