Importance of Money Conversations and How to Start Them

11/25/2017 Author: Ginny Foster

Money conversations are value-based conversations.  And value-based conversations by nature touch the very core of our beliefs.  Here are 3 reasons to discuss money with your partner, followed by 4 ways to start that conversation.

Money is the number one cause of relationship stress

According to a survey by SunTrust Bank, money is the number one cause of stress in relationships.  Additionally, a separate study by Kansas State University finds that having financial arguments is the top predictor of divorce.

“Arguments about money are by far the top predictor of divorce,” said Sonya Britt-Lutter, assistant professor of family studies and human services and program director of personal financial planning at Kansas State University. “It’s not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It’s money — for both men and women.”

Couples who discuss money without arguing have better sex lives

For married couples, the period after the honeymoon is often when the glow of the wedding fades and the grind of reality sets in.  The normal habits of daily life, including bills, groceries, chores and work, are normal reality.  And with reality comes real-world stress about money and finances.

Does this mean that every married couple must argue about money?  The answer is no.  A Time Money survey revealed that couples who trust their partner with finances felt more secure, argued less, and had more fulfilling sex lives.  

Couples who discuss money tend to grow wealthier

Additionally, money does not have to tear couples apart.  Those couples who stay together tend to amass more wealth than those who never marry, who divorce, or who live together without marrying, according to Time Money.  When it comes to amassing wealth, married people do better.  Specifically, people who stay married to their first spouse enjoy higher net worth on average.

It is one thing to say why communication about financial choices is important; it is another to actually start the conversation with your partner, and successfully navigate it towards the best possible outcome.  Which, of course, is not another argument about money.  Instead, you want to have a positive discussion that results in communication and understanding.  Here are 4 ways to start that conversation and keep it going.

Ask the $100,000 question

If you’re not used to talking money with your significant other, it can be awkward to get the conversation going.   Try this question: “What would you do with $100,000?”  Then follow up with the value-based question: “Why?”

This is a good way to get the discussion started, and to find out more about the reasons behind your partner’s actions. You could even ask about other varying amounts of money, too: $100 all the way up to $1,000,000.  The key is to communicate with your partner.  Listen, share, and explore the theoretical circumstances.  This can be a lot of fun, and because it is just for pretend, should not involve a lot of stress.

Share your money story

Different approaches to money don’t have to spell doom for a couple.  However, problems arise when differences get swept under the rug and are left to fester. The way around that is to explore each other’s money values.  

A good way to start the conversation is to say: “Tell me about money growing up.”  This opens the conversation to childhood feelings of abundance or lack thereof.  Understanding each other’s money story helps to explain the reasons behind present day actions. Maybe your spouse likes to splurge because his parents splurged on him, and he equates lavish spending with love.  Or perhaps your partner grew up in an environment in which resources were scarce, and therefore buys multiples of everything in order to feel like she has enough.  Understanding your spouse’s point of view will help you avoid conflict and learn to compromise.

Payleaf get started

Communicate regularly

Couples should make a point to talk about money when there’s not a problem forcing the issue.  It is easy to avoid money conversations when there is no pressing need, but this is a bad idea.  Not talking about money during the good times makes it more difficult when there actually is a major issue looming ahead.

Instead, schedule regular money chats once a week or once a month to take stock of household money matters.  This could be as simple as dividing up financial responsibilities, checking in on shared goals over breakfast, or it could be a conversation in the car about a your dreams for the future.  Celebrate your successes together!

A great way to set goals and track your progress together as a couple is to open a Payleaf account.  Payleaf is an online savings vehicle with tools that allow couples to budget joint goals and track their progress regularly.  Using Payleaf as a savings tracker can help couples show their commitment to common goals on a regular basis.

Don’t keep secrets

A healthy characteristic of regular communication is consulting one another on big purchases. The definition of “big” is arbitrary.  A “big” purchase could be anywhere from $200 to $2,000 and beyond.  Whatever “big” is, it is important to agree to talk before making a purchase that exceeds it. “Money secrets eat at the trust of our relationship,” says Terri Orbuch, a researcher and therapist and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great.

There are, of course many more conversation starters than these.  A fantastic book titled 1001 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married has the aforementioned number of conversation starters.

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