How to have tough conversations about money…

Why is it that we can get completely comfortable with a partner, know their every thought and movement throughout the day, and yet still get SO uncomfortable when it comes to talking about money!? Let’s unravel the reasons why money conversations can be so emotionally charged and uncomfortable, and why it is so important to be able to have these conversations with your partner. You might even find that once you acknowledge the elephant in the room, it was actually just a little mouse all along!

So, how do we communicate with our partners, old or new, and start having some of those difficult and confronting money conversations?

The first thing to acknowledge is that you are both on the same journey. You’re driving the same car! Sometimes you might be driving it, and sometimes they might be driving it, but having these conversations as a constant throughout your relationship gives you a real sense of shared values and shared goals. Once you rip the band-aid off, these conversations can actually be really fun!

Hold your horses though! Before we tackle these conversations together, there’s one important thing we need to do first – a little bit of solo internal work. The best way to start is by thinking of a recent money conversation you had where you were filled with stress, anger, or resentment. What are some of the things that came up for you during this time? What are some of the money stories or fears you might be telling yourself, and where do they come from? Money stories are little tales we subconsciously tell ourselves from previous experiences around money. Perhaps money was used negatively in your childhood home, or not spoken about at all. Maybe in your previous relationship money was used as a form of control, or you just weren’t interested in the day-to-day budget, so you never learned how. These subconscious tales help us make quick decisions that are designed to keep us safe by giving meaning to something that may not necessarily be related at all. Daniel Kahneman talks about this in his book ‘Thinking, fast and slow’. Our quick decisions are informed by our childhood or other situations we’ve experienced and aren’t necessarily true, we just believe them to be true. When having these money conversations ask yourself, are you thinking fast here? Is this deep emotion attached to the conversation you’re having, or just an assumption? I would even recommend talking about what comes up for you with your partner so that you both have a deeper understanding of what’s going on in each other’s head.

Internal work is over, phew! Now what should we even be talking about with our partner, and when?
There’s a moment in every relationship when it starts to get serious. You start talking about your future, you start making big plans, maybe you’re meeting children or talking about living together. The timeline looks different for everyone, but there is no wrong time to get comfortable talking about money.
And then there’s the actual conversation! Start by creating a safe space where you both feel comfortable. That might be sitting and talking over dinner, going for a walk in the park, or watering the garden on a sunny day together. Let’s focus on each individual first. Get curious about each other.
How do you spend/manage your money? How long have you had your job? Do you rent or own? How much do you earn? Do you have any debt? Do you have any savings? Is there a disparity in earning capacity? If so, how are you going to navigate this? One option I love is the percentage income split. You can listen to our podcast this week which dives a little deeper into this.
Then it’s time to look at your money goals together. How do we want to live and what do we want to achieve? Where do you want to live? What are some of the things on your absolute bucket list? How do you want to retire? You might find that one of you wants to retire in an apartment in the city, whereas the other prioritises country living!
It can be really fun and exciting to have such open and honest conversations about your future plans. Removing the stigma around money conversations and finding a balance in values and goals can even bring you closer together, stronger, and more united!

Yes, it can be awkward. Yes, you might get a whole lot of bubbling resentment, but you’ve hopefully done the work to help you through this. Start having open conversations so that when the time comes to talk about big life changes, like living together, your situation is clear and you’re a united team on the same page. There are going to be many life decisions you need to make along the way in your relationship, so why not make those conversations fun and easy? At the end of the day, it is all up to you how you want things to go. And remember, when things get a bit tough, take a deep breath, reset those pesky quick decisions, and lead with love!

Contact Phoebe

Phoebe is available for interviews, guest appearances, article commentary, and talks on a range of topics relating to property, mortgage broking, and personal finance (particularly for women!).