Anuj Nayar is the first financial health officer at LendingClub (NYSE: LC).
Whether you’ve recently started dating or have been in a relationship for years, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Who’s picking up the bill?” Or, “Does my partner have similar spending habits?” Maybe even, “Who makes more money?” Finances can cause stress in relationships, but—whether we like it or not—they play a major role in how we live our day-to-day lives.
According to a 2021 Fidelity Investments Couples & Money study, one in five surveyed couples said money was their biggest relationship challenge. Talking about money in your relationship can be daunting, but it’s also an important part of a healthy and stable partnership.
To help you get on the same financial page as your partner, here are three simple tips.
How To Start The Conversation
Initiating the financial conversation is a huge first step. To ease any nervous jitters, choose a relaxing and private location to have your conversation. Money talks can be uncomfortable, especially if it doesn’t come naturally. So make the setting as comfortable as possible, whether that’s in the comfort of your living room or while taking a walk on your favorite trail.
Talking about finances early and often is better than waiting until the bills show up. When it’s time for the conversation, take it step by step. Start small, such as discussing what you usually spend money on during the week or what your money preferences or quirks are. Try to discuss the money habits that are unique to each of you. Do you have an expensive hobby? Does your partner tend to stress shop?
Once you’ve established the groundwork for discussing your finances, work up to the bigger conversation topics, such as saving for a house, retirement or any debt you may have. Together, this will help you build a better snapshot of what your financial future could look like.
Crunching The Numbers Together
Once you and your partner have decided to take the next step by splitting costs or combining finances, you’ll want to agree on a budget for specific spending categories. First, take a look at your combined income and individual finances to get organized. It’s important to capture your full financial history, so consider asking yourself these questions: What have I been spending money on? What do I value in spending habits? Where do I see myself in the next year or so?
Next, figure out where your money will be going. I recommend creating categories for your spending. A good starting point for these categories includes household and recurring bills (rent, utilities, internet, insurance, etc.), groceries/dining, travel and entertainment. Make sure to personalize your budget based on what you’re spending each month. For example, if you spend $100 per month on a gym membership, make sure to include that.
There are lots of different ways you can track your spending, whether you create a spreadsheet or use a budgeting app. Discuss how much you want to spend on each category and who will be responsible. Agreeing on the who, what, when and how of finances can be tricky. Consider discussing questions like:
• Will one person always buy groceries and the other pay them back?
• Will you have a shared credit card?
• How much can/should you be spending on each category in your budget?
These are all important questions to consider when sharing the financial load.
Finally, make sure to keep track of your spending once you’ve settled on a budget. By tracking your spending, you’ll be able to figure out if any adjustments to your budget or spending are needed.
Have Regular Financial Check-Ins
Now that you’re well on your way to being on the same financial page as your partner, set up monthly money dates to keep the finance conversation strong and top of mind. I recommend creating and continually updating both long-term and short-term financial goals that you and your partner can work toward. Do you both have a goal of eating your way through Italy? Your monthly money date is a good time to check in on that goal and see where you’re at.
Make these money discussions open, honest and ongoing rather than a one-time event. Make it a habit to check in with your partner frequently and share your thoughts and financial progress as you work toward your objectives.
Whether you want to save for a big trip or agree to put a certain amount into savings each month, having goals as partners will allow you to keep each other accountable. When you meet your goals, whether small or large, don’t forget to celebrate the work you’ve put in.
While the finance conversation may seem overwhelming, showing your partner financial support and collaboration can increase trust and improve communication, and maybe even start you on your way to saving for that Italy trip you’ve been dreaming about.
The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.
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