The Big Money Talk
You thought meeting the parents was a big deal? Cute. You think picking names for your future children is intimate? Adorable. A burp slip out during date night? What a hurdle to overcome.
You naive child. You poor baby. You know nothing, Jon Snow.
There are few firsts in a relationship as anxiety inducing as the first talk about money. You know the real one about money. Where you talk about how many dollars are in your accounts – gasp! Where you talk about what your plans are for retirement – oh no! Where you figure out how to make a JOINT. BANK. ACCOUNT. *faints*
Talking about personal finance can be awkward, but if you’re serious with someone, it’s important to get on the same page. If you haven’t had the big talk yet then read on:
ARE YOU READY?
If you’re “just dating,” and don’t see this person as your happily ever after, then the big money talk may not be right for you. If you’ve never seen your partner completely naked, if you haven’t shared your deepest darkest secrets, and especially if you can’t fart and laugh about it together – you may not be ready, because money can feel even more private than all of that.
IS IT THE RIGHT TIME?
Money discussions can be weird, especially the first time, much like your other first times. My girlfriend and I had our first big money convo during the coronavirus lockdown. With the whole “not being able to go outside” thing, we definitely had enough time to do it, but having to make contingencies of all kinds during the pandemic, well it just felt like the right time to do it.
WHERE TO BEGIN
The only surprise I like is a surprise birthday party, so if your partner is like me it’s probably best not to spring the talk on them. My suggestion: make an appointment. Give it a time, a date, and an agenda. Set a calendar reminder. This lets you both prep for the conversation. I’d start with something like: “I’d like to talk about money with you, I know it can be uncomfortable, but I think it’s important for us, could we set up some time to talk this week?” That way your partner knows what’s up, and has time to prepare. Make a list of specifics you want to go over and ask your partner to do the same.
For my girlfriend and I, we talked about our current financial situations, our future expenses, and then long term financial goals. I’m a very “right now” thinker, so future thinking is hard for me. I’ve been fortunate to have a partner who is a long term thinker, so we bring both of our abilities to the table. And even though I’m not a strong planner, knowing in advance that we were going to talk about money, made it easier to prep.
SPENDING RIGHT NOW
In terms of our current financial situation, we looked at our income, savings, spending, and recurring bills to get the full picture and to see what budgetary changes we could be making. We looked at our bank accounts and our credit cards and found ways to streamline our spending. For instance, I own an Amazon credit card, and by using it I get cash back on purchases, so we use my card for that. We also cut expenses – for instance we don’t both need Netflix accounts, so now we share one.
SPENDING NOT NOW, BUT LIKE, YOU KNOW… SOON
We also looked at our current expenses that aren’t regular costs, but things we need to share the responsibility on, and plan for. One example was that our car needed an oil change and new tires, so we shopped around for the best deal and split that cost, too.
BUT I’M YOUNG, I DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT 35 YEARS FROM NOW… RIGHT?
Wrong. Those who don’t plan for the future will be woefully unprepared for it when it rushes up at you. I know from logic, common sense, and even some experience, that preparing for the future is always the best strategy. We talked about our retirement funds. She’s way ahead in planning for the future, but for me, I needed a plan. So I opened an IRA and we talked about making an appointment with a financial adviser at my bank so I can make the most of it.
SO WHAT NOW?
If you feel you’re ready, make a plan, and have the talk. Come to the table with understanding and patience. Give your meeting a start and end time so you don’t get stuck talking about it forever, because that can be exhausting. Wrap up the conversation with some action items, a checklist for each of you to work on before your next meeting. And of course, set a next meeting, to keep yourselves and each other accountable. Remember, this isn’t just a one time thing, it’s the next step in your beautiful future together. *harp music*
Wondering if we have an opportunity to plug in one of our free financial tools in this article, either the one about how credit card payoff or the saving one… It would be ideal to include it.
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