February – the month of love. This month, let’s switch gears from talking about divorce to talking about how to have productive conversations with your spouse about money. “Money Issues” is consistently named as one of the top causes for divorce, after all, and even when you are happily married having conversations about your finances can be difficult. Like anything in marriage, it takes consistency and dedication to get on the same page financially. Maybe you both play an active role in managing your finances, or maybe one person handles most of it. Perhaps you keep your finances separate or maybe you have decided to combine everything. Regardless, you should be having regular conversations together about your money and what you want it to be doing for you as a team. Personally, I have found one of the best ways to accomplish this is to have monthly “money dates”. Here are a few tips for executing these dates:
1. Put it on your calendar.
Pick a day each month that you are going to have your money date and put it on your calendar. For instance, choose the first Saturday of each month. Then, block of the time off for the whole year. Commit to this time together, even though you might dread it some months.
2. Choose a public location.
It might seem counterintuitive to go out into public to talk about such a personal topic, but there are a couple of benefits to doing this. First, no matter how emotional the conversation gets you will both be more likely to keep your voices level in a public place. Also, having these conversations on “neutral ground” helps keep the conversation productive and the emotions out of your home.
3. Create an agenda ahead of time.
Before you go on your date, decide what you want to talk about. It’s a good idea to have standard talking points that you discuss every month and then add to that when needed. Here are some things you could consider discussing:
- Review your budget and spending for last month
- Adjust your budget for the coming month
- Identify any unusual spending that may occur this month (home repairs, car maintenance, vacation, etc.)
- Pick one spending category you are going to try to reduce this month
- Identify goals you want to work towards together, such as paying off a credit card, saving for a trip, increasing your retirement savings, etc.
- Review your investment accounts
- At least annually, meet with your financial advisor together and discuss your long-term financial plan
- Meet with your CPA to review your taxes and make adjustments to optimize your tax-efficiency
- Review your estate planning documents (Will, Powers of Attorney, Living Will) to make sure nothing needs to be changed
4. Plan something fun afterwards.
You did it! You successfully survived another conversation about your finances. Celebrate by going out afterward and doing something fun together. Even if the conversation ended on a tense note, take some time to decompress together. We could all use more excuses for a date night, right?
Inevitably, we all have different views and values around money, depending largely on how we were raised. Because of this, getting on the same page about money can be difficult. Like all healthy habits, talking about money gets easier with time and committing to taking this step together now will surely contribute to a stronger marriage now and in the future. If you are still unsure of how to start a healthy conversation with your spouse about money, consider scheduling a meeting with a financial advisor and building a financial plan together. Often, that first step with a professional in the room to help guide the conversation is all you need to get the ball rolling.