When it was just me, my life and finances seemed simple and easy. I owned my own home, was able to keep track of every penny I spent and kept a very balanced budget. There was never a dollar that slipped away without me knowing. It also didn’t hurt that I have worked in the financial industry since college.
Then I met my future husband. In the beginning, I had no idea what his existing habits were. Was he a saver? Did he blow his paycheck? What WAS his paycheck? I was extremely nervous and scared about “changing” the way I managed my finances after we were to say “I Do,” but I knew we had to have the discussion.
Looking back before our first chat, I couldn’t have imagined we’d be in this happy financial state we’re in today. Please don’t misunderstand, we don’t live a lavish life of luxuries. We are in the same boat that most from my generation are in: paying down mortgages and student loans, trying to stick to a budget and figuring out a way to save more while also raising 2 little boys. The happiness we have comes from being able to openly talk about money with each other without worry of what the conversation might bring, like regret, resentment or anger.
Here are some of the top lessons I learned over the past 5 years on what helps a couple to have easy conversations about money:
We were in the honeymoon stage back then; no one could do any wrong! It’s the perfect time to open up and lay all the cards on the table. Before our finances got mingled, it was much easier to accept the other person’s habits and existing debt because one person’s decision to spend didn’t affect the other’s “bottom line” in the bank. No one could say “You never told me!”
Once we started talking about money, we just kept the conversation going. At first, it was for the purpose of just reminding each other before it could commit to memory, but then the purpose naturally evolved into more about “what’s been changing.” Because we talked so often, all the changes felt so minor, and easier to swallow.
We, as humans, tend to make life harder than it needs to be sometimes. We hear the word “finance” and immediately think “man in stuffy pinstripe suit carrying a portfolio and calculator.” In reality, finances can be fun! Really, they can! In the end, it’s just math, right? And math problems can be solved. The hard part is making the choice to be calm and flexible about it. Take for example: Taxes. Does that sound fun? Not by definition! So how do you choose to make it fun? Well, my husband and I turn it into a game: Any time we get frustrated, stuck or angry, we stop and compliment one another, usually in a playful way. Sounds silly, yes, I know. But, it redirects our emotion and brings us back to center so we can continue to make progress.
Sometimes, going at it alone doesn’t cut it. There are answers to questions we don’t know or questions we don’t even know to ask ourselves. Take our personal taxes for example again. Back then I had no clue what tax loss harvesting was?! I may be a financial advisor, but taxes are an entirely different ballgame. Google helped to an extent, but only got us so far. We are confident in what we do well, and smart enough to know when we need help. Reaching out to an expert CPA when we had tax questions gave us clarity and ease. It also left us with more time to focus on the important things in life, our two wonderful little boys.
Communication, communication, communication. It’s what it all boils down to friends. If you haven’t started talking about money, start today. Keep it casual and keep the conversation going. When in doubt, turn to a pro. You’ll hopefully come to find, like I did, that talking about money together can actually bring you closer together, building trust in one another and confidence in your marriage.