Navigating Financial Conversations

By Amanda Linan
As inflation continues to rise and holidays approach, many couples are feeling the stress of finances in their relationship. Money is a difficult topic for many couples in the best of circumstances, so adding additional stressors can make it feel nearly impossible. So how do you navigate financial conversations in a productive and respectful manner? First, you need to build a basic understanding of your and your partner’s views in each of these areas:

Money is a Value Laden Topic

The messages we have received about the meaning of money, spending, saving, financial security, investments, etc. play a big role in what we believe and therefore how we act. Take some time to think and talk about some of these questions: How was money talked about in your family? How was spending and saving talked about? What messages were you told about wealthy individuals? Poor individuals? What do you believe about money? What is the importance of money? Show up with curiosity in this conversation and you will be able to learn a lot about the similarities and differences.

Talk About Past Experiences

Have you or your partner had negative experiences with money? Things like poverty, financial betrayal, financial abuse, or sudden loss of money can all change how an individual views and spends money. Talking about these negative experiences and what the impact has been on your habits now can help you better understand your motivations and your partner’s motivations. Understanding is the first step to compromise. Know what you and your partner need to feel safe at the most fundamental level, and then work to honor that.

What’s the End Goal and the Lifestyle You Desire?

What are you hoping to achieve with our finances? Independent wealth? Providing for sick parents? Legacy for children/grandchildren? Travel? Whatever it is, thinking about the end goal can help inform your decisions now. Also, talk about the lifestyle you want to live now. Living lavishly now AND later means a certain level of commitment to earning and time spent doing so. Wanting less time at work might mean living more frugally now or later, or both. There is no right or wrong answer, only what will work for both of you.

Armed with that basic understanding, you can begin to navigate a compromise. A good compromise does not mean winning and losing, it means both people walk away feeling honored by their core values. Core values are things you cannot sacrifice without building a certain level of resentment. Use the understanding you have to identify what your core values are vs. your areas of flexibility. For example, a core value might be having a decent savings account built up to feel secure in case of emergencies. An area of flexibility might be how much that is when it gets added to, and what constitutes an emergency. Take time to identify the few core values you have and the flexibility you have within them, then compare and discuss. Get creative with a compromise, and remember, the compromise is only temporary and can and should be adjusted as circumstances change.