We all grow up knowing there are certain topics of conversation you should avoid at all costs: money, faith and politics. But growing up as Dave Ramsey’s daughter meant there was no avoiding those topics . . . especially money. What I didn’t understand then was how important talking about money really is. It affects everything—your decisions, your relationships and even the dreams you have for your life.
Why Should We Talk About Money?
When I was in school, I was always a little afraid to talk about money with my friends. Most of my friends knew what my dad did for a living, and that was hard sometimes. I had to walk the line between being the know-it-all (and trying to solve my friend’s problems) or keeping my mouth shut and watching my friends make really big mistakes with their money. In college, I would watch my girlfriends make one bad decision after another, digging themselves deep into debt and scrambling when they realized they’d made a big money mess. I knew I had to help.
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As an adult, I talk about money all the time. It’s what I’m passionate about because of all those money conversations we had growing up. It’s those very conversations that fueled my passion for helping people learn to make better decisions with their paychecks.
But here’s the thing: You have to start getting more comfortable with having money conversations with the people in your life. Not only will it shed light on your own milestone moments, but it will also help you understand how the people close to you view money and make decisions.
4 Money Conversations Worth Having With Your Partner
This may surprise you, but money is a top cause of fights between married couples.1 Whether you’re trying to get on the same page about your budget, extra spending, or the endless pile of bills that always collects on the kitchen counter, money worries can be stressful—really stressful. But money doesn’t have to be stressful.
Getting on the same page as your spouse is so important. But you can only do that if you have clear, open communication about your goals, dreams and values . . . especially when it comes to your finances.
I get it. It can be scary (and really hard) to talk openly about money with your spouse—especially if you’ve never done it before. But here’s the thing: Love puts no limits on the topics of conversation, and that includes money. And learning how to have these money conversations is the key to a successful marriage.
Here are a few conversation starters to help you get started:
What are our money goals?
Have you ever thought about how closely connected your dreams and goals are to money? If you aren’t dreaming, you’re probably not saving either. But when you’re saving, you’re typically saving for something you want to experience in the future, something you want to buy, or something you want to do. Listen: How you dream has a direct impact on how you save money.
So, when you get on the same page with your spouse on your money goals, you can begin to actually dream (and start saving) so you can start living the life you’ve always hoped for. Find out which one of you is the dreamer and which is the realist (or maybe you’re both dreamers). Knowing how you see life and money will inform what your goals are as a family.
How will we combine finances?
If you’re not married yet, have you ever talked with your partner about finances? If you’re seriously dating or engaged, it’s time to start talking about how you’ll handle money—together. You become one when you get married, and the same goes for your money. It’s no longer his money and her money—it’s our money.
I get a lot of pushback on this because so many people would rather have their own accounts than deal with the hassle of budgeting together and working through those “healthy” tensions that come with the topic of money.
What are our money tendencies?
We’re all wired to think and act in certain ways when it comes to money. This is called our money mindset, or money tendencies. And while these tendencies aren’t right or wrong, they do have implications. There are 7 Money Tendences: saver/spender, nerd/free spirit, experiences/things, quality/quantity, safety/status, abundance/scarcity and planned giving/spontaneous giving.
Knowing these will help you and your spouse get on the same page and make progress toward your money goals together. And when they say opposites attract, they mean it. Chances are, you and your partner are opposites when it comes to these tendences. (Makes it more interesting, right?)
Ready for some fun? Take this quiz together and see where you land.
What are our money fears?
Sometimes fear can stand in the way of you and your spouse when it comes to money. How you were raised and what you were taught about money can either be helpful or do a lot of damage in your decision making. Fear is actually a basic emotion that we feel, and it was made to protect us. It’s that feeling of fight or flight when danger or a threat comes our way. But if we aren’t careful, fear can go beyond protecting us to actually paralyzing us from moving forward.
Here are the top six money fears: lack of security, not realizing your dreams, the unknown, external forces, past mistakes and ending up like your parents. Where do each of you land? Talk about your fears with one another. This will go a long way as you work toward clear and healthy communication about money and financial security.
How to Talk About Money
So, now that you’ve got conversation starters to help you talk to your spouse about money, you need to know how to do it. My friend and relationship expert Dr. Les Parrott talks about this all the time: You have to fight fair. In order to do that, here are a few tips on how to talk about money with your loved one:
1. Be honest.
When you’re talking about money, dreams and building your life together, it’s important to be vulnerable and honest with your partner. These types of conversations are the ones that build or strengthen the foundation of your relationship and ultimately your life together. Be honest about what you believe and how you feel, then allow your spouse to do the same.
Really listen to your spouse. Don’t just listen to think up a response of your own (I’m guilty of this). Here’s an idea: When your spouse is talking, you can only ask questions. This will help you get to know the “why” behind how they actually feel. Then, when they’re finished, you can share your thoughts about what they said.
3. Stay calm.
When you raise your voice, your spouse will likely raise theirs to match. Then you’re both just talking loudly (or yelling) just to be heard. Remember that idea I just shared? If you’re listening intently and asking questions, there will be no need for yelling. So, stay calm no matter what.
4. Show grace.
Being too hard on yourself or your spouse won’t help. Find a way to bring together grace and truth and live in the center of them. There will be hard truths that you’ll both have to sort through, but learning how to respond to each thing with grace will go a long way.
Ready for date night? I hope you feel more prepared to talk to your loved one about your goals, dreams and especially your money. Not only will you get to know the innermost parts of each other, you’ll also start to understand why you treat money the way you do. So, order a pizza and start communicating. You won’t regret it!
To start the conversation with your spouse, get my new money assessment today. The Know Yourself Money Assessment will lead you to:
- A deeper understanding of your spouse and the way they feel about money
- Easier conversations about money
- Progress toward your goals together
- Better tools for shaping your personal money mindset