Marriage & Money: The Importance of Communication

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Marriage is about far more than love and companionship. It’s a partnership that forms the foundation of a family, and it may be the most important contract you ever enter. Disagreements over financial values, long-term goals, or spending habits can create a lot of stress in your relationship and affect every area of your life.

As important as it is to get on the same page, talking about money isn’t something everyone is comfortable with. You may have grown up in a household where financial discussions always happened behind closed doors, or you haven’t yet taken time to reflect on your values so you don’t know how to bring up the topic.

Fortunately, learning to talk about money is a skill you can practice and improve, just like anything else.

Approaching Finances as a Team

In our most recent webinar, JMA’s Joe Limke and his wife Pam shared their financial journey as a couple, from their different upbringing through the trials and tribulations of early marriage, growing as a family through a tragedy, and navigating tough career decisions.

I’d encourage you to watch the whole discussion because there is plenty of wisdom shared. But one recurring theme is especially poignant: for a successful partnership, you must begin talking about money early, and keep having those discussions.

Here are some key takeaways from Joe and Pam’s experience:

  • Listen to wise counsel when it is offered. Many people with experience and insight are there to help you along your journey, and accepting that help with grace and understanding how to apply it to your life will help you stay on a fruitful path.
  • Identify your spouse’s money personality, financial goals, and values. Ideally, you’ll want to have those conversations at the outset of a relationship, before you’re joined in marriage. But even if you’re already married, taking time to understand one another can help you communicate better and tackle your goals together.
  • Create a budget together that allows you to cover your expenses while reaching your financial goals. Married couples may not always agree on all financial decisions, but discussing how to allocate money and planning for compromises in advance can help set money aside when unexpected emergencies crop up.
  • Check in on your progress frequently and keep communication open as you navigate life’s ups and downs or temporary setbacks. It’s not always roses, but incremental progress adds up in the long term to create greater opportunities for savings, prosperity, and generosity.
  • Model healthy financial habits for your children but allow them to work through their own challenges. Showing your kids how to have healthy talks about money will set them up for success as they enter their own relationships. As they grow and face life’s challenges, practice listening without intervening, and asking questions rather than giving unsolicited advice.

Whether you’re a new couple just starting your journey, or an established couple working on big financial goals, communication is important.

Take Your Spouse on a Money Date

If you’re not sure where to start with discussing finances, we suggest scheduling a money date. Turn off your phones, get a sitter for the kids, and sit down together in a quiet place without any distractions. Over a shared meal or a cup of coffee, commit to talking through your goals and values, and creating a plan with actionable steps for both of you.

Some things you might want to think about:

  • Long-term savings goals like retirement and college funds for your children.
  • Lifestyle choices, like where you want to live and what sort of travel and entertainment plans are important to you.
  • Your relationship to debt and what kind of debt you are comfortable with.
  • Your values related to giving, including what causes and how much of your income should be devoted to charitable gifts.

If all this seems daunting, don’t worry. We’ve broken down the steps into a simple set of questions to get you started. You can download that worksheet below. You can fill it out online or print copies for yourself and your partner. When you’re done, you might also want to reach out to a financial advisor to start making the next step toward achieving your financial goals.

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