For some people, talking about money is as enjoyable a way to spend time together as going for a long walk on the beach.
“I’m passionate about money, so for me talking about money is super fun, and I’ve teamed up with someone who is the same,” says Kate Fries, Certified Financial Planner and Financial Advisor at The Family. Firm in Bethesda, Maryland. “For us, talking about money is like talking about dreams. Where do we want to go, what do we want to build? It’s a fun conversation.
But not everyone is looking forward to talks about money. Finances can be a major source of stress in a relationship. As Valentine’s Day approaches, here are some ways to make discussing money with your partner more enjoyable or at least less painful — and maybe even romantic.
FIRST, CONSIDER YOUR OWN MONETARY VALUES
Before you start a conversation about money with your partner, Eugenie George, a Philadelphia-based financial wellness expert, suggests taking some time to think about your own monetary values. In other words, what do you want to prioritize when it comes to spending and saving? Answers could include community, adventure and fun, she says.
“You have to understand yourself first,” George says.
RECURRING ‘SILVER DATES’ CALENDAR
George suggests starting the conversation about money with your partner by asking about their values, allowing you to find common ground even if those values are not identical. “If your values don’t match, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. You could complement each other,” she says.
In George’s case, her partner prefers to spend on family experiences, like a good meal, while she likes to spend more on larger group activities, like parties. Once they understood and accepted their differences, she says it was easier to move on and find common goals as well.
Fries suggests meeting with your partner at least once a quarter to check in and review recent spending habits and goals. “Make sure everyone’s tanks are full. You have slept and eaten, so you come with your best available resources. Maybe a cup of tea or a glass of wine and a candle, so you associate positive things” with the ritual, Fries says.
As these conversations progress, it’s common to discover conflicts or sources of tension, says Ed Coambs, CFP and couples therapist in Charlotte, North Carolina. “One way to avoid this is to acknowledge it. Say, “Honey, conversations about money have been difficult for us. Then try to listen and open the conversation with statements and questions that will help you better understand where your partner is coming from.
For example, if you’re concerned about your partner’s spending habits, you might start by saying, “I’m feeling anxious and I want to talk about our spending,” says Coambs, instead of, “You’re spending too much and you’re makes you anxious. A similar approach can work when tackling tough topics like paying off debt or cutting your budget.
“You see how hard you work for every dollar, but you don’t see how your partner is doing. Try to give them the same empathy you give yourself, even if how they deal with feeling sad or happy doesn’t make sense to you,” says Gaby Dunn, author and host of the “Bad with Money” podcast. .
FOCUS ON OBJECTIVES, THEN LOGISTICS
Fries suggests using your money dates to share your goals, which makes conversation fun. “’Oh, you want to go to Paris? How can we make that happen in the next two years? It’s a fascinating conversation,” she says.
It’s also important to have a clear idea of your current financial situation, including an overview of your net worth, how much you have in each account and how much you owe on outstanding loans, says Fries. Then you can give yourself smaller tasks to complete before the next money date, like budgeting or reviewing your retirement savings. Whether or not you mix up your finances, your actions can still affect the other person’s money if you share a home and other assets or debts.
GIVE FLEXIBILITY TO THE OTHER
According to Fries, maintaining flexibility in the goals and budget you share can increase your chances of success. For example, you might not want to spend $200 a month on golf, but your partner will.
“Each person can have a bucket to spend however they want,” she says, and it can help reduce conflict over day-to-day expenses.
BEWARE OF THESE WARNING SIGNS
Some money conflicts may require the help of a relationship counselor or financial planner, or even point out that the relationship is not meant to exist. Dunn says certain red flags, such as scrutinizing what you buy, commenting on what you’ve bought or valued and even “love bombing”, or giving someone gifts as a way to buy affection, could suggest deeper issues.
This Valentine’s Day, real romance might mean hosting a conversation about money.
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by Associated Press. Kimberly Palmer is a personal finance expert at NerdWallet and author of “Smart Mom, Rich Mom.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @KimberlyPalmer.
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