Having conversations about money is one of the hardest things to do. For some reason, society today shies away from this subject in so many ways. It is just too personal. Mistakes are made, judgment can happen. There is a lot of fear and anxiety surrounding this topic. The hardest conversations happen with a spouse or significant other. Interestingly enough, this is the person who you should be able to bare your soul to. But money? That is a whole other topic. Use these guidelines to talk to your spouse about money and come together on your journey to wealth.
How it went for me:
Fail: Showed up to talk to my hubby about money, goals, dreams, etc, with an agenda, notes and a spreadsheet. I ended up crying during the meeting.
Flip (How it went different after I learned from my fail): Really listened to my husband and discovered how he wanted to talk about money.
Starting the Conversation about Money
“We need to talk”…don’t use this. This throws up a caution flag immediately. Spouses can see right though this line. Instead, start to have small short friendly conversations where you talk casually about money.
Initial Conversations should happen when:
1. When you know that your spouse is in a good mood, and
2. When everyone is relaxed.
My problem is that I got serious way to fast for him. He was totally up for sitting down to have a more thoughtful conversation. He was not prepared for me to show up with an agenda, spreadsheets, and notes.
Know Your Spouse’s Past Experiences With Money
Everyone has different experiences with money. Start with some questions about how they grew up and how money was handled in their house.
Were you given an allowance? What did you do with your allowance? Did you parents talk about money with you ever? What did you do with the money that you earned from your jobs as a teenager? What do you think your parents handled well? What should they have done differently?
These simple questions can tell you a lot. You should be able to tell if they tracked their money when they were younger, if they set goals and tried to achieve them, such as saving for a big ticket item like a bike, etc, or if they were surrounded by their parents talking or fighting about money.
All of this influences how your spouse sees money and how they think it is best to interact with you, based on what they saw with their parents.
Get to Know Their Money Style
Is your spouse a budgeter or a spender?
Do they like to read and learn about money?
Have they ever worried about not having enough money?
Do they enjoy looking at numbers and problem solving?
My problem was that I had been reading books for over a year about money, investing, saving, retirement, etc. Unfortunately, my husband was just not in the same head space as I was. He doesn’t like to look at spreadsheets, or analyze spending.
So, when I approached him with spreadsheets, and large numbers he was overwhelmed. At that point in time, he really didn’t know any of the basics, which then came across as if he didn’t care about it at all.
But he did care. I just didn’t realize that I wasn’t paying attention to where he was at in the money journey and how he approaches money. I needed to slow down, listen to him and get to know the money spouse!
Don’t Throw Blame and Recognize the Strengths.
If you are in a situation with your finances that is not ideal, do not blame anyone. You both have a partnership and you are both have a part in where you are now. The best thing is to recognize the strengths that each of you have and move forward together.
Everyone has a different relationship with money and just because it might not be the same exact as you, does not make it wrong. We all make mistakes in money. It is how we learn from those mistakes that really matter. Recognize that your spouse may be on a different path than you. What do they do well that will help you work together on your financial journey?
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Looking Towards the Future
Here are some questions to get the conversation started on the future. There should be no right or wrong answers.
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
What do you want to do in retirement?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
How should we prioritize our spending?
Where are we at financially and how do we get to our dreams?
Sometimes, looking towards the future can be extremely difficult. Especially if you have to climb out of the hole of debt. Your answer for 5 years from now, might simply be that you are hoping to not be stressed out anymore about your loans. So your goal would then be to eliminate them.
Make sure to talk about your dreams. Then decide how you will get there. You need to set goals, both long term goals, and short term goals that will help you achieve your dreams.
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Once you have these goals set you need to agree on a plan to achieve them.
Continue to Talk Regularly and Openly
Once you have started talking, make sure you don’t stop. This will not happen overnight. You may need to have multiple conversations with your spouse asking some of these questions to get you to the point where you can sit down to set these goals together.
If you only talk when you “need” to talk, then that usually signals distress. Start small and celebrate your wins together, no matter how significant. You are on this journey together.
Once my husband and I started our journey together, we saw significant growth. We actually increased our net worth by $100,000 in one year. You can read about it here.
Also, check out these 6 Finance Books that you and your spouse can read together and start the conversations.