by Mira Reverente
So you survived Valentine’s Day and figured out who’s paying for what, especially in the early stages of a relationship. If you’ve been in a relationship longer, live together and are looking towards the future together, it may be time to assess spending habits, savings goals and other important money matters.
I know it’s awkward, especially if the relationship is fairly new. Who wants to talk about money anyway? In my culture, we tend to shy away from this subject. Even my parents seldom brought this up because it was so awkward and a mood-killer. As a friend once said, “you just slide into these things” and hope for the best. I disagree and believe that future discomfort and misunderstandings about money can be averted just by bringing them out in the open now.
Read on for some tips on how to have that money talk with your honey:
- Make money dates a priority. Just as you prioritize romance and all the other important aspects of your life, you and your beloved need to set aside some time to talk about money. And I’m talking not just a quick wallet-opening-bill-opening kind of date, but an honest-to-goodness talk about your shared finances which should include ongoing loans, large purchases, an emergency fund, your kids’ college plan/s (if any), investments and everything else worth sharing.
- Set financial goals together. So you want to take that European vacation after your youngest heads off to college? Have a plan. Calculate the costs and set aside money every month. Even better–automate your savings. What’s that saying: “you won’t spend what you don’t see” or something to that effect.
- Communicate. Just as you check in regularly about your whereabouts, do the same with bills and your accounts. Nothing kills romance more than a surprise huge purchase that was never previously agreed upon. Some couples agree on a “slush fund” or “play money.” It generally works this way–after the bills are all paid, each person can spend up to a certain amount without seeking permission from the other. Another couple I know have agreed to “check in” for any purchases over $200, whether personal or household-related. The key is to agree and be on the same page.
- Be transparent. Loop your spouse or significant other in. I have seen the demise of many marriages and long relationships because there were too many money secrets. I like to ask friends who have brought this to my attention, “If he/she is hiding money (or purchases or a raise) from you, what else could he/she be hiding?” Another couple I know has divvied up the financial responsibilities at home. The husband pays all the bills online but the wife knows all the passwords. The wife prepares their joint tax returns every year. That way, they both know everything money-related.
- Know where important financial documents are kept. Heaven forbid, a tragic death or disability besets you or your significant other, do you know where to look for that life insurance policy? Medical directive? If you have access to a safe deposit box, good. Stash copies of everything there. Put them in a flash or external hard drive. Have copies in your places of work. You should both know the members of your financial team–from your CPA to your financial advisor to your lawyer.
Mira Reverente is associate editor of CVH and a longtime journalist whose work has appeared in many local publications. Her first book on money came out last fall. Read up on more money savviness on her Facebook page.