We all have different money priorities and ideas of how money should be spent. When it comes to meshing your life with a partner though, these beliefs and priorities can get in the way of harmony.
I have a good relationship with my ex-husband right now, but looking back it is clear that there were some fundamental issues we didn’t agree on. And because we didn’t talk about it before we tied the knot, these differences came out later when we had to navigate our finances together. Some of the differences in spending priorities were so dramatic that it put very real strain on our relationship — and it didn’t help that we were both completely blindsided by these differences.
Before you get too far into planning a long-term life partnership with someone, it can help to play the “what if” game with a potential partner to get an idea of where you agree, and where you might need compromise.
What Things Should You Discuss?
Playing the “what if” game is all about trying to decide how you would handle different financial scenarios as a couple. Some of the things to discuss include:
- How many children do you want to have?
- If you decide to have children, will one of you stay home? How will you decide who stays home if you decide that someone should stay home?
- Do you want to buy a house together? Or do you prefer to rent? How will you save up the money to buy a home if you decide that’s the way to go?
- Would you rather spend money on experiences or on things? What sorts of things do you prefer? What experiences? Where do these priorities fit in with other spending preferences?
- How will you save up for a child’s education (or will you do so)? How much should you put toward this goal?
- If you had to choose between taking on some debt to do something (like buy a car), would you do it to keep cash flow freed up if you could get a low interest rate?
- Do you think debt should be paid off at all costs, before funding other goals?
These are items that are of great importance. For a long time, my ex was a “things” person and I was an “experience” person. We also agreed that it was important to save up for retirement. But once we started talking about what retirement looked like for us, we discovered that we had very different ideas. Both of us want to help our son with college costs, but we also discovered that we had different ideas of what that looks like once the discussion started.
Today, we are divorced (for reasons not exactly related to money), but we still talk about these things. We keep each other in the loop when it comes to talking about costs related to our son, and we compromise.
Before you commit to a long-term partnership, talk about potential financial scenarios and get clear about your own money priorities so that you can figure out if you really are a good money match. Otherwise, you’ll waste quite a bit of time in frustration as you want in circles trying to reach your destination.