Money-related stress can take a toll on your health and on your relationships. If you are interested in maintaining a good relationship with your life partner, it helps to be on the same page with money. In fact, according to some research, financial harmony is one of the most important aspects of a successful marriage or partnership.
Before you decide to combine households with someone else, it makes sense to get a feel for how s/he will handle money. Here are 5 money ideas to discuss with your partner to see if you are on the same page and if you are likely to be on the same team when it comes to finances:
- Experiences vs. things
What do you both value in purchases you make? If one of you prefers experiences and the other prefers things, it can be difficult to come to a consensus about where the money should go.
Someone who prefers things might like the idea of spending more money on something expensive because s/he will have it for a longer period of time. Such a person might not understand why you want to spend more money on a vacation instead.
Talk with your potential partner about what s/he prefers when it comes to things and experiences. Make sure that your values in this area align. Otherwise, there could be a lot of judgment from both sides regarding the “best” use of money.
- What your ideal life and retirement will look like
My ex-husband and I both agreed that we should set aside a certain amount of money for retirement. However, we never discussed what we each wanted that retirement to look like. He envisioned settling down somewhere and being mostly stationary. I dreamed of traveling the world. Our goals were incompatible. Over time, we realized our long-term financial goals (among other things) weren’t going to mesh. If we had talked over some of these issues ahead of time, we might have done things differently.
Don’t forget to talk about what you want your lives to look like right now. If you are working toward a goal of reducing your carbon footprint and downsizing to save money, and your partner dreams of upgrading to a bigger home and spending more on household items, money disagreements and stress will be inevitable. Talk about what you want your life to look like, and the finances that you need to arrange in order to make it happen.
Are you supportive of the other’s career goals? This financial item also encompasses the idea of who will stay home with the kids if you feel that is necessary. Even though there is research that supports the idea that working mothers don’t have adverse impacts on their children after the first year, many families like the idea of someone to stay home with the children and take care of the home. When discussing your career aspirations with your potential partner, it’s a good idea to be on the same page. If one of you does stay home, who will it be, and what will the working parent’s income-earning prospects be?
You might also want to discuss items like the viability of a home business, telecommuting and even having both parents work. Look at your financial realities, and share your expectations. It’s a good idea to be on the same page with regard to career and earnings before you move forward.
- Separate finances
Another money idea to discuss with a potential partner is that of separate finances. Do you two agree that some things should be kept separate? Or do you believe in a big pot? For some couples, it makes sense to have a shared account for shared expenses but keep everything else separate. For others, most things are kept separate.
How separate you keep your finances might also depend on whether or not you decide to get married. If you don’t plan to marry your partner, it might make more sense to keep things separate. Even in some marriage situations, keeping finances separate can make sense, including creating a prenuptial agreement if you are concerned about the money situation. Having this talk with your partner is an important step toward financial harmony during the relationship.
While at first glance children might not seem like a money idea, the reality is that children can be expensive. Not only should you and your partner agree about how many children you both want, but it also makes sense to talk about how you will teach them about money, and how you will approach paying for their needs and wants.
Being on the same page when it comes to how to teach your children about money is as important as being on the same page when you want to set your children’s diets or discipline them. Do you expect your child to get a job during high school? How much of your child’s college will you pay for? Do you agree about setting aside a certain amount each month?
All of these are money ideas that touch on core values that we hold. It helps to be on the same page as your partner in these fundamental ways. On top of that, make sure you revisit these topics regularly since there is a good chance that one or both of you will change your views over time.