A Starter's Guide to Talking About Couples' Finances
Money can be a source of conflict in relationships when people don't see eye to eye on how to spend, save or plan for the future. But if you and your partner communicate openly about your goals and work together to manage your money, you can confidently tackle your finances as a team.
Here are a few main areas of couples' finances to focus on when you and your partner discuss your financial future.
Hammer out spending priorities
To start, talk about the ways you spend money, beginning with the basics like housing, food, healthcare and transportation. Consider exploring these questions.
- Are you both comfortable with how much you're spending right now?
- Are there areas you might want to cut back on or where you might need to spend more?
- If you had an extra $100 to spend on one of your basic budget expenses, what would it go toward?
- If you had to choose between two budget expenses, how would you decide?
Next, you might want to cover occasional or fun spending. Talk about what you like to splurge on, how much money is reasonable to spend on optional expenses, and what types of purchases you'd consider unnecessary or wasteful.
Keep in mind that you and your partner may have different priorities and experiences with money, so you likely won't agree on everything right away. Thinking about and discussing your preferences openly will help you find the right compromise.
Establish a routine
Next, it's time to figure out the nuts and bolts of handling couples' finances. Do you have joint bank accounts or credit cards? If not, do you want to open an account together? Identify which parts of your financial lives you've already combined or plan to combine and which ones you want to keep separate.
Coordinate to decide how you want to divvy up responsibilities for reading account statements, making payments or depositing money in savings. You could plan to do these tasks together, or you could delegate some of them so that each partner handles certain bills or accounts.
If you choose to split some financial responsibilities, you might want to discuss how both of you will stay in the loop. For example, you could decide that one person will pay the credit card bills each month, but the other person will log in to online banking, track balances and read any statements so they know what's going on with each account.
Check your credit
When one person in a relationship has negative information on their credit report, it can cause challenges for the couple if they try to borrow money together. Both of you might want to request a credit report before entering into any loan agreements together, and then strategize based on this information. If you or your partner have struggled with credit in the past, you might want to talk about tools you could use to build your credit, such as a secured credit card.
Decide how to deal with debt
If you and your partner have loans or credit cards that you're paying off, you may want to make some decisions about which debts to tackle first and which to make the minimum payments on. You'll likely want to consider the interest rates on each of your debts and how long the loan terms are. It's also worth looking at which debts are secured—meaning that you're borrowing against a piece of property or another asset—and which are unsecured.
If you're concerned about keeping up with payments, the two of you might want to learn more about refinancing or debt consolidation and discuss whether those are options you'd like to pursue.
Set financial goals
Lastly, you'll probably want to take a look at your long-term goals to see if you and your partner are in agreement. Think about upcoming purchases, like a car or house. Are there experiences such as vacations or a wedding that you're saving up for? How about college tuition for you or your partner, or for your children if you have any? Consider what you're doing to work toward your financial goals and whether you're happy with your progress.
It's also a good idea to review your retirement plans. You may want to talk about how much each of you would feel comfortable retiring on and what lifestyle you envision for your golden years.
Opening up the conversation about couples' finances is a great first step. Don't worry if you can't iron out every detail the first time you broach the topic. It's good to revisit things later and revise your plans—in fact, consider holding regular check-ins where you take stock of your finances together. As you grow as a couple, you may find that your financial needs evolve, too.
A few financial insights for your life
This information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal or tax advice. First Citizens Bank (or its affiliates) neither endorses nor guarantees this information, and encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.