The ultimate money date guide – how to talk with your partner about money
“The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
- Vidal Sassoon
Money. It can be a stressful and emotive topic. So, it’s no wonder we don’t prioritise money conversations with our significant other.
Have a think about your money dialogue with your partner. Do you mention money in passing? Perhaps you drop it in banter over the dinner table, mention it in the car, bring it up at the supermarket, or broach it whilst getting ready for bed? And let’s be honest – was that conversation effective? Did it really solve your money quandaries, or alleviate the financial tension in your relationship?
If you answered no, I’m not surprised. Talking about money in passing can often add to your financial stress and anxiety, not reduce it. Why? Because in most cases, you don’t get to the core of the financial situation or you get interrupted mid chat. To really get on the same financial page it requires a deeper, more consistent communication strategy – regular money dates!
What is a money date?
A money date is an opportunity for you and your partner to sit down and communicate openly and honestly about money.
By scheduling a financial date night, you and your partner can:
· prepare mentally and emotionally
· schedule money topics to cover
· talk about finances at a time and place that’s comfortable (and even fun) for you both
· talk about your financial situation, goals and dreams with ample time and with no interruptions (strictly no kids!)
· connect on a deeper, more intimate level.
The secrets to money date success
So, how does a money date work in practice? These step-by-step instructions provide everything you need to be money-date ready.
1. Invite your partner to a money date – Sounds simple enough but let us break this down so you can ask your partner with confidence. We suggest saying something like “I would love to have a longer chat about what’s important to us, including our money management, values and goals. How about we do this over dinner one night – is it a date!?”
2. Calendarise your money dates – Once you’ve arranged your first date, don’t stop there. Schedule in monthly money date nights in advance and commit to them ongoing. Remember the no-child policy! Budget for a babysitter if you have to. I guarantee, you won’t regret it!
3. Set a financial theme – The topic of money is vast. Set a theme for each money date. It can be helpful to brainstorm a list of financial tasks you want to cover over the next 6 months and assign them to your monthly date nights. This list can include topics such as:
- Money values, goals and fears
- A check of your credit score and lending capacity
- Kid’s education planning/expenses
- Spending goals (E.g. new car, holidays, home improvements)
- Retirement planning
- Insurances (E.g. personal, general, private health cover)
- Debt repayment plan (E.g. mortgage, loans, credit cards)
- Estate planning (E.g. wills, Power of Attorney, Guardianships, Advanced directives etc).
- Charitable giving.
4. Don’t do it on an empty stomach – I recommend having your date nights over dinner, for example at a restaurant, café or on a picnic. Just make sure you select a comfortable, private location that’s not too noisy. I’ve known couples to even drive to the beach and eat fish and chips in the car whilst having their money date. It’s whatever works for you.
5. Get tactile – When talking about emotive topics it’s important to give the other person your full attention and respond with compassion and kindness. Consider sitting close to one another, and even holding each other’s hands whilst looking into each other’s eyes as you talk. It will deepen your connection and provide a safe space to communicate openly and honestly.
6. Don’t make it all about money – Your financial conversation is the aim of the game, but to make your money dates stick, it’s important to make them fun. Consider doing something enjoyable during or after your dinner date to lighten the mood. It could be going for a walk along the beach, having a game of pool, or dropping in to see a friend after dinner.
7. Bring tools of the trade – Make sure you bring a pad, pen or even your laptop to jot down any key thoughts or decisions. You might find it helpful to have a Money Journal or workbook, which you can bring along to all your dates and keep a record of what you learned, discussed or committed to doing. You may want to review your budget or bank statements when on your date, so a bigger screen like a tablet or laptop can help.
To make your money dates as successful as possible, a step-by-step guide for your first 3 money dates is detailed below. This includes what to cover including the best questions to ask each other. So, let’s get into it.
Money date #1 – Your money story
Your first money date should be dedicated to getting to know each other financially. That involves being curious about each other’s dreams, fears and thoughts about money.
Here’s a few questions to get your first money date flowing:
· What’s your earliest memory around money?
· What was it like financially, growing up in your family? E.g. Did your parents complain about never having enough or was there an abundance of money? Did they fight over their finances, or did they never speak about it? Were you financially comfortable or did you go without?
· How has this impacted how you feel about money today?
· What 3 things did your parents teach you about money?
· What are your money goals and fears?
We encourage you to read our article Own Your Money Story: 7 powerful questions to unlocking your money story. This article provides additional questions to ask, as well as a simple yet transformative process for reinventing your money story.
Money date #2 – Getting on the same financial page
Once you understand each other’s deep-seated money beliefs, the next step is to talk about your money goals, dreams and fears. Here’s how!
1. Ask leading questions: Here are some conversation-starter questions that can be useful to think about in preparation for setting your financial goals:
- How do you feel about our finances right now in broad terms?
- What do you ultimately want from money?
- What would you do if you won the lottery? E.g. 1 million or $5 million
- Are you where you want to be financially? Why or why not?
- What do you find stressful about our financial situation? Why? How can we improve this?
2. Set financial goals – It’s important to understand what your joint goals are and how you can work towards them together. Here are some questions to get you talking:
- What are our joint short (1 year), medium (2-5 year) and long-term (10+) goals? (E.g. saving for a home, paying off the mortgage in X years, going on an annual holiday, saving for the kids’ education)
- How long to you anticipate this will take to achieve?
- How are we going to pay for this goal/s?
- What sacrifices are you prepared to make along the way to achieve your goal/s? What won’t you do?
- How do you want your partner to contribute to this goal/s?
Money date #3 – Let’s get budgeting!
The key to financial freedom is taking stock of where you are today, and that means knuckling down and doing a budget together. Budgets aren’t sexy. We get that. But they are an invaluable resource to better understand what you earn, spend, own and owe.
A good first step is to do a stocktake of where you sit financially today. Check out our Money Planner to help you get a clearer view of your net wealth picture.
From there, download your bank statement transaction history (6 months is usually sufficient) to see exactly how much and where your money is going. This can be a big process, so completing a money audit and budget is usually a money date of its own. If you need additional help, this MoneySmart budget, or our budget calculator can help.
Money date etiquette - active listening is key
Money conversations can easily deteriorate into an argument. The key to prevent this from happening is open and honest communication that comes from a place of compassion and love, rather than judgement and frustration.
Here are our top strategies to defuse an argument:
· Practice ‘active listening’. Aim to do 20% of the talking and 80% of the listening. In situations such as this, silence is golden. Ask a question and then wait for as long as it takes for your partner to find the words
· Don’t ‘help’ your partner find the words, cut them off or finish their sentences
· If you’re unsure of your partners perspective, use phrases like ‘tell me more about that’ or ‘I’m wondering about X’
· Repeat back to them what you’ve heard so you’ve received their message correctly, for example ‘so, let me clarify what you’re saying is…’
· Remove the word ‘you’. By using this word, it can often be perceived as verbal finger-pointing. Instead replace this with statements such as ‘I would love to’, ‘I find it hard to’, ‘I feel like we could be doing X with our money’ etc.
· Never play the blame game – it will only lead to conflict
· Avoid absolutes such as always, never, every time, or everyone. They make the other person feel defensive.
It’s also important to bring solutions to your money problems. If you have no solutions, request a brainstorm session, and actively participate in finding a solution.
If all else fails…
Always remember that if you need some support to create constructive, supportive money conversations and financial strategies with your partner, a couples money coach can be highly effective.
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