(BPT) – Thinking about combining finances with your significant other? Whether you’re getting married or just thinking about getting serious, talking about money can help couples understand each other and avoid unhappy surprises down the road. Here are five reasons why talking about money can enhance a relationship.
It makes couples happier.
Talking about things like spending, saving and debt may sound business-like and unromantic, but financial experts agree that money is a frequent topic of arguments in many relationships. In fact, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association, almost a third of adults with partners reported that money is a major source of conflict in their relationship.
“What I see when talking with couples is that learning how to resolve money disagreements – and there will be disagreements – helps build important relationship skills,” says Daniel Prebish, director of Life Event Services with Wells Fargo Advisors. “Those skills will be valuable both at the beginning of a relationship and likely for a couple’s entire time together.”
It helps couples connect by understanding what’s going on.
Couples should discuss pros and cons of combining finances versus keeping finances separate. According to research by Wells Fargo & Company, about half of couples choose to combine accounts, while the other half prefers separate accounts. Regardless of where you and your significant other fall in this spectrum, both people in a relationship should understand how their financial habits impact – positively or negatively – the life they are building together.
It helps couples track their short and long term financial goals.
Be open with your significant other about your full financial picture. Questions that can help open the door to meaningful conversations include:
1. Are we paying ourselves first?
2. Do we have a safety net?
3. Are we paying all our bills on time, every time?
4. Have we reviewed our insurance needs in the last year?
5. Do we track our spending to know where our money is going every month?
6. Are we paying down high-interest-rate debt first?
7. Do we know where our credit stands?
8. Are we saving for retirement?
It helps couples afford the “extras” that make life fun.
Building a solid financial future shouldn’t mean forsaking enjoying life. When couples have a common understanding of how they’ll prioritize and manage their day-to-day finances like housing costs, grocery and utility bills, it’s easier to figure out where splurges fit in.
It helps avoid financial surprises.
Hearing your friends shout, “happy birthday” is a welcome surprise. What’s not welcome is suddenly discovering you can’t afford to pay this month’s bills or that retirement is farther away than a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Being up front about money issues and sharing complete financial information with your significant other helps avoid financial surprises that can add unnecessary stress to a relationship.
While discussing money may not feel romantic, it certainly is emotional. So how do you get started? Here are tips:
1. Admit the conversation can feel awkward, but commit to having it anyway.
2. Pick a mutually agreeable time. Your candle-lit Valentine’s dinner may not be the right setting. Pre-arranging the conversation will help ensure both people are mentally prepared.
3. Be open with your significant other. Share your values and opinions about spending and savings habits and goals you would like to achieve together.
4. Work at it. Commit to an annual meeting to talk about money, credit and whether you’re on track to achieve your financial goals.
By opening the lines of communication, you can get on the same financial page before joining financial forces.
(This article was written by Wells Fargo Advisors and Consumer Lending.)