By Charlestien Harris
Love is in the air, and February 14th is approaching fast! This day is known for expressing love by giving a box of chocolates, Valentine’s cards, and flowers. A recently released Money Habits and Confessions Survey, conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of LearnVest, suggests that one in five Americans has never had a serious conversation about finances with their significant other. So, I hope you will consider another gift of love that can really help your relationship this Valentine’s Day: initiating a conversation about your finances.
It’s important to realize that talking to your spouse or loved ones about money can be difficult, but you’re not alone. Not sure where to start? Let’s take a look at some ways you can initiate that money conversation and show some love for your money, your spouse, or a loved one!
- Schedule your money conversation ahead of time. Whether you’re planning a money talk with your partner, your parents, or someone else you share financial responsibilities with, it really helps to plan the date, the time, and the place. When financial pressures and problems are present, they can manifest as fear, avoidance, anger, embarrassment, and anxiety – a range of emotions and feelings that can hinder or shut down a conversation before it even gets started. Bringing up the “money” topic when someone isn’t expecting it can increase anxiety even more and may spur anger, defensiveness, and cause the other person involved to shut down completely.
- Share your money story. After carefully thinking about where and when you want to schedule this talk, a great second step is to begin by sharing your money story. A money story is your beliefs, emotions, and meanings that form all your choices about money. Your money story is your own deep personal, financial narrative formed early in childhood, usually from the age of 2 years old and continuing through to your early 20s. Your unique and individual money story created your current relationship with money. Just sitting down and having a conversation about your background concerning money can create a bond that helps you understand each other better when it comes to how each of you handles money.
- Share your dreams and financial goals. Just knowing your dreams as well as your loved one’s dreams and financial goals will keep you connected to a shared vision and motivate you to save for the future. In fact, if you have not had this discussion about your dreams and financial goals together, you’re probably not seeing much progress financially. This is a great opportunity to share your heart with your spouse or loved one to set some short-term and long-term goals. What better way to show love than to consider what each of you is considering and plan toward that common financial goal, whether it be short-term or long-term. Talking and being on the same page about your financial future or being open about sharing certain numbers (like income, expenses, and retirement goals) are important parts of the money conversation.
- Get money smart together. In keeping with the spirit of the celebration of February as the month of love, as a couple, you can get “money smart” together. Most times, as a financial counselor, I often see a dynamic where one partner takes care of every aspect of the family finances. That could be good if one or the other is extremely savvy with handling the money. But, when you’re both connected into the details, you’re equally in the loop and involved enough to make joint decisions about money issues that affect both of you and the family as a whole. Updating your knowledge together is a good idea because it will help you grow as a team.
- Organize your finances together. Together is better! With that in mind, you may want to explore ways that make talking about money with your partner effective and helpful. Focus on discussing which of your resources and bills are kept separate and which are combined together. Different couples have different ways of organizing their finances – some keep everything separate and live like roommates, some combine everything, and others agree on some combination of the two. When you keep the lines of communication open, you can more easily resolve conflicts around money. You can also take it one step further by establishing a system for managing your money. Are you going to use software or apps? You should have some agreed system for managing your joint finances. Additionally, determine who is responsible for paying certain bills, paying on existing debt, or handling tax issues. Figuring out who is good at what when it comes to money can play a major part in keeping the love talk smooth and easy. By dividing up the tasks, you can also make sure that you are covering all financial bases.
- Learn to celebrate your successes. I have found that some people don’t start talking about finances with their spouse or loved ones because they believe these types of conversations are all about addressing financial problems. That is not always the case. It’s important to celebrate your successes along the way to keep the focus positive. Regular conversations help you work as a team and reach shared goals so you can live a greater and more satisfying financial life. We all deserve to achieve a life filled with inner peace, support, and financial success – especially filled with love!
Learning how to talk about money with your loved ones in a way that is open and honest can be challenging, but it is essential to a solid “love” relationship. Healthy communication during money conversations is a skill that can be practiced and developed when the proper time is allocated to making sure the conversation is structured so it includes everyone involved. Seeking a professional who can provide you with the support you need and deserve to develop a healthy “love your money” relationship can be as easy as visiting the HUD website at https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/sfh/hcc/housing_counseling.
Until next week – stay financially fit!