Money and Relationships: 9 Money Talks to Have With Your Partner at Each Stage in the Relationship
I think we can all agree that talking about money isn’t exactly a fun date conversation. But it might be one of the most important things you can do to maintain a healthy relationship.
We’ve all heard the stats. Fighting about money is one of the leading causes of divorce, and more than one-third of people commit financial infidelity at some point.
And the best way to combat that? Talking openly and honestly about money with your partner early and often.
My husband and I did exactly that. We had unique circumstances because I was recently divorced, and between the two of us, we had six figures of debt. There was a lot for us to unpack there!
And while it may have been awkward at first, it’s led to us paying off our consumer debt, paying for a wedding in cash, living our dream of buying an RV to travel full-time and having a solid plan in place to pay off our six-figure student loans.
In this post, I’m sharing 9 money talks you should be having with your partner at different points in your relationship. Whether you’re just getting started or have decided to spend your lives together, there’s something in here for you!
When you start dating
When you’re starting a new relationship, it can be awkward to talk about money. You don’t feel comfortable asking the other person about their finances. You also probably don’t feel entirely comfortable sharing much about your finances.
In the early relationship days, it’s more about observing. When you’re dating someone, you can learn a lot about their finances without having to ask.
For example, you may notice that your partner regularly suggests expensive dates or that they splurge a lot on items for themselves. These could be a sign that they’re a spender or that they have a lot of disposable income.
During this part of the relationship, it’s really about making sure the other person’s financial habits align with your own. Pay attention to the way they spend their money, how they approach splitting costs, and how they talk about their future.
When things are getting serious
When you and your partner start getting more serious, it’s time to have some real conversations about money. These conversations can help you to get on the same page and ensure you have similar financial values.
1. WHAT IS YOUR MONEY HISTORY?
When your relationship starts to get serious, you’ll want to start talking about your financial background. This doesn’t have to be a single conversation — It’s more likely that it will be a continuous conversation.
Things to talk about include:
- Your beliefs about money
- Your families’ financial situation when you were growing up
- The money habits you developed either from your childhood or afterward
- The role that your families play in your finances today. For example, do either of your parents help pay your bills? Is one of you expected to help support your parents when they retire?
2. WHAT IS YOUR OVERALL FINANCIAL SITUATION?
Alright, this is the big one. This is the conversation where you’ll lay out your current financial situation for your partner. You might be nervous, but it’s critical if you’re going to take the next step together. Here are some key points to cover:
- How much do you make?
- What are your monthly expenses?
- How much debt do you have?
- Do you carry a credit card balance or pay your cards off in full each month?
- What is your credit score?
- How much savings do you have?
Keep in mind that it’s absolutely not necessary to share bank logins or account numbers at this point. This conversation is just about letting your partner in on what’s going on with your money and what they might be getting themselves into if you stay together.
3. WHAT ARE YOUR SHORT AND LONG-TERM GOALS?
When your relationship starts getting serious, it’s a good time to start talking about your financial goals. At this point, you and your partner each probably have your own individual goals. Maybe one of you wants to save for a vacation with your friends or plans to go back to school.
Not only will this talk help to determine how your partner’s finances might change in the future, but it’s also a good way to figure out if your goals align with one another. For example, maybe you can’t wait to travel the world, but your partner is dead-set on buying a house and settling down. You probably want to figure that out sooner rather than later.
When you’re moving in together
Moving in with your partner is a big step not only for your relationship, but also for your finances. There’s a lot of new ground to cover, and it’s more important than ever that you and your partner are on the same page.
1. HOW WILL WE SPLIT EXPENSES, AND WHOSE NAME WILL BE ON EACH OF THE BILLS?
The first big topic you’ll have to cover together is your new joint bills. First, decide whose name will be on each bill. While it’s probably a good idea to have both names on the leases, you might have just one name on things like water and electricity. Keep in mind that if you stop paying, the person on the bill is the one who’s ultimately responsible.
Another conversation to have is how you’ll split up the bills. You can either split everything 50/50, or you can split expenses based on your income. So if one of you makes 60% of the household income while the other makes 40%, then you’d each pay a share of the bills proportional to your share of the household income.
2. WHAT HAPPENS IT ONE OF US LOSES OUR JOB?
Now that you’re sharing bills, you’re financially relying on each other. In the best-case scenario, you’ll both have a steady income and won’t have to worry about this. But it’s a good idea to talk about how you’ll handle a situation where one of you is unemployed.
Does one of you make enough where you can pay all of the bills in that situation? Do you have parents who might be able to chip in for your half? What sort of emergency fund will you each maintain in case of a job loss?
3. WHAT HAPPENS TO SHARED PURCHASES IF WE BREAK UP?
Chances are, you and your partner will buy items for your home while living together. Discuss how you’ll divide up those items if you end up breaking up later. While it sounds pessimistic to talk about this now, it will go a lot more smoothly than when you’re in the process of a breakup and fighting over the assets.
When you’ve decided to spend your lives together
Now you and your partner have decided you want to spend the rest of your lives together. Congratulations! Along with all the excitement of planning your futures together, there are also some serious conversations you’ll need to have about money.
1. SHOULD WE COMBINE BANK ACCOUNTS?
One of the biggest financial decisions you and your partner will have to make is whether you’ll combine your finances, keep separate finances, or something in between.
This decision is a personal one that will look different for every couple. Here are the three primary options:
- Combine everything: You and your partner have joint checking and savings accounts.
- Keep everything separate: You and your partner keep all of your accounts separate and decide on a fair way to divide up the bills.
- A little bit of both: You and your partner have joint accounts for bills and for large savings goals. But you also each maintain your own accounts for personal spending, bills, and financial goals.
There’s honestly no right or wrong answer here. Some people have pretty strong opinions that one method is better than the others. I think that the best choice is the one that both you and your partner feel comfortable with.
2. HOW CAN WE PLAN FOR THE FUTURE?
Once you decide to spend your life with someone, planning for the future becomes a shared task. Whether it’s planning for a financial goal or planning for an emergency, you’ve got to do it together. Here are some things you and your partner should plan for:
- Financial goals: What are your shared financial goals that you’ll save for together?
- Retirement: How will you prepare for retirement? Decide what accounts you’ll contribute to and how much you’ll contribute monthly.
- Insurance: What types of insurance will you have in place to protect you and your partner in case of an emergency? Examples may include disability insurance and life insurance.
3. HOW DO WE SPLIT UP THE ASSETS IF WE GET DIVORCED?
No one wants to go into a new marriage thinking about divorce, but it’s still a topic you have to address. I can tell you that when I got married at 24, it didn’t occur to me that it might end in divorce. But two years later, that’s exactly what happened.
While we want to think the best of our partner, the person you marry isn’t the person you divorce. Just because your partner says today that you’ll split everything down the middle doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll feel that way later. For that reason, you may want to consider a prenuptial agreement.
Money is definitely a delicate topic in relationships. It’s one of the leading causes of divorce and of conflict in relationships. But you can help avoid some of that conflict by talking honestly and openly with your partner about money early on.