I know, like most things with finances, this sounds incredibly sexy, right? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Since my sweet boyfriend is with a financial planner, talking about money is relatively easy and pain-free for us. He knows I bring up his 401(k) allocation not because I want to nag him, but because I want him to meet his retirement goal and live comfortably in retirement (while I slave away for another 15 years). We talk about mortgage rates and FICO scores not because I relish watching him glaze over the same way I do when he starts talking about capacitors and the new Super Mega Awesome Light by Awesome Lighting Company, but because I want us to understand all of what we’re taking on when we buy a house and what we can do to mitigate the cost.
That said, I know talking about finances is really difficult for some people. I know it is full of emotions and judgment of the self variety and nerves over arguments and thoughts of living in a cardboard box, but did you know that 80% of divorces are the result of financial problems? Yeah, fer realz. So keep yourself from being a statistic by finding a low stress way to talk about your finances.
When Andy and I first moved in together we split everything 50/50 and I almost went broke trying to keep up with him. I had to work myself up for this financial conversation like football players do for the Super Bowl. I ultimately wanted us to stop splitting things 50/50 and move to an income percentage model, which I talk about here. I was convinced I was going to cry and lose my mind, but ultimately it turned out to be ok because we had the conversation while driving in a car. More specifically, he was driving and I was passenger-ing. This is not a new strategy by any means, the key behind how this worked was that we couldn’t get into a huge argument (not that I honestly thought we would) because we could die if we did.
The same principle goes behind why people try to break-up in public: the fall out has to be minimal.
I’m not saying this is the equivalent of a break-up, but for some people talking about money is super stressful. The easiest way to approach your financial discussions is to make it regular, make it a priority, and make it fun.
The first time you do this I suggest not sitting down with a spreadsheet and your bills, but first address what your financial goals are and how you want to accomplish them. Things like children, world travel, motocross racing all cost money and talking about how to finance those things is just as important as figuring out when to pay your water bill. Take a walk, go out for a meal or coffee or froyo and relax. Treat it like a date and make this discussion of your finances part of your evening’s rapport, not the sole focus of your outing. Then go home, think about what you’ve said and do it again next week. Treat it like a special occasion until it becomes easier and you find you no longer need the protective barrier of public decorum to make sure you both behave.
There is the chance something will come up that seems unsolvable. You want to take a trip to Hawaii for a surf camp and your partner thinks your first priority should be your emergency savings. Both of you should think about it and readdress it at the next financial date. And if you are unable to resolve it, hire a financial planner. Like I said 85% of my job is getting people to understand their own goals and do therapy on why they want what they want and how they can avoid sabotaging themselves.
Andy and I still have a ton of financial discussions while in the car. These are often the easiest and lead to huge discoveries (You want an income property on the house? You want to go to school to be a financial planner?). But now we can also have them in an offhand way and have made them part of our lives so there’s no stress over finances and more importantly, the communication of and about them.