Perhaps you saw the recent article that draws a connection between merged finances and marital bliss. Researchers at Indiana University’s Kelly School of Business compared newly married couples who kept their finances separate with couples who merged their finances. They followed these couples for two years and concluded that those who merged their finances were happier than those who kept their financial lives separate. Couples who merged their finances had less fights about money and had more openness and unity as they pursued common goals. Communication is key to any long lasting relationship, but talking about money is often challenging for many couples. Here are some ideas that may make money talks less awkward and more productive.

True confessions, I don’t write as someone who has mastered this area of marriage but as a fellow learner who is trying to grow in this area. My wife and I both grew up in homes where there were few money conversations between parent and child and we carried this lack of conversation into marriage. We had to learn to talk about money and share our concerns and dreams, balancing possibility with reality. A good starting point may be a discussion about your earliest money memories. When did you first understand what money could do? What decision did you make the first time you had liberty to do what you wanted with the money you had?  What childhood thoughts about money have you brought into your adult life? Understanding your own money background, and that of your partner, can go a long way in creating an atmosphere where you can talk about money openly.

Money conversations need to take place in a no judgement zone. We all have a history of foolish and ill-advised money decisions; the expensive but cool car versus the practical ride, the gizmo that caught your attention and broke two months later, the impulse buy that maxed out your credit card. Remembering and admitting your own money failures will guide you in talking about your partner’s less than ideal purchases. The goal is to learn from these mistakes and work together at not repeating them.

Many couples find a Money Date is a good way to begin a discussion on finances. Pick a restaurant you both enjoy and spend the evening talking in broad strokes about your priorities and dreams. What do you think life will look like a year from now? How about 5, 10, and 20 years in the future? It’s important to listen carefully and fully grasp your partner’s ideals. This is not the time for exact numbers so you can leave the spreadsheet at home. It’s a time to focus on what each of you think is important and then try to prioritize this list. You can schedule your Money Dates yearly, quarterly, or whenever life circumstances change significantly (the birth of a child, job change, buying a new home, etc.). Future Money Date topics can include who is going to manage the finances, hiring a Financial Advisor, education for the kids, estate planning, life insurance needs, retirement plans, and what happens when one of you passes away. The goal is to be unified in your priorities and to understand how money fits into the equation.

Teaming up to make a budget is your opportunity to put real numbers into your present responsibilities and future possibilities. Instead of guessing how much you should allot to each category, review last year’s spending to see what you’ve done and then adjust accordingly. Gathering a year’s worth of bank and credit card statements is usually only a few mouse clicks away. For many “budget” is a dirty word. If it helps, call it a “spending plan.” Rather than being constrained you can say to yourselves “we get to spend this amount on x (you name the category) this month.” Many couples have a “mad money” category for each partner, money you can spend as you choose. And make sure you include some fun in your budget; a night out, a weekend away, or a vacation are important items to plan for. Your budget needs to align with your values and priorities. It’s a planning tool to get you to your goals not a master you are chained to.

The reality for each of us is that we have more desires than dollars. Couples need to work together to prioritize and put their limited resources to the best possible use. Candid and open conversations are the groundwork of a successful money partnership, so get started planning your Money Date.


About John G. Ullman & Associates, Inc.

John G. Ullman & Associates, Inc., was founded in Corning, N.Y. in 1978. The firm is a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) registered federally with the Securities & Exchange Commission*. As an independent, fee-based investment management firm JGUA provides comprehensive wealth management strategies and services to their clients. The firm manages over $1 billion in client assets, with a staff of more than 75 employees over four locations, including Horseheads, N.Y., Rhinebeck, N.Y., Charlotte, N.C. and Corning.

If you are interested in learning more about how JGUA could help you, visit our website HERE, or call 1 (800) 936-3785. You can follow us on, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and The JGUA Blog.

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