7 Money Talks All Couples Should Have
Whether you've been together 11 months...or 11 years
Date night is all fun and games until the conversation turns to spending habits. (Did he really just suggest upgrading his Xbox instead of going to see your grandmother?) New plan: If you’re in a serious relationship, try scheduling a dedicated “money date” at least once a year. Simply crack open the wine, and then get down and dirty with your bank statements. Here, the seven most important topics you’ll want to discuss.
YOUR STANCE ON SEPARATE VERSUS JOINT ACCOUNTS
Even if you’ve had a system in place for ages, it’s always worth reevaluating if it’s working for both of you. After all, maybe you have a new and better-paying job, maybe there’s a baby on the way, maybe your husband is beginning to resent your current setup. Sit down and weigh the pros and cons of pooling money versus keeping it separate. Then come up with a plan for the coming year.
YOUR CREDIT SCORE...AND DEBT STATUS
Sure, you’re not exactly responsible for the debt he accrued before he knew you, but it will definitely wreak havoc on long-term savings or your chances of getting a loan down the road. Pull your scores once a year, add up the total amount of debt you owe and put your heads together for a strategy to pay it off (for example, the snowball approach).
YOUR SPENDING HABITS
You overspend on fancy cheeses. He can’t resist plaid shirts. Peeking at your recent bank statements together will help you pinpoint your weak spots and figure out where you can both cut back. (Hello, that $21-a-pound Gruyère you buy twice a month is delicious, but it adds up to $500 a year. Whoops.)
AND HOW MUCH YOU WANT TO SAVE
Think beyond your vacation plans. The two of you should check in regularly about the status of your emergency funds, retirement accounts and investments. Have a savings goal (say, a college fund) you’re working toward? Set a target amount for the year ahead, then do the math to determine how much cash you can comfortably set aside per paycheck to meet that total.
YOUR VACATION GOALS
We said think beyond them, not forget them. Consider this the fun part of the conversation: You both outline your travel hopes and dreams for the next year and discuss realistic ways to make them happen. (See: Gruyère moratorium.)
A recent study from Fidelity Investments found that out of 2,000 couples surveyed, 43 percent couldn’t correctly state their partner’s salary. And 10 percent were off by $25K or more. Sure, annual raises, changing bonus structures and unexpected promotions make it hard to keep track, but knowing your total combined income is the only way to actually make progress on your bottom line.
WHERE YOU SEE YOURSELVES IN 5, 10...OR 40 YEARS
So, you want to have kids. Or get a second home. Or retire and become a professional goat cuddler. Whatever your plans, it’s important to discuss them with your partner so that the two of you can make financial arrangements for the future. And as your goals evolve, annual conversations will mean fewer surprises in the long-term.