So, you’ve been dating someone for a while now and you feel like it might get serious. You’re spending a lot of time together and you can picture a future with this person.
It’s time to talk about finances. I don’t mean to pop your lovey-dovey bubble but having this talk is one of many steps in creating a lasting relationship.
Who am I to offer relationship/money advice? The truth is, money used to be the biggest issue my relationship. Long story short, my fiancé had savings and investments, and I had credit card debt. My fiancé put it simply: align our financial goals, or he didn’t see how the relationship was going to move forward.
I felt inadequate and embarrassed because I didn’t want him wondering if he could trust me with jointly managing our money in the future. But after a year of brutally honest conversations, we’ve grown stronger than ever.
What did we do to get to the happier place we’re in now? We spent a lot of time talking about goals—where did we see ourselves financially as individuals in three, five, and even ten years?
One of the first things we did was to set up a timeline for when my credit card debt absolutely had to be paid off (I met this goal, BTW!).
It was interest-free for nine more months, so we took my balance, divided it by nine, and that was the amount I had to pay every month. Whether you’re paying interest or not, you want to knock out credit card debt ASAP—look at your monthly expenses and figure out the maximum payment you can make every month to make headway.
We wrote out every single expense you have every month (even the things you only pay annually like an Amazon Prime membership). Then see how much of your income you have left over. The numbers might be shocking (mine were).
Before we did all of that, we started with a conversation.
It’s what jump-started this whole thing. So if you’re ready to go on this journey with your partner, start with the following six questions.
Do you budget?
I think this question is a good way to ease into what can quickly turn into a stressful conversation. It allows both parties to discuss their monthly expenditures.
You’ll also start to get an idea of whether your partner is a spender or a saver.
There are a million different ways to budget, so be open to understanding your partner’s way of doing things. Going in with a “my way or the highway” attitude won’t help either of you get on the same page.
What do you spend the majority of your money on?
Another decently light question, but it will help you start to understand your partner’s money habits (how we save, spend, prioritize expenses, etc.).
I was paying student loans, but I was also spending money on eating out, shopping (for what, I don’t even know), and weekend trips.
My fiancé has some hobbies he would spend money on occasionally, but it was clear that his top priority was paying off the mortgage as soon as possible.
If your habits seem drastically different (ours were), don’t freak out!
You can definitely find a common ground. If we can get through it, you can too!
What’s your annual income?
I really hate how taboo it is to talk about income. Sure, it’s private, but I think people make it into way too big of a deal. So, if you’re stressing about this question, don’t.
By the time we officially talked about it, we had been together almost four years. We already had a pretty good idea of how much each of us was earning. We knew it was time to have a formal conversation.
I put my info out there first to help make him feel more comfortable. It showed my willingness to talk about money, which I think he appreciated.
It felt great to share my financial history, but I have to warn you that it might become clear if you’re living within your means or if you have debt—which leads me to the next question.
Do you have debt?
Dun, dun, dunnnn. Here it is. Probably the most uncomfortable financial question you can ask another person.
I remember the night I told my fiancé (he was just my boyfriend at that point) about my credit card debt. I was so mortified because even though we hadn’t had a formal conversation about finances, I had gathered he likely didn’t have any debt of his own.
You know what, though? I felt so much better once it was all out in the open.
If you’re with the right person, they’ll be supportive and want to help you make a plan to get yourself in a better position. He said, “OK, well, we’ll figure out a way to knock it out.” And we did.
Have you ever invested?
Sharing what assets you have can be just as scary as sharing debts. It’s exposing a part of yourself you usually keep tucked away. But just like anything else, it’s important to share everything—the good and the bad.
Plus, this is a major learning opportunity if one of you has a portfolio and the other doesn’t.
My fiancé had started an investment portfolio and I hadn’t. We’re currently focusing on paying my student loans, but I’m confident we’ll invest together one day.
What are your financial priorities and goals?
And now that you know pretty much everything there is to know about each other’s finances, it’s time to talk about priorities and goals.
Hopefully, there’s some crossover, which can help you start to develop joint financial goals.
Whether your situation is similar to mine or not, talking about money in a relationship is a necessity. Don’t shy away from it. Look at it as an opportunity to confront any lingering money issues in your life.
The biggest takeaway here is to simply start a conversation. I promise if I can get through it, you can too!
If you have any other tips or questions when it comes to talking about money with your partner, please share—I’d love to hear about your experience!
Chloe is a Nebraska-based content creator who loves to cook, be outdoors and cuddle up with her two cats, Harry and Susan. When she’s not writing or taking photos, you can usually find her in the kitchen or watching Law and Order: SVU reruns.