Linda: So, when you do finally get over your resistance talking about money, where do you begin? There is no “correct” place to begin. It’s probably best not to start with the most difficult or complex issues, since you may need to practice on some concerns that are easier to resolve. They are likely to provide you both with more hopefulness in regard to your ability to create a track record that will build confidence in your ability to have successful, productive conversations.
These are some important questions that will help you and your partner to find out where you are and are not on the same page in regard to finances and will illuminate the places in your relationship that need for attention.
- How frequently do we want to sit down together to discuss our financial future?
- Are we going to have all our money separate or in the same shared pot, or some combination of the two?
- How much of our income do we want to bank or invest for savings?
- How much credit card debt, if any, are we willing to carry?
- Who is better at paying the bills and how do we want to allocate responsibility for paying them?
- What portion of our income do we want to bank for vacations and/ or other non-necessities?
- How much transparency and privacy do we want in regard to who spends how much and for what?
- Do we want to have a dollar amount that is the boundary where we collaborate before a final decision is made on purchases?
- How do we each feel about hidden debts, secret accounts and secret expenditures?
- Is there unfinished business left over from our past that needs to be addressed that may be interfering with our joint goal of being financially successful?
- How much we each earn?
- How much we each spend?
- Are we spending excessively and if so, are we willing to cut back and where?
- How much do we save each month?
- Could we save more or is that amount about right for now?
- Are we willing to live below our means to be able to accrue significant savings?
- Do we know our current net worth and if so, what is it?
- Have we done enough homework and adequate planning to accomplish our financial goals?
- Are we actively involved in living our written and stated financial vision and action plans?
- Do we have a one-year, five year, and ten-year plan?
- Do we have a financial action plan and if so, is it sufficiently specific and detailed?
- Are we staying current and updating our written financial goals?
- How frequently should we update our plan?
- Do we have an emergency account in case of illness or unemployment to cover living expenses for three, six, twelve or twenty-four months?
- Do we have an updated will or living trust?
- If we own a home, what is the first possible target date we could set to have our mortgage paid off?
- Are either of us feeling excessive stress from carrying debt?
- If so, what can we do to lower the debt?
- Do we have adequate financial advisory support?
- If not, from whom might we receive support?
- If self-employed, are we taking the maximum tax -shelter every year?
- If we have children, does each child have a college fund and are we making regular contributions to it?
- Do we want to carry life insurance and if so, how much?
- Do we want to invest in the stock market, and if so what percentage of our net worth?
- Have we adequately communicated with each other what matters most to each of us, so that our money can be used for what we feel most deeply about?
- If we are going to manage our finances with greater ease, what would be required of each of us?
- Is there any way that we can make the money game more fun and enjoyable for both of us?
Try to keep in mind that the purpose of initiating these conversations is to gather information and to understand where each of you stand, and not, at least at this point, to resolve any differences. That can come later. By honestly responding to these questions, both you and your partner will become clear about where you are in alignment with each other and where there are discrepancies. Keep in mind that not all discrepancies need to be resolved and even couples with the best relationships have some irreconcilable differences.
Money management is a process, not an event, so be patient. Resolution doesn’t happen overnight but with intentionality, commitment, and mutual respect it can and will happen. And when it does, there’s a big payoff!