There is often a negative opinion of both money and relationships. This is probably due to the countless reports of money being a leading cause of divorce. But there’s a flip side. If you’re willing to have an open line of communication and are able to make financial decisions together, then money doesn’t have to be a negative topic of discussion. In fact, it could actually bring you and your significant other closer together.

If you’re new to your relationship or you’ve had a bad experience, with discussing money issues, in the past, you may be wondering when is the right time to have the dreaded money talk. Don’t stress about this and don’t rush it! Every relationship is different and there is no right or wrong time. Just be sure that you are in a serious committed relationship, where sharing finances and resources, is something that you’re starting to engage in – there’s no need to expose your most personal information, if it’s not warranted.

No couple moves at the same pace as another. But when the time is right for you, it is important that you are able to have an honest and respectful dialogue. Keep reading, for my top tips on how to have a great conversation on money; one that brings you closer together.

Pay Attention

Early on in a relationship, it’s easy to be so full of puppy love, that you overlook bad money habits. While this is not the time to engage in a full all-out money conversation – you don’t even know where the relationship is headed yet – you should be paying close attention to how your partner handles money.

How do they spend their money? Do they make well-thought out decisions regarding large purchases? …or are they impulsive and spontaneous with money matters? Are they frugal and savings conscience (maybe even too much so)?

Take this time to not only observe their financial transactions but to also get a better idea of their values and goals for the future. By paying attention now, you will have a better understanding of their attitude towards money and how it’s earned, spent, saved and invested; which will allow for an organic natural transition, when the time is right for your‘talk’.

Be Open-minded

You may be thinking that this conversation is going to be a piece of cake… but keep in mind that people can be very sensitive about money. Take the time to create a welcoming, safe environment well before the time, of the conversation. Never demand that the conversation happen at a specific time or place. This should be a mutually agreed upon communication.

The easiest way to start the dialogue is by casually mentioning the topic and as the conversation progresses, suggest that it would be good for you two to sit and talk about your finances, in the near future. This lays the groundwork and gives you both time to consider what you want to discuss, so that no one feels vulnerable or ill-prepared for the meeting.

Tip: Once you’re in the thick of the actual ‘talk’, be sure to use empathetic and effective communication skills. Try to remain level-headed and calm, especially if something is disclosed that is unnerving to you. For example: if you’re finding out for the first time that your partner has a 400-credit score, now is not the time to make him or her feel bad about their poor choices. Instead, try to get of the root of the problem, and find out how they got into that situation in the first place… and what their plan is to improve it.

Knowing how each person values their finances and where they are with debt, savings and credit is very important.

Be Prepared

Depending on the status of your relationship and how well you know each other, you may each have a very different list of topics of discussion. If you live together or are planning for marriage, it’s important to not just talk about how you currently handle the finances but also how you plan to jointly handle them and how you plan to set financial goals for the future.

Things to think about:

Will you have joint bank accounts, keep everything separate, or find a common ground in between? Do you both agree on major financial milestones like becoming debt free, purchasing a home, early retirement, or even if you both will continue to work if you have children? Does your joint budget realistically take into account both of your personal lifestyle needs, so that there are no surprises or disagreements later?

Keep in mind though, that if you’re having a basic money conversation early on in your relationship, there’s no need to discuss how you will share finances in the future, because there are no firm relationship commitments in place just yet. Your conversation may lean more towards understanding each other’s financial values and discussing your feelings regarding credit, debt and savings. This is the time to disclose any of your non-negotiables. For example: if you value saving for your annual trip out of the county, but your partner wants every extra penny to go towards his student loan debt… this may not be a deal breaker, but it is something to think about.

Be open, honest and vulnerable

Money is already an emotionally guarded topic. For most, it can be difficult to disclose their complete financial history, especially if they’re not completely comfortable with their own financial situation. But in order for this conversation to be a success, you will have to be honest, not just with your partner, but also with yourself. Use this time to reflect on your own money goals, past mishaps, and current reality.

If you have something in your financial history that maybe you’re not very proud of, it’s time to face it head on and make a plan to move forward. If you’ve avoided debt repayment in the past, create a plan of repayment BEFORE you talk with your partner. Coming to the conversation prepared, not just with information, but also with a resolution to any negative habits, will help to ease any concern that he or she may have regarding your ability to handle your finances effectively. It will also open the door for your partner to be open and honest with any money issues that they’re presenting dealing with.

The thought of having a money conversation with your significant other may be a little intimidating, especially if you don’t know what to expect. But it’s a foundational step to ensuring a healthy, honest and transparent relationship, not only with each other but also with your finances.

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