Have you ever had a fight with your partner about money problems?
I’m guessing the answer is yes. If not with your partner, then with your parents, friends, or children. It happens to most of us- but it doesn’t have to.
“Money arguments never have anything to do with money.” -Gay Hendricks
Money = Values
When you’re arguing about money, you’re really arguing about what that money stands for. When your husband gets mad at you for buying another pair of heels, he doesn’t see any value in those shoes. It’s money wasted that could have been spent on your beach trip this summer. But to you, these shoes are the key to feeling confident in that work presentation next month!
And sure, those shoes aren’t the only way to boost your confidence. But the point is, when you focus on the money problems, you totally miss the real problems. When you focus on what you’re experiencing from spending the money (that boost of confidence), then you can talk about what truly matters.
How to Prevent the Money Fights
Did you know that 20% of Americans are hiding debts from their partners? What?! And how would you ever know if unless you starting talking openly about finances?
What if… you talked with your partner about your values around money? (Or your parents, your roommate, or whoever you have a close financial relationship with.) It’s so understandable to feel intimidated by this. But I promise you can do it!
75% of Americans are experiencing financial stress. So even if your partner is initially defensive, there’s a huge benefit to both of you for being on the same page and supporting each other. Arguing and resentment will only increase the stress you both feel.
Talk BEFORE the drama starts
If you’re in a new relationship or moving in with a new roommate, you have a great opportunity to bring up money before it becomes a sore subject.
Time your conversation right
Choose a time when you both have nothing else to focus on and when you’re calm. Think about when your partner would be most open to having this talk. My boyfriend knows not to bring up important issues in the morning because I am incredibly grumpy when I first wake up!
Your goal is to understand your partner, his values around money, and what he spends money on. Go ahead and tell him that up front- it will help ease any tension you both may feel. This is not about judging his spending habits or him judging yours. Agree to be honest, respectful, and open to learning.
If you’ve already bickered over receipts for years…
You can still save yourself a lot of trouble by opening up a conversation! Don’t beat yourself up for all the conflict you’ve already been through- it’s only going to hold you back from making amends.
This isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime conversation; it’s a continuous process. If you don’t understand why he spends so much money on the Comcast sports package, ask what it means to him. If he is frustrated that you want to him to help you, ask what’s going on. There’s always more to it than we assume. Stay open, honest, and curious.
What to Talk About
You don’t need to use all of these, but here are some great starting points.
- Retirement– Do you want to retire early? What options does your workplace give you?
- House Down Payment– Do you want to buy a house? If so, when? How much do you want to put down?
- Kids/College Funds– How many kids do you want? How much do you want to save for them?
- Investments– Do you have a brokerage account? What investments do you already have, and what investments are you interested in pursuing?
- Emergency Fund– How much do you want to have saved? What qualifies as an “emergency”?
- Rent– What are you comfortable paying? How will you split rent- 50/50, whoever makes more pays more, whoever has the biggest room pays more? How long are you planning on renting together?
- Mortgage– What are you comfortable paying per month? What kind of loan can you get based on your credit?
- Cable– What experience do you want to have? Is it worth paying for?
- Any other bills you pay monthly– Can you pay less? Do you want to pay less?
- Student loans– Do you have any? What’s your plan for paying them off?
- Other Debt– Do you have credit card debt? A mortgage? What’s your plan for paying it off?
- Credit scores– What’s your credit score? What has impacted it?
- Will you have all your money in joint accounts? Or yours, mine, and ours buckets?
- If you decide to have separate accounts, who pays for what?
This is mainly for married couples, but it’s important if one of you makes significantly more than the other.
- Shopping– How often are you planning on shopping? How much will you spend on clothes? Do you shop online when you’re bored? Who pays for the shopping?
- Food– How often will you eat out? How often will you cook at home? Do you prefer the hot new brunch restaurant or the hole in the wall BBQ place?
- Presents– Who will you give presents to, and in what situations? How much will you spend? Will you pay for presents together or separately?
- How often do you want to travel?
- What kind of trips do you want to take? Where do you want to go?
Some people love driving to a nearby beach every summer; some people love going to Thailand or Greece. How you like to travel can say a lot about you, your values, and your spending habits.
Don’t Get Discouraged
If you and your partner have totally different ideas about money, that’s ok! The important thing is that you’ve started to communicate and be aware of what matters to you.
Let me know below- What can you do to prevent future arguments about money?