There are certain taboo topics of conversation – money, faith, and politics – that many are told to avoid discussing in polite company. However, when you have decided to share your life with another person, talking about money and finances is essential.
Easier said than done, right? Whether you are a physician, dentist, or neither, avoiding this conversation can ultimately have disastrous consequences. It is not easy for everyone to share their financial history and current situation depending on your comfort level, trust, income levels, and the dynamics of your relationship. There is a certain amount of complexity around this subject, so there are various things to consider.
As we explored in one of our podcasts, financial infidelity can have dire consequences on your marriage. The core issue is not about money directly; it is around the trust you have for your partner when making financial decisions. In many cases, financial infidelity occurs when one partner is responsible for making the major money decisions, and they do so in secret.
Building trust is essential in creating a safe space to talk about your dreams, goals, and what you want your financial future to look like. In the beginning, talking about money can feel awkward or overwhelming. However, the more you do it, the more comfortable it will become. As you have more of these conversations with your partner, it will not only shed light on your financial milestones but can give you better insight into how your spouse views money and makes decisions.
Financial matters, both big and small, can be challenging to discuss. However, if you cannot talk about them as a couple, you may have bigger issues.
When you speak with your partner about building your life together, which includes the subject of money, it is essential to be vulnerable and transparent. In these conversations, you can continue to strengthen your relationship. Make sure to share what you believe and how you feel, and allow your partner the space and time to do the same.
Part of being honest includes being upfront about your debts. In many cases, one or both of you may have some student loans, especially if you attended medical or dental school. With that being said, that debt will become your spouse’s financial concern as well as yours once you are married. How the two of you come together to decide how to proceed in paying down each of your personal debts in the coming months or year is very telling, as this represents a shared commitment.
When your partner is being vulnerable and sharing their thoughts and experiences with money and debt, listen. Don’t jump ahead to think about what you are going to say or how you should respond. Perhaps put a limit on the number of questions and interruptions during certain parts of the conversation. When you place value on hearing your partner speak and the “why” behind how they feel, it may make it easier to share. Once they finish speaking, then you can share your thoughts.
Compromise may be one of the most important words in marriage. This is even more true when it comes to your combined financial life. Whether your money tendency is to be a saver and your spouse is a spender, or you tend to value things and your partner values experiences, you can work together to find a middle ground around a monetary policy. Of course, it doesn’t generally work to try and change how your spouse sees money and their innate money tendencies, and the same goes for yourself. Still, you can find ways to come together to identify financial goals and determine how you both can play a part in achieving them.
As you have conversations about money and finances, it is natural to have strong feelings around certain things. All the same, if you start to raise your voice, your partner will likely follow suit. Then the discussion has given way to yelling instead of listening and learning. Staying calm even when discussing topics about which you are passionate will help resolve the issue or allow you both to come to an understanding more quickly than getting upset and loud. It may also remind your spouse to show you the same consideration.
What does a financial commitment mean and look like to you and your partner? There are a variety of things you can do to build yours. Here are few ideas that you can do together:
The money conversation doesn’t happen just once; it continues throughout your marriage and evolves with your relationship. For example, financial priorities often need to be revisited when life-altering events occur, like having a child, changing a job, or deciding to move.
One critical consideration is when to have a conversation around money, especially if it is something particularly challenging. You don’t want to bring it up right before bed or if your partner has a stressful day at the office. It can be helpful to plan to have the conversation when you can have some one-on-one time and are both relaxed.
Whether the discussion concerns your issues managing debt or the concerns you have about your partner’s spending habits, you want your spouse to be prepared and ready to be honest. Unfortunately, there is a connotation that financial conversations are heavy, but that does not always need to be the case. By establishing a safe space for those conversations, you and your partner are taking a step on the joint path of financial health.
Getting down on yourself or your spouse does not help. Be patient. Your financial journey is not a sprint or even a marathon. A better description is a steeplechase. Sometimes there are obstacles in your way as you make progress on your financial goals, but as long as you keep moving, you will eventually make it to the finish line.
Remember, when sharing and discussing finances with a significant other, it is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Personal experience, emotions, beliefs, and past trauma will differ from one person to the next. Talking about money isn’t always comfortable, but open communication and complete honesty is an excellent place to start and can help you take charge of your financial lives. Please reach out to our team of advisors to assist you and your partner as you plan your financial future as a couple.
For over 50 years, Spaugh Dameron Tenny has provided comprehensive financial planning for physicians and dentists across the U.S. In addition to providing personalized advice, we walk our clients through their options to help maximize finances and maintain financial security.
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