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Three Important Questions Each Couple Should Ask About Money

The one meeting you need to make sure money doesn’t ruin your relationship

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When I was growing up, I don’t recall my parents ever talking about money…at least not in a rational way. Like most baby boomers, my only real experience of my parents discussing their finances was the occasional fight that spilled over when things were particularly stressful financially.

Thankfully, times have changed. According to research by TD Bank, millennials in committed relationships talk about money much more often than their older counter-parts.

The survey of 1,749 individuals revealed that 60 percent of millennials talk about money weekly with their partner, and 97 percent talk about money monthly.

Healthy couples have money talks

This is important because research shows that couples that talk about money fre-quently are much happier than couples that don’t. I’d also wager that they’re much better off than couples that don’t.

As Scientific America writes, “In our interviews, we frequently encounter individuals that accumulate crippling debt, miss opportunities to save, or are unaware of basic financial strategies that would improve their well-being—often because they were embarrassed to ask their friends and family for advice about money.” And in 2009, it was found that “In a 2009 study, researchers found that students from households that spoke openly about finances were less likely to have problems with impulse spending and had significantly less credit card debt.”

Clearly it’s important to talk about money if you want to have a healthy relationship. But not all money conversations are created equal and not all relationships view money in the same way.

Get on the same page…from the beginning

For those who aren’t currently in a relationship, I’ll offer some money advice before your find your life partner. Get on the same page and start talking about money right away.

When Kim and I were on our first date, we talked about money. At the time we were both poor, but I knew that I wanted to be rich and I wanted to find someone who viewed money and life the same way I did. That meant that we needed to have clear and frank conversations about money from the get go.

Kim and I talked late into the night about money and our dreams. Thankfully, I’d found a woman who was both beautiful and who shared my values about money. We talked about investing and building businesses, and it was invigorating. I can honestly say that we’re together still to this day because we had shared value around money from the get go.

Conversely, I know many friends who never had these conversations. As wealth accumulated, there were differing views on how to approach it and its role in their lives. Sadly, I know my fair share of couples who broke up not because they didn’t have money but because they had different value systems when it came to money—even when they were very well off.

Talk early and often

Follow the lead of millennial couples and talk early and often about money. It’s great that most of these couples talk about money once a week, and that’s probably a good starting place, though I’d say even every day wouldn’t be too often. Whatever the ca-dence, get it on the calendar and stick to it. You can make it fun by having some treats or going out together for the discussion, turning it into a date.

But what should these frequent conversations look like?

I’d suggest structuring this way.

What’s important?

Take this time to review the things that are important in your financial situation each week. There’s hundreds of things you can talk about, so it’s key to understand the priorities you need to cover.

Is there an area of your portfolio that needs to be dug into? Have you recently reached a goal and need to set a new one? Do you need to discuss an opportunity that came up since you last spoke?

Make these a priority and just like a business meeting, work on building a shared agenda. One easy thing to do would be simply to create a shared Google Doc that allows both you and your partner to build and agent throughout the week. Then when you sit down, you’ll be ready to have a great conversation from the get go.

How are we doing?

Once you have determined what is important to discuss, you need to take an honest look at how you’re doing. Each partner should be committed to bringing the right information and data to the table so there can be a fruitful discussion.

Sometimes, things are great and don’t need a deep dive. So a simple “we’re doing great in this area” can be said and you can move on to other items.

Other times, you need to take a close look at an area that isn’t doing well. If there’s ideas or plans in place to address them, get those out on the table for discussion. If there’s not plan or ideas, now is the time to work together on those.

So, for instance, if you’re wanting to invest in a property and one partner was tasked with doing some searches the week before but hasn’t come up with anything, it’s time to talk about why. Perhaps there wasn’t time. How can you free up time next week? Or maybe there was a lot of searching but nothing came up. Do you take a new look at the criteria and adjust?

What will we do next?

As with any good meeting, once you’ve established what is important and talked about how you’re doing, it’s time to discuss what you will do next. Discuss the steps you’ll take until your next meeting, and make it clear who will do what.

For many, this might seem too mechanical, but the reality is that being on the same page this way about your finances actually frees you up for spontaneity and to enjoy each other throughout other times in your life together. Because you talk about money regularly and with a set agenda, you don’t have to let it suddenly come up and ruin a nice dinner, for example. You can simply say, let’s put that on the agenda for our next meeting and move on to having a great evening together.

Original publish date: August 07, 2018

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