Talking about money can be tricky. So how do you kick-start a healthy, frank dialogue about the state of your finances and how you handle your money?
In the first of our Money & Relationships content series, we’re exploring how to start talking about money with a partner.
It’s important to talk about money
Money will undoubtedly play its part in any relationship. You might be dating and considering the costs of finding a partner, or you could be thinking about co-habiting and starting to share some of your financial responsibilities. Money will be a factor in every stage of a relationship so it’s important to know how to talk about it.
Talking about your finances is almost unavoidable, yet it’s still seen as a challenging topic. In fact, according to research by the Money and Pensions Service, 29 million adults don’t feel comfortable discussing money.
The most common reasons people avoid talking about money include feeling embarrassed or awkward, finding the topic stressful, worrying about being judged or simply not being used to that kind of conversation. If you’re discussing finances with a partner for the first time, always try to approach the conversation with an open mind. Everyone has a different perspective about managing money, and not everyone will feel comfortable talking about it straightaway.
The benefits of confronting your financial fears
One in ten people aren’t willing to discuss their finances with their partner, despite it being an integral part of our lives.
Talking about money openly and honestly is important because…
- Your partner’s financial priorities could impact your life in the future
You’ll have a vision of how you want to live your life. You might want to save all year for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, but your partner could have dreams of owning more than one property. You might want to save up for a home improvement project, they might prefer spontaneous shopping sprees. The way your partner prioritises spending could impact your life both now and in the future.
How much your partner earns, their level of debt, how they spend money on a day-to-day basis and what their financial goals are for the future will become important talking points at each stage of your relationship. So open up a dialogue about money sooner rather than later to help you feel more comfortable talking about the topic with your partner.
- You could save money by talking about your experiences
We all love finding money-saving tips, and a good way to discover them is by talking to friends and family. You might find you’re paying over-the-odds for utility bills or insurance, and you can take inspiration from your loved ones on how to save some cash. If you’re looking for more robust financial advice you should always consult a professional, but you could find it helpful to discuss shared experiences with your friends and family too.
- A shared goal provides extra motivation
Research suggests you’re more likely to reach your goals when you share them with others. You might also find it easier to achieve your goals if you take them on with a partner. For example, if you’re trying to save money, why not commit to cutting down on treats and takeaways together? From taking part in money-saving challenges to finding ways to get your finances back on track, you could find it much easier to reach your financial goals when you share them with someone.
- Opening up about money worries can reduce stress
Talking about our worries and concerns with loved ones, particularly a partner, can help to alleviate stress. Not only could it help you feel more in control, but your partner may also be able to offer support. From advising you on how to manage a budget to signposting you to external financial support, opening up to loved ones could help you gain control of your finances.
- Planning for your future now could save you a headache later
Moving in together, buying property and retirement might feel like a long way off, but it’s important to start planning for your future now. When you settle down with a partner, you’ll need to make some key financial decisions. It’ll be a lot easier to have those conversations if you’re used to having frank discussions about finance. If you know a little about your partner’s financial history and their attitude to money, there’ll be fewer surprises later down the line too.
How to start a conversation about money
Feeling apprehensive about your first financial chat with a partner? Here are some tips to help you get started…
1. Choose the right time
Initiate a conversation about finances when you’re both relaxed. You won’t be in your best frame of mind straight after a hectic day at work or a particularly stressful meeting.
It could also be good idea to plan a conversation about money in advance, so your partner doesn’t feel surprised or caught off-guard. We’re not suggesting you set a formal agenda, but approaching the conversation with a few clear talking points could help keep things on track.
If your partner seems reserved or uncomfortable, you could try breaking the ice by sharing your own financial goals, explaining why you feel the conversation is important or simply asking their opinion on something small like the price of a potential purchase.
2. Talk in a comfortable environment
Asking about your partner’s salary or their savings pot in the middle of a busy pub or while you’re out with friends probably isn’t going to go well. Choose a private, quiet environment where you both feel at ease before having a financial discussion.
If you’re both keen walkers, a countryside stroll could be an ideal setting for this kind of conversation. Or perhaps a more casual chat over a cup of tea at home will help you both feel more comfortable. You’ll be much more relaxed and open if you’re in a stress-free environment.
3. Plan how to start the conversation
For some people, it’s best to approach a serious conversation directly. For others, starting the conversation in a less direct manner might feel more comfortable (such as discussing something that’s happening in the news that’s similar to your situation). Consider both of your personalities and come up with a plan for how you’ll kick-start the conversation.
If you’ve never discussed your finances before, it’s a good idea to start small. For example:
- Talk about your financial goals
- Think about where you both see yourself in the future
- Take on a fun money-savings challenge together
- Discuss whether you’re a saver or a spender
Once you’ve broken the ice, you’ll be able to move onto more serious discussions such as where each of you stand financially.
4. Be honest
When it comes to talking about money with a partner, don’t just say what you think they want to hear. You might have different attitudes when it comes to saving, spending and investing – and that’s absolutely fine. You can be respectful of their values while being honest about your own.
It’s okay to take some time to think and come back to the conversation. You don’t need to figure out every aspect of your finances in one go. Try to keep the conversation constructive and always end on a positive note, even if you simply thank your partner for listening and suggest you chat further once you’ve had time to decompress.
5. Turn 'me and you' into 'us'
When you first start talking about money with your partner, the conversation can sometimes feel tense. You might find it helpful to steer the conversation towards how you can work together to achieve your goals instead.
Maybe you’d like to set aside money each month to pay off some debt or you’d like support on saving money. By sharing your aspirations and planning how to reach them, you can start to learn how to tackle your finances as a team. Something as simple as looking at insurance quotes together or cancelling unnecessary subscription services could be a good way to find out how you both view money.
It’s getting serious… what do I need to know?
If you’re just starting to talk about money with their partner, you might want to kick things off by talking about your savings goals or general spending priorities rather than how much you earn or how much debt you have.
You’ll need to step-up your conversations if you’re considering moving in with your partner, taking out a joint bank account, buying significant assets together or getting a mortgage.
Financial topics you’ll need to discuss when things start to get serious include:
- Understanding each other’s income and savings
- Discussing how you’d handle hypothetical scenarios, to ensure you’re financially compatible
- Talking about your level of debt, and your plans for paying it off
- Thinking about your long-term goals for the future and your plans for achieving them
- Working out how you’re going to combine your finances
If you take out any financial products together, such as a joint bank account or a mortgage, you’ll become ‘financially associated’ with one another.
This will show on your credit report, which means the way your partner handles money could impact you. It’s a good idea to know where your partner stands financially, their credit score and history of managing debt before becoming financially linked with them.
If your partner doesn’t have a strong financial history (for example, they’ve missed debt repayments in the past), this could affect your ability to borrow in the future too. So it’s important to make sure you trust your partner and have a clear overview of their financial history before you become financially associated with them.
Our guide on what to discuss with your partner before you move in with them goes into further detail about the questions you should ask.
Is it time to get your finances in order?
If you’re starting to discuss money with your partner, now might be a good time to review your finances more generally. From setting yourself a budget to organising your debts, there are plenty of steps you can take to get your finances back on track. Bookmark our blog for the latest money-saving tips, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Sophie Venner is a Yorkshire-based content writer specialising in crafting content for the financial services industry. She’s written over 300 articles on finance, but she’s covered everything from insurance to digital marketing trends. Her content has been featured in the likes of Semrush, Digital Marketing Magazine and Insurance Business. In her spare time, you won’t find Sophie far from a notepad and pen as she squirrels away trying to write a novel.
Monday 12th June 2023