Saving money on your own — well, let’s just say the experience can come with a range of emotions. Taking the step to collaborate on financial planning with your partner? Most couples find the process tricky at best.
For good reason, too. The first discussion about money management is a major life milestone (read: commitment milestone), so checks and balances are key.
Relationship dynamics have changed dramatically
Before we dispense advice on initiating the “how to save money together” conversation, let’s first acknowledge how relationships have evolved. The ways we couple up, cohabitate, and balance responsibilities—they’ve all changed in the past decade. More couples move in together before making a lifelong commitment, and a growing number of families are dual-income.
What does this mean? With increased complexity in relationship dynamics, the most common relationship challenge becomes more complicated as well: managing your money, together.
As a top source of conflict and stress in relationships, it’s not unusual for partners to hide purchases or maintain secret bank accounts. However, there are solutions. Those include tools like Twine, as well as direct and frequent communication, which all starts with that first discussion.
Assess your financial needs and goals (both functional and emotional)
You’re ready to think about the future, together. How you arrived at that decision may vary: landing a new job, getting engaged, moving in together, etc.
Regardless of the trigger, it is a big step. So before you sit down to talk, identify your individual needs and goals.
Functional financial needs:
- I’m busy, so I need an easy way to set and forget my saving and investing goals.
- I need my partner to contribute equally to our goal of saving for a home down payment.
- I need help to support our growing needs and attain a higher quality of life.
Emotional financial needs:
- I need help in sharing the commitment of investing in our shared financial goals.
- I’m not ready to completely merge finances with my partner, so I need a way to keep some things separate.
- I fear that combining our finances could be risky.
- I want to feel like a responsible adult when it comes to my money.
- I want to worry less about affording the things that a comfortable life requires.
Take an honest look at financial pain points
If your savings and investing goals cause you stress now, then there are real pain points to your approach. Pain points won’t go away when you combine finances with your significant other. In fact, they may compound (and not in a fun way like compound interest). Plus, solutions for these issues exist. Solutions you could evaluate and test before meeting with your significant other.
Common financial pain points include:
- It’s hard to keep track of my spending.
- I have debt (credit card, student loans, etc.) and it’s a huge burden.
- I live paycheck-to-paycheck so saving and investing right now seems impossible.
- Starting and managing savings goals is too time-consuming.
- I do put money aside, but it’s hard to keep track of my progress.
- Investing is overwhelming and I have no idea how to start.
Currently co-managing some shared expenses and savings goals with your partner? Then prepare a list of current pain points. Common instances include:
- We don’t share the same perspectives on money management and financial growth.
- One partner earns more than the other making daily financial decisions difficult.
- Splitting expenses causes friction and resentment.
- We’ve delayed combining our accounts because it seems like a nightmare, but our current process is manual tracking with spreadsheets, etc. is even worse.
- Our joint accounts are disorganized and inconvenient to use.
- Contributing to shared savings goals often falls by the wayside.
- It’s difficult to see exactly how we’ll accomplish any shared goals.
Identify your financial motivators and fears
Complete transparency into what incentivizes you—and what keeps you up at night—when it comes to money.
Aligning on motivators will help you and your partner understand how to celebrate financial wins (read: very critical to staying inspired and engaged). Divulging fears will aid in avoiding the pitfalls of stress and tension that can arise when co-managing your financial futures.
Money motivators can include:
- Seeing organized and easily trackable goals.
- Celebrating milestone achievements.
- Making reasonable trade-offs like using your savings for a big purchase or paying down debt.
Financial fears can include:
- Falling short of shared expectations for saving and investing.
- Overcommitting to savings goals and then struggling to pay bills, etc.
- Concerns about privacy and judgment of spending habits.
Practice open and honest communication
Possibly the most obvious step, open and honest verbal communication is crucial for all “money talks”—especially your first. Don’t withhold important information about your financial situation, and practice compassion when learning about your partner’s. Commit to both and you can achieve true collaboration.
Also, how and where you hold your conversation about financial planning can impact success. Carve out a dedicated time and pick a mutually agreed upon setting to really dig into all the prep work from above, and then begin the actual planning.
Remember: starting small is okay. Like the small amount of money that you both stash away for a summer vacation abroad — it’s the perfect excuse for your first financial planning conversation.
Last but not least, don’t forget that saving and investing in your future together is exciting. While revealing how much you spend vs. save may cause discomfort (we get it), just discussing it with your partner brings you one step closer to realizing your financial goals.