One of the most divisive issues in couples’ relationships is money, so what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to sit down with your loved one and talk about money in a calm, relaxed setting?
Now, you don’t have to do it on Valentine’s Day, but use that week and its symbolism of love and couple hood to schedule a time to sit down together, preferably after the kids have gone to bed and you are relaxing with a glass of wine. For my single women clients, I suggest they empower themselves on their finances by reading “Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money” by Barbara Stanny.
There are many possibilities of what you might discuss during this “Money Date Night”. If you’ve never talked about your money history before, it might make sense to do some foundational work and talk about your family history with money and what money messages or scripts you might have running in the background and influencing your decisions around money. For example, a few common money scripts are:
- It’s important to save for a rainy day
- You can never have enough money
- Rich people are greedy
- Poor people are lazy
- Money is power
- Money would solve all my problems
- It is not polite to talk about money
- Money should be saved, not spent
Other questions you might explore with your spouse include:
- Did you get an allowance growing up and was it tied to chores or not?
- How were you taught about money management?
- Did your parents ever talk about money?
- Who managed the finances in your family?
Answers to these questions can really provide some good insight into your partner’s attitude and behavior towards money.
If the discussion is going well and you have kids, you might take the conversation one step further and talk about what three to five key money values you’d like to pass on to your children. It’s then important to repeat them often and consistently to your kids so they absorb them.
Once you’ve done the foundational work, you might want to review your family’s financial position. This can include reviewing your net worth statement (assets minus liabilities), your
portfolio positioning (a review of your investments and their allocation) and a review of your cash-flow statement (income less expenses). In most couples, one person handles most financial matters, so it’s nice to periodically bring the other person up to speed so they feel included and knowledgeable on the family’s financial picture. It can really reduce stress in a relationship if both parties understand the financial picture. A review of the financial position should be done periodically (e.g. monthly, quarterly, semi-annually) so both spouses are on the same page.
Other topics you might want to discuss on this Valentine’s Money Date Night or in future ones include identification of important financial goals and their prioritization, determining how much allowance to give your kids and whether it should be tied to chores, a review of where all your investment and banking accounts are held and login information so the less knowledgeable spouse can access them if needed and a review of the location of important financial documents (e.g., wills and trust, deeds, etc).
In summary, the topic of money is one of the most taboo in our culture and one of the most divisive issues between couples. One of the best ways to mitigate its negative impact is through open communication. I strongly recommend scheduling regular “Money Date Nights” to keep the lines of communication open and make sure both spouses are versed in the family finances.