I wholeheartedly admit that I am a romantic — I’m not even embarrassed about it. I write poetry and love songs and was even in a garage band during my teenage years in Argentina. As lead vocalist, I honestly cannot remember “performing” anything that wasn’t some sort of declaration of love (just ask my wife, who was my high school sweetheart!). Which is why it feels very strange to start this blog with the following unromantic, matter-of-fact information:
Money-related issues are often cited as reasons for relationship problems. Uncommunicated goals and financial priorities can lead to misunderstandings, misunderstandings to arguments, and arguments to separations or even divorce.
So, for my romantic heart’s sake, and yours, too, of course, let’s quickly shift the topic to learn how to start honest, meaningful, positive — and sometimes even romantic — conversations about goals and money, so that you and your partner (or in my case, my better half!) can better understand one another and work together.
Preparing for the Conversation
Money is a sensitive topic because it impacts so many areas of our lives. While it can be uncomfortable to discuss, the consequences of not talking about it with your partner can be harsh (as I noted earlier). Whether you’re early on in a committed relationship or you’ve been in a long-term relationship for years, it’s important to communicate — and continue to communicate — not just about money, numbers and finances, but also about your goals, feelings and dreams for the future. See. Talking about money can be romantic.
Before you approach the subject with your loved one, consider the following, so you can make sure the conversation is positive and productive:
- Your own goals. And I mean your life goals, not your financial goals. Start by thinking about your future and what you want from it. Don’t go into the conversation immediately expecting to create a detailed, finite financial plan. Go in willing to talk about your needs, wants and values first, not numbers, those will come later. Having thought about these things in advance will help the conversation go more smoothly.
- The timing. Don’t just spring this type of conversation on your partner or spouse. Schedule a time to talk — a time when you know you’ll both be happy, relaxed and receptive. You know you and your partner best. What days and times do you both feel the least stressed? That’s the perfect time to talk.
- Sincerely listening. Your significant other might have different goals than you, and that’s OK. The point is to start positive money talks. The important thing is to hear them out, so be sure to limit any distractions and really pay attention.
Starting the Conversation
Now that you’re prepared, do you feel anxious about approaching your partner? That’s normal. But, just think, giving your partner a heads up that you want to talk about your goals and how to plan financially for them, you are giving them time to identify their own goals. Doing so ensures you both have equal opportunities to share and discuss, and shows how much you care.
Here are four examples of ways you can open the lines of communication:
- You can simply be direct and place the importance on your relationship, by saying:
- You can ease your way into the topic, by asking a specific question related to one of your own goals, like:
- You can be honest about your financial history or something that made you realize the importance of planning:
- Or, if you’re like me, you can be romantic and say:
“Our relationship is important to me. I’ve been thinking about goals for the future, and how to plan for them financially. I would love to hear what your goals are. Can we make a date to share those with each other?”
“You know, I’ve been thinking about where I’d like to live and what kind of home I’d like to have one day. I’d love to hear what you’d like.”
(Just as a side note, this is where details are important. You might both say you want to live in the Salt Lake area and you want a house. Now, if this were me and my wife talking, she means she wants to live in a small house near downtown, and I mean I want a big house and big yard closer to Sandy. Details are key, and should be communicated early so you can start to compromise.)
“You know, 2020 was a challenging year, both emotionally and financially. It made me think about my priorities and how it’s important to have goals and a financial plan. Can we start thinking about how to establish some goals together and how we be better prepared for our future, and for emergencies?”
“I love thinking about our future. What do you imagine our future to look like?
(This can be the perfect lead in to an important conversation about your dreams and goals. And as I already mentioned, talk about the details! If your goal is to retire, make sure you include the specifics. You might want to save, save, save and retire early so you can enjoy more of your golden years, but your partner might want to spend some money each year to take vacations and retire a little later.)
Using Banking Tools to Develop and Meet Your Goals
You’ve prepared for the conversation. You’ve started the conversation. And once you’ve worked through and determined your goals as a couple, then you can start talking finances and planning. As a banker and a romantic at heart, this is where it gets exciting for me, because banking technology can help you and your partner realize your dreams. Not only does it provide you with an expansive set of budgeting and financial tracking tools, it can also help you make hard decisions once, instead of over and over again.
Let me explain.
Let’s say you and your partner agree to save a certain amount of money from your paycheck every two weeks. Don’t go in and move the money over to your savings account each and every time — you run the risk of forgetting, or worse, using the money for something else, like going out to an extravagant dinner. Use online banking to your advantage! Set up automatic payments, so you’re making one decision — to save — instead of 26 decisions a year! Use it as a tool to get what you want, together.
Approaching Finances as a Team
As I mentioned earlier, communication is incredibly important, so I’d like to share just a few pieces of parting advice.
Be understanding, and fight for your partner’s goals as you would your own. You will not always see eye to eye on everything when it comes to finances, but you can be open-minded and you can listen, and that goes a long way in reaching a compromise.
Trust is important. When you’re discussing money and goals, be truthful. Share your ideas and thoughts willingly, and don’t keep financial secrets. You may think it’s just a small secret, but it could get out of control and cause bigger problems in the future.
And finally, always remember the love you have for your partner. Talking through hard subjects together can help you strengthen and improve your relationship.
Ulises Fernandez is the branch manager for Bank of Utah’s Sandy location. Originally from Argentina, he has been in the banking industry for five years, and prior to that, he worked as a business general manager for 10 years. He has volunteered for more than 12 years in local and state board positions for the PTA, including a PTA President & Emerging Minority Leader, which identifies, encourages and empowers minority families.