If you made it through 2020 with your sanity intact, congratulations! For many of us, it was a year of great uncertainty and stress about our jobs, our health, and our incomes. With the New Year comes a clean slate and the chance to take stock of what the heck happened.
We asked our favorite financial thinkers to offer their New Year's money resolutions as well as their best advice and predictions for 2021. We hope it inspires positive thinking and hope for a brand new and brighter year ahead.
"The pandemic has been a time for reckoning and reflecting. On the positive side, there was a lot more dialogue among couples around money and ways they could work more proactively (and together) on achieving financial goals. At the same time, 2020 was a tough year financially for couples that experienced job loss.
My money advice for couples in 2021 is to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. I’d advise couples to commit more to saving and paying down debt for possible short-term blow-ups, such as unemployment or an unexpected medical expense.
If you haven’t made a policy of being really open about your money and to pull back the curtain on all your accounts (saving, investing, debt), make 2021 the year you finally do it.
- Farnoosh Torabi, host of the So Money podcast
So many engaged couples were faced with the emotional and financial implications of the pandemic altering their wedding plans. This is especially hard, for even those who were incredibly intentional and careful about planning a wedding they could afford, only to have unforeseen circumstances throw a huge wrench in their plans. From lost deposits to rescheduling fees and other surprise expenses, couples who were planning their weddings in 2020 had more than their fair share of unexpected costs.
My New Year's advice for 2021 is to take the time to get really intentional and focused on what actually matters to you and your partner. Getting clear on your priorities and setting shared goals is a great way to cut through the noise, societal pressure, or external expectations of what you should be doing in regards to your life and your money.
- Jessica Bishop, CEO, Budget Savvy Bride
It was a year of financial revelations. Couples spent a lot of time together and saw more of each other's spending habits, and frankly money secrets than ever. Let’s get real, it’s a lot harder to tuck away that midnight flash sale splurge when it arrives in the middle of the work from home day.
As uncomfortable as 2020 was, the truth is spending more time together probably cost a lot less. There’s nothing wrong with going back to some of your old ways that you miss but make sure to hold on to the good new money habits you discovered, even if it was not by choice.
- Bobbi Rebell, Host, Financial Grownup podcast
The biggest challenges were the ones where client’s lost their jobs and the stress that created for them and their families. Fortunately, those who had a plan in place and prepared for a situation like losing one’s job were prepared to handle the hardship while finding new employment. They also had the support of their loved ones because everyone was on the same page.
A good New Year's money resolution is not to put off getting your financial life together. Do it now. The impact it can have on happiness and peace of mind is massive. You deserve it, even if it means dealing with a financial reality you don’t like or need to improve. Don’t let another economic event like 2008 or 2020 control your life.
- Douglas Boneparth, President of Bone Fide Wealth
One of the biggest love and money challenges couples faced in 2020 was reallocation of childcare and work duties. Suddenly, a huge portion of the U.S. working population partly or fully worked from home while kids’ and partners’ schedules were changed as well. This led to dealing with new childcare needs, changing work needs, and lots of parents attempting to be work-at-home Dads/Moms for the first time. This undoubtedly led to stress on relationships and marriages.
Hosting an annual “State of Your Financial Union” is more important than ever, as life, work, and financial circumstances have changed dramatically for the majority of us. Look at how household spending needs to change to accommodate income changes, if previous savings goals are still a priority, what resources are left for emergencies and the unexpected, and each partner’s work situation.
- Amanda L. Grossman, Certified Financial Education Instructor at Frugal Confessions.
Like all things 2020, I saw a lot of paradigm-shifting disruptions in the way couples navigated their finances this year. Everything from couples who previously relied on dual incomes to support their lifestyle losing one or both streams of income, to couples struggling to manage the increased demands of childcare and other unpaid labor. So many of the systems couples had put in place to make their money and their lives work for them were just totally upended by the events of 2020.
I think one of the biggest lessons learned from 2020 is the importance of flexibility, self-compassion and constant reevaluation when it comes to managing money - both individually and as a couple. A system that works when two people are working is different from a system that works when one or both partners lose their jobs and health insurance. And while changes like these may not typically be so extreme, the reality is, every day we get new inputs and information that can shift our circumstances, values and priorities.
We need to constantly revisit and rework our financial plans to make sure that they're reflective of those evolving changes.
- Stefanie O'Connell, money writer and founder of Statement Cards
In the past I've always advocated for a weekly money meeting with a spouse or partner over either pancakes or wine. Historically we'd miss them a few times and it wasn't a big deal. We really felt the pain this year when we missed our money meeting. Disagreements would spring up because we weren't working from a place of planning and instead from a place of assumptions. Example: "I assumed we were on the same page about this, so I bought it." Those weekly meetings have been huge this year and missing them was ugly.
My best love and money advice for the New Year is to keep money communication fun and interesting. We do our weekly meeting over pancakes or wine because it's more fun that way. We also let ourselves get off track. The agenda is short, too, so that we don't get mired in details that don't matter. The big thing is that we talk and keep it playful. We review weekly bills, look at our bank balances, talk about upcoming short-term expenses and long-term plans, and dole out "allowances" -- the money spend on anything we want. Super simple. Not more than 20 minutes unless we're having fun.
-Joe Saul-Sehy, host of the Stacking Benjamins podcast
With all the uncertainty this year it was difficult to depend on plans. Being a planner this was challenging for me both personally and professionally. Plans and circumstances were constantly in flux. I tried to encourage my clients, and remind myself, to focus on the things I could control, when so many things are out of our control.
My New Year's resolution money advice is to communicate, stay organized and lots of hugs. One of the things that helps my husband and me is a brief (10-15 min) weekly check in to make sure we categorize our spending, anticipate expenses, track reimbursements, capture savings etc. We have a dedicated time to communicate about all the personal finance details that need attending to and frequent brief meetings have helped us stay organized and not let small tasks pile up.
Catherine Hawley, CFP, Catherine Hawley Persona Finance
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