When two people get married, they’re not only bringing together two unique personalities and backgrounds, but also different financial perspectives. You may have different financial skills and analytical abilities, as well as different emotional responses to issues having to do with money, which can make initiating a conversation about finances somewhat uncomfortable. And yet, money talks can become an opportunity to grow closer together and achieve your mutual goals.
As a Certified Financial Planner™ at EP Wealth, part of my job is to sit down with my married clients and help them have these important conversations. Here are some tips to get you started.
Most marriages have a natural division of labor—not just in finances, but in daily chores, parenting, grocery shopping and meal prep, and to-dos around the house. It’s not uncommon for spouses to lock into their natural lanes and solidify those habits over the years. Sometimes the person responsible for overseeing the finances feels underappreciated—or the person who’s less involved in the financial planning feels excluded unnecessarily or less valued in the decision-making.
Even if you couldn’t care less about the numbers, your voice and perspective can really make a difference. At EP Wealth, we help couples have these discussions and move toward a shared understanding about their financial objectives and how they will manage their money moving forward.
I always tell couples to start with goals—a few fundamentals you want to achieve. Talk through your ideas and aspirations as a way of breaking the ice, without attaching a dollar sign right away. Maybe it’s a school you want to send your kids to, a neighborhood you want to live in, a home renovation project, or travels you’d like to take in the next year or two.
These conversations are a lot more fun to have than sitting down with an Excel spreadsheet and crunching numbers right off the bat.
I typically schedule quarterly check-ins with married couples who start off in very different places when it comes to talking about finances. This gives them the opportunity in the interim between meetings to reflect on the issues we bring up, have meaningful conversations on their own, and learn at their own pace.
If you’re trying to accomplish a specific short-term goal, like buying a house, it might make sense to discuss finances more frequently, but quarterly check-ins are a good place to begin when it comes to developing a long-term plan.
My wife and I have committed to a monthly rhythm of looking at our cash flow and planning for future expenses coming down the pipeline. You don’t have to cover it all every time—maybe you’re just keeping tabs on your balance sheet of assets and liabilities or you’re tracking your savings buckets for different goals—but to keep that same structure of check-ins works really well to ensure you’re on the same page and nothing falls between the cracks.
Maybe it’s the first weekend of the month—a special dinner or drink while you’re talking. Make it a light and fun natural part of your life—because the more you talk about money, the less stressful it is on a relationship.
It’s fairly common for one spouse to be more of a saver and one to be more of a spender. When these mismatches come together, it can become particularly dramatic. Both parties experience a lot of stress and anxiety about money, though they deal with it in different ways. These natural tendencies and how we value money are downloaded into us based on what was modeled by our families growing up.
Part of my goal as a financial planner is to uncover what’s below the surface: what are the habits and patterns they learned from their parents, and how did those experiences differ? Also, what does money mean to each person? Does it mean security and safety, or does it mean freedom and flexibility?
Identifying what’s beneath the surface can bring about greater understanding about oneself and foster greater empathy for one another so we can then build a plan from a place of unity, as a team, rather than trying to fight about who’s right.
A life goals chart is part of our onboarding process for new clients at EP Wealth. We look at a variety of things you’re looking to accomplish—financial, family, legacy, recreation, vocational, work—and the ideal timeframe for getting them done. Through this chart, we explore what’s most important—“the why”—and we look at money as “the what” that’s going to drive your plan forward.
Our money management process runs deeper than just reviewing your return on investments. Sure, it can mean a little extra effort is needed to keep the conversation going over time, but it can facilitate improved relationships and life satisfaction—because, ultimately, what good is money without that?
Reach out to an EP Wealth advisor today!
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