Commitment and Money Conversations
Congratulations, you’re ready to commit. Perhaps you now share keys to the same front door or there’s a ring in your near future. Whatever commitment looks like to you, every time you think of your partner, you hear music. Your playlist has kicked up the beat, and the dance of partnership has begun.
This may not sound like a romantic serenade from the balcony, but it’s important to remember that money will now be a part of daily life between you and your partner. Starting a committed relationship is often the first time people share money and resources. It’s not easy.
THE LEADING PREDICTOR OF DIVORCE
For married couples, one study found that “arguments about money are by far the top predictor of divorce.”1 Furthermore, this was true regardless of the couple’s income level or net worth. So, it’s about how couples talk about money, rather than the amounts of money discussed. With this in mind, let’s walk through some specific topics to start your lifelong money conversation strong.
FAMILY HISTORY WITH MONEY
Our parents are our first role models for all aspects of our lives, including money. Whether they were sterling examples for saving, or not, their behaviors influence our own behavior with money. Ask your partner about the attitudes concerning money at home. Did their childhood feel financially secure? Or did they feel anxious because of money worries? What do they want to do differently from their parents? What family money behaviors would they like to continue?
YOUR PARTNER’S FINANCIAL CONFIDENCE
Research has found that 79 percent of American workers feel “serious stress-based concerns about their lives—with finances being a major driver of stress.” The other 21 percent feel confident about their financial situation, and as a result, experience less stress in their lives.2 What side of the 80/20 split did your partner experience growing up? And keep in mind that, for millennials in particular, they are less confident about achieving their financial priorities across the board than any other generation.
THAT FOUR-LETTERED WORD: DEBT
Today college and graduate school alums carry an average of $39,400 in student debt.3 Does your partner have any debt? If so, how much? How are they currently paying it off or planning to start? Also, does he or she have any other debt, such as credit cards? When you each add up your assets versus liabilities, where do you stand? During this conversation, if the debt talk starts to feel overwhelming, remember that a professional can help you two put together a plan to pay it down before it weighs you down.
HOW WILL WE MANAGE OUR MONEY TOGETHER?
Here are a few questions to ask one another: do we plan to keep separate checking accounts or is it time to open a joint account? If we open a joint account, what will it be used for? What about savings?
As you start your money life together, consider taking this short quiz. Through ten easy questions, the quiz can help you assess your financial personality. For instance, are you a Day-to-Day Decision Maker, an Ambitious Spender, a Retirement Realist, or a Confident Planner?
SET A MONEY DATE
In addition to the nuts and bolts of how you’ll manage your money together, how will you communicate about it? Will you sit down once a week or once a month and discuss all things financial? Or will you mention that you purchased an $800 grill for the backyard as you race out the door to work? (Note: not recommended.) If balancing the checkbook isn’t your idea of date night, there are apps that can do the talking for you and allow you to track a joint budget, joint accounts, and even credit scores.
SHARED FINANCIAL VISION FOR THE FUTURE
Keep in mind, the money conversation shouldn’t feel like a job interview. (“Where do you see yourself in five years?”) Instead, set the intention to have the money conversation with love – and a vision for a happy future together. You can also speak to a financial professional who can serve as an experienced, and impartial, resource to guide you as a couple. Just think of the arguments it might prevent.
Sure, it may make you feel vulnerable. But good, honest conversations about your financial reality and goals will strengthen your relationship for the long-term. When you’re able to talk clearly and openly about money, you’re able to build your financial and emotional confidence together.
2018-62102 Exp. 06/2020
 National Survey of Families and Households, K-State News, Kansas State University, July 12, 2013
 The Guardian Study of Financial and Emotional Confidence, 2016
 Student Loan Hero, May 1, 2018