How to Have the Money Talk: 5 Tips to Get It Right

Adam H. Kol, J.D.
June 29th, 2020 | 4 mins

If you’re like most people, the thought of talking about money makes you uncomfortable. And yet you may also know that financial stress is a top cause of fights and divorce. How can you overcome this tension, avoid becoming a statistic, and thrive financially and in your relationship?

In my work as a Couples Financial Counselor and podcaster, I specialize in answering these exact questions. Via my work, I’ve seen how important this issue is -- and how detrimental it can be if you don’t get it right.

Before we talk about specifics, let’s acknowledge that these steps may require a big dose of courage. Kudos in advance to you for getting started! And if you need more support, consider asking a trusted friend or advisor to hold you accountable as you move through these steps.

Ask yourself: Why have a money talk?

As in, why is it worth having these challenging conversations? For one, money fights are the top predictor of divorce and healthy money talks improve relationship satisfaction. To personalize it, perhaps think of the future you want with your significant other.

Second, gather your financial information on your own.

Start with figuring out your typical monthly income and expenses. Then, list out your assets (things with economic value, i.e. a home, a car, etc.), and debts (things where you owe money, i.e. a mortgage, student loans, credit cards, etc.). Note that the same item, i.e. a car, can be both an asset (because it’s worth something) and a debt (if you owe money on it). For your debts, you’ll want to know the minimum monthly payments and the interest rates, as well. Don’t worry about getting it all perfect -- just make sure you have a solid, general sense of your situation.

Third, sit back and process your financial situation.

Spend some time working through your feelings about your current financial situation -- good, bad, or ugly. Even when it gets uncomfortable, don’t turn away from the thoughts and emotions that arise. Instead, sit with them. Maybe write your thoughts in a journal, talk with a trusted friend, or work with a coach or therapist.

The goal here is not to try and get to a point where you have zero negative views or habits around money -- we all have some, and we all always will. Instead, the goal is to gain some self-awareness. This will help you grow and also allow you to be more patient, empathetic, and compassionate with yourself and your significant other.

Fourth, ask your significant other to start the conversation.

Now that you’ve done the work and reflection from Steps 1-3, you can confidently move forward. This part might be scary but here’s a model sentence to get you started:

“I’ve been thinking a lot about finances lately. I’ve been feeling [this way about it], and I want [your why, i.e. “to have the best life and relationship ever together!”]. When’s a good time for us to have a conversation about this?”

Fifth, bring your patience and grace.

These conversations can and likely will bring up all kinds of thoughts and emotions in your relationship. Also, I am writing this article while the global pandemic is, unfortunately, in full swing. This has introduced lots of anxiety and uncertainty into many lives and relationships. It is possible to have healthy money talks during a crisis, though.

So, do what you can to have patience and grace for both yourself and your significant other as you navigate the discussion. This will come in handy not just during initial money talks but also moving forward as you implement and execute your financial plans.

If you’ve gotten this far, then you’re already on the right track. Follow these steps, and keep moving forward. Best of luck!

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