Love Means Never Having to Say, “I Wish We’d Talked about Our Finances”
Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular holidays to get engaged. But while buying a ring and planning the perfect Valentine’s Day proposal are ways to one partner’s heart, they can also make a dent in the other partner’s wallet. The most romantic day of the year reminds couples how intertwined and difficult keeping the love while managing the bank can be.
A survey conducted for the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) by Harris Interactive found couples who responded argue about financial matters around three times a month, making it the most heated topic in relationships over other common subjects like children and work.
Why do many struggle when traversing the tricky waters of merging finances? AICPA’s study found that 55 percent of adults surveyed who are married or cohabitating do not devote regular time to talking about finances. Brooke West, a private financial advisor for SunTrust Bank, recommends couples communicate about money matters before the big day and at regular intervals throughout a relationship in order to prevent future spats.
“While most couples at some point will face economic hardship, this does not have to make or break a relationship,” says West. “Laying the groundwork for approaching financial matters prepares couples in advance for financial stressors instead of having those arise during an argument when emotions are high.”
While the first step is initiating the conversation, here are several topics that will help couples make the most of the discussion.
Talk about your “money style.” Each partner comes from a different background that has shaped his or her outlook on finances. Most experts recommend building an emergency cash fund when combining finances, but couples might disagree on how large that reserve should be or how much to save from each paycheck. Ask your partner if he or she currently budgets and then work together to finalize a plan that incorporates all financial priorities. Be honest about any debt such as credit cards or student loans so that these are incorporated into your combined financial plan.
Don’t be afraid to ask the important questions. Will you have a joint checking account? Who will be the CFO of the family and pay the bills? In order to smoothly merge accounts, couples need to answer the nuts and bolts questions and clearly delineate who will manage day-to-day money matters.
“Both partners must be full participants in the family’s financial life,” says West. “Even if one spouse earns all the money or handles paperwork, the other should be aware of what’s going on and have an equal say in major decisions.”
Look at the big picture. The most exciting step in merging finances is creating a shared set of short-term and long-term goals, such as purchasing a home or having a family. Couples should engage a financial advisor to help create a road map for reaching these milestones.
While talking about money is not the most thrilling date night activity, it can minimize future stress. Instead of allowing financial disagreements to take hold of a relationship, make a sound financial plan together now in order to reach financial goals in the future.