How to Communicate About Finances in Marriage


Bringing up finances is often awkward, especially when emotions run high. Choosing the right time for money discussions is essential: when you and your partner are fresh, not tired, or angry.

Airing out any dirty financial laundry, including debt, is also good. Then, you can plan together and set goals for the future.

1. Be open and honest

When discussing finances, couples need to be open and honest. This helps prevent feelings of betrayal and trust issues arising from hiding or lying about money matters. It also allows couples to discuss their differences in how they approach money-related decisions. It’s better to address these differences early in the marriage than when they become big money problems.

In addition to being open and honest, couples should discuss their priorities and long-term goals. This can help them find common ground to work together toward financial success. This could include discussing major life events like having children, buying a home, or saving for retirement.

Having these conversations with a trusted financial advisor or planner is helpful. They can act as a mediator to help couples find a happy medium with differing financial approaches, such as being savers versus spenders.

While these conversations may be stressful, it’s essential that couples keep in mind the bigger picture and not take them personally. Often, disagreements about spending habits or credit card debt are a proxy for underlying issues in the marriage, such as a lack of trust or a need for control. Taking the time to deconstruct why you’re both upset about the situation can help to resolve it and prevent it from spiraling out of control.

When discussing finances with your spouse, choosing a time and place where you can talk in private without interruptions is essential. It’s also a good idea to be prepared for the conversation by having a written list of your goals, current spending habits, and savings amounts. This can help to streamline the discussion and make it more productive.

During the discussion, try to avoid interrupting and give each other your full attention. This will show your respect for their opinions and beliefs and encourage them to do the same in return. Eye contact during the conversation can also be helpful because it’s a visual reminder that you’re on the same team.

2. Set spending limits

Even if you’re already married, it’s never too late to have the “money talk.” Couples who don’t communicate well about finances can have significant financial trouble.

According to Cunningham, couples need to be able to share information about their assets and debts openly. She says this doesn’t mean combining all of your accounts or poring over each other’s credit card statements but rather having regular conversations that cover everything from budgeting to discussing future goals and priorities.

These conversations can be as short or long as needed, but they should be recurring. Frequent money check-ins will help couples become more comfortable with talking about these sensitive topics and allow them to address issues as they arise. This can prevent them from rotting and popping up when one of you is grumpy after work or mad that the grocery bill came out higher than usual.

It’s also helpful for spouses to agree on spending limits. These should be based on individual income levels and adjusted as needed. However, couples can also combine all of their income into a joint pot covering everything from paying the bills to buying new cars and investments.

If you and your partner have a joint budget, setting aside a small amount of money for discretionary spending is also essential. Bell says this is a great way to make sure both partners have their freedom and that they don’t feel like they are being deprived of anything because they can still spend some of their own money on things they enjoy.

Remember, “for richer or poorer” is in your marriage vows for a reason. While you might have different goals and priorities regarding money, you must be willing to compromise. And, if one of you goes over budget, don’t argue or accuse them of being irresponsible. Instead, try to understand what went wrong and discuss ways to correct it in the future.

3. Stay calm

It can be hard to talk about finances when emotions are running high, but staying calm is the key to having a productive discussion. Avoid raising the temperature by interrupting, arguing, or using absolute statements like “always” and “never.” Instead, focus on listening to each other and minimizing interruptions.

You and your partner should be able to develop a financial plan that you can stick to over the long haul. However, it’s also essential to be willing to change your plan if it doesn’t work or life changes. For example, if one of you gets a new job and makes more money, you may want to consider changing your savings plan or moving some of your money into an emergency fund.

Be prepared for a lot of disagreements regarding finances in marriage. You and your spouse will probably have different opinions about how much to save, how to spend on fun things, and what the priorities should be. You may also have different needs and relationships with money that you brought into the relationship.

During the initial discussions about money, don’t be afraid to discuss what you value as a couple. This can open the door to more discussion about your priorities, an essential part of a happy marriage. It’s okay to disagree, but it’s essential to know each other’s boundaries to stay within your limits and respect each other.

For example, if your spouse wants to vacation, you might ask why they think that’s more important than saving $200 a month. Instead of attacking them, you might suggest a compromise, such as saving $300 a month in addition to their planned trip.

Having honest, open communication is essential for every couple. Regarding your finances, it’s essential to communicate what you both value and agree on a plan that works for both of you. This will help prevent conflict in the future and keep your marriage strong. So next time you feel stressed about your finances, remember these tips for effective communication and happy marriage.

4. Keep it positive

Keeping the conversation positive helps prevent defensiveness and arguing. Money is serious, but talking about it doesn’t have to be a solemn experience. Try to approach it as an opportunity to discuss your future dreams together. You’ll have a clearer picture of what’s important to you and your partner, and that will serve as a solid “why” to hold onto when the budgeting process gets a little rough.

You’ll also need to set up systems for resolving financial mishaps or disagreements. Determining whether to keep or combine separate accounts is an excellent place to start. This will be your starting point for developing a budget and setting goals. Once you have a system, set up weekly or monthly money dates to start reviewing and making decisions together.

If you’re struggling to find common ground, seeking a financial planner or advisor who can mediate the discussion might be helpful. They’ll be able to help you navigate differences in your money values, past experiences, and personal finance education. They can also give you a fresh perspective on your spouse’s money mindset and offer ways to work together more effectively.

A common issue couples face is one partner being more interested in spending and the other being more concerned with saving. This is often a result of different money values and habits instilled in childhood. A spender may see spending hard-earned money as a way to make them feel good about themselves or to reward friends and family for their support. A saver, on the other hand, might see it as a way to build their future.

It’s vital to remember that your finances are a shared responsibility, and it’s best to keep the communication lines open to avoid financial infidelity. If you’re struggling to talk about your money, scheduling a private meeting with your financial advisor or bank representative might be helpful. Having an outsider facilitate the discussion can help you remain calm, and it can also be an opportunity to get expert advice on improving your current situation.