When my husband and I first met, we moved pretty quickly and by that I mean that we moved in together pretty quickly. It was after only knowing each other for a month and a half, and we’ve never looked back. But one of the trickiest things about our then-nascent relationship is that we both had to figure out our finances stat. When you live together right off the bat, you’re forced to have some very important conversations — the biggest of which was probably having an honest talk about how much we each made, owed, and what we wanted to do with our money. Do we save? Pay down debt? Travel? It’s all very confusing.
But before we could even figure out if we should pay off debt or travel, we had to actually sit down and talk about one of the most difficult things that a couple (or any human) can talk about: MONEY. It wasn’t an easy conversation, and it’s still sometimes difficult as we continue to figure things out both as a couple and as individuals. And since “the money talk” is always hard, especially early on in relationships, HipLatina talked to five experts who all shared their professional tips on how to begin the conversation about money when you’re in a relationship. Look, I know it’s not easy but hopefully with these tips you can at least know where to start.
1. Start the conversation ASAP, the earlier the better!
“Talk! The earlier the better! Each partner comes to the relationship with his or her own set of values and beliefs and, in order to have a thriving successful relationship, they need to fully understand each other’s position on money, debt, investing, and spending philosophies.” – Shana Bickel, CPA, Financial Coach
2. Begin by talking about the FUN stuff.
“Having the money talk with a partner can be really daunting and scary, which is one of the many reasons we often put it off. I recommend starting with the fun stuff. The whole point of having money is to experience and have what we want. It’s a tool really. So start with what each of you wants. What are your goals in the short and long term? How do you see your life looking? This conversation is really fun and also serves as the inspiration to get your finances in order because you are doing it for something that’s really worth it! Some of your goals might be the same and some might look different, which brings us to your next question!” – Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, Money Coach and creator of the 30 Day Money Cleanse
3. Figure out what your personal short, medium, and long-term goals are.
“Financial planning as a couple doesn’t mean you have to commingle your accounts and lose your own freedom; it simply allows you to work towards complimentary goals. The best way to start is to take a look at where you are financially with an overview. Write down everything: your income (take-home), expenses (don’t lie or sugar-coat them!), assets (bank accounts, investments, retirement funds, real estate, etc), and debts (credit cards, student loans, car loans, mortgage, etc)
The next step is to determine your goals: short, medium, and long-term. What do you want out of life? Do you want to buy a house? Have kids? Take a vacation every year? Focus on a big career move? Go back to school? Retire early? Write down your top goals — first separately, then take a look at how they compare, and devise a set of goals as a couple. This can be an illuminating exercise to determine if you’re on the same page as a couple, and if you’re not, to see what has to change to make it work together. Only once these two steps are complete, can you start to prioritize financial moves, such as tackling debt, investing, and managing daily expenses.” – Nora Dunn, former Certified Financial Planner and full-time financially savvy traveler at The Professional Hobo
4. Then get clear on what you want to achieve financially as a couple.
“This is about finding shared goals and values and understanding the limits of their resources. There‘s a big trend now to ‘get rid of your scarcity mindset’ around money, but scarcity has a purpose. Understanding that the money you have today is limited allows you to ask yourself, ‘What do l need and want this money to do for me?’ My clients find themselves living in ways they never imagined — taking that big trip to Europe. But becoming a one-car family to get there, for instance. When you think of your priorities this way, it becomes much clearer where to begin. What motivates you? lf you want to travel, why do you want that? Because you want freedom? What other things bring you that feeling? (Hint: savings! A fat retirement account!)
The other thing that happens when you get clear on what exactly you’re trying to achieve is that you see what moves you towards that, and what doesn’t. It gets a lot easier to brown bag it to lunch when you have a clear vision about where you’re going and how to get there. lf you want to travel a lot, but you also value the freedom that comes from living without stifling debt, you can look at your spending with a different
eye.” – Lynne Somerman, Financial Coach, The Wiser Miser
5. Finally, set a financial date night so you can check in.
“Set a financial date night. Most goals and financial goal take time to achieve. Sit down once a month with a bottle of wine, and check in to see how you are both doing financially. If you are really struggling, you may want to do this once a week. Working together you can find the balance between paying down debt and living the good life.” – David Rae, Certified Financial Planner