Planning for your financial future as a couple isn’t something you should tackle alone. You and your spouse each have a valuable voice in the success (or demise) of your finances. But talking money usually causes arguments and discord even in the sturdiest of marriages.
So how do you and your spouse get on the same page while financial planning? Money’s not something everyone agrees on because it’s personal, and comes with all kinds of personal beliefs and learned behaviors (from our parents, teachers, and society).
In order to create a smart and success financial plan, that not only allows you to both survive and thrive, ask each other these four questions.
1. Do we need to compromise?
You won’t always agree, but it’s important that your financial goals are in sync, and that you at least agree on your plans for the future. If ever there was a time to compromise, this is it. Consider giving up some of the goals that don’t really matter as much, in order to help each other head in the right direction.
For example; you want to go on a cruise vacation, but your matey’s not interested. He won’t follow through, or help you follow through, with your plan. Or he’s a spendthrift and you’re the opposite. One or both of you may need to compromise on the smaller things so you can find goals that you both share, and want to work towards together.
If you can’t find common ground that you both can live with, consider making a trade-off. One year you’ll work and save money towards his goal, and the next year it will be your turn.
2. How will we get there?
You’re finally on the same page for your goals. Great! Now, figure out how you can best achieve them together. Living on a budget may prove difficult for you or him, so creating a custom budget that works for you both will make sure you succeed.
How much will you save from each paycheck? How are you going to make sure you both stick to the goals? Can either of you work to increase your income this year beyond the typical cost-of-living raises at your jobs? Can you take on a side gig? What can you do to increase the amount of money you put into savings each month?
Be open and honest with yourselves so you can find the answers you need. Agree on the steps to reach your goals, and make sure you’re both on the same page. Write down your plans and put your signature next to them (six months from now, in the heat of an argument, you may not remember what you agreed to).
3. How can we hold yourselves accountable?
Be careful with this question. Done improperly, feelings can get hurt and tempers may flare. Set a process — that you both agree to — and stick with it.
Each day, ask the other (without expectation, emotion, or evaluation), if they followed through with their part of the plan. Whatever answer the other gives try to be encouraging and understanding. No judgment. No harshness. No evil looks. You’re in this together!
Why? Because they already know if they achieved their goal for the day, it’s simply a matter of owning up to their success or failure. And they won’t need you to make them feel bad if they didn’t do well, they’re likely already beating themselves up over it.
Ask each other, each day, “Did you take your steps toward our goals?” and be accountable for your actions.
4. Should we schedule regular meetings?
Regular check-ins and monthly meetings are likely the best way to reach your financial goals together. Consider holding a finance meeting where you evaluate where you are as a couple, and where you want to be.
Both partners should have an equal voice to prevent power struggles. Also, when things do get heated (and they probably will), it’s important to remember to stop, focus the argument, present it in a calm voice, and let the other partner talk without interruption.
This is the hardest part. Couples often automatically go into defense mode when discussing finances. Maybe one feels the other is always trying to make them feel inferior or inadequate. Perhaps the dominant partner actually does that, maybe it’s a matter of perception. But this is why regular check-ins are so important. You can hash out the details and discuss the tough topics.
Financial Planning as a Couple
Financial planning together as a couple can come with heated words and hurt emotions, but remember that you’re in this together. The best way to solve the tit-for-tat is to openly discuss intentions behind words, be mindful of the others’ perception of our words, and to respond — not react — in these discussions.
When you feel your heart rate rising, your breath shortening, and thinking clearly has become difficult, it’s time to stop and take a break. Separate until you cool off, then return with flat (unemotional) conversation on the topic.
Empathy, understanding, and action. Those are the three keys to making financial planning as a couple a successful journey.
How do you and your spouse talk about planning for the future? What’s one tip you use to get on the same page with financial planning?