Finances. They’re not the sexiest conversation to have with a partner. People will sweep the money conversation under the rug, avoiding debt, expenditures, goals, and budgets until the last possible moment (or, until you need to apply for a loan together and all the skeletons come out of the closet).
We’d rather talk about weekend plans, travel, dreams, and, well, literally anything else. But, money makes the world go around and we need to talk about it, particularly with the person who is most intimately involved in our lives and our future.
Talking about finances doesn’t need to be an everyday conversation, but it should happen with regularity and, ideally, on a consistent and planned-ahead schedule that allows you both to come to the table prepared. But if you’re unsure of how often you should discuss money with your partner, we connected with Catherine Alford, author of Mom’s Got Money and co-founder of Millennial Homeowner, to provide some insight on the matter.
Consider a monthly cadence for your finance discussion
Alford recommends setting a standing meeting to kick off the month––a cadence many financial experts echo. She says this beginning-of-the-month timing allows you to anticipate and go over big expenditures for that month ahead of time to lower the spur-of-the-moment stress that can come with sudden spending. You can plan for events where you’ll need to make a one-time payment like birthdays, biannual car insurance bills, and vacations.
She also advises that looking at the month ahead allows you to make a budget and a plan that is tailored to that month’s needs. For instance, June may look different than December. If you both prefer to actively track throughout the month, you can schedule a mini-check-in on the 15th to see whether the set budget is working or needs to be adjusted due to unforeseen expenses.
What to discuss during the monthly meetings:
1. Plan ahead.
So, what happens at these monthly meetings? First, you don’t want to come to your monthly finance meeting to discover a few unexpected surprises. So, plan ahead. A few days in advance, look at your bills, what you’ve spent, and how your investments are doing. If there is something that could be triggering for your partner, let them know ahead of time so they are able to react and, then, discuss it logically during the meeting.
2. Have a designated partner to lead the meeting.
It may come naturally that there’s one person who wants to lead these meetings but, if neither person feels enthusiastic about finances, you can alternate running the meeting, taking notes, and designating action items.
3. Set an agenda.
It can be too easy to sit down without an idea of what you need to discuss and, five minutes later, someone goes, “Okay, anything else? We’re good?” and you both go on your merry way without getting into the tough stuff.
Instead, bring a specific agenda to the table that runs through both short-term and long-term financial decisions and goals. It may not look the same every month, but you’ll want to include items like past and upcoming budget review, credit card statements, debt, and investments. You should discuss whether money worked for you in the past month or whether you need to make adjustments. Bring up long-term spending goals, for example, a down payment or a child’s tuition. Look at your retirement statements and use this time to familiarize yourself with the stock market.
Remember to have fun, too.
And, remember, it doesn’t have to be all spreadsheets and data points. There is room for fun in budgeting. Alford adds, “Don’t forget to start each monthly budget meeting by stating your big, audacious money goals and do some dreaming. This puts you and your partner on the same page and reminds you why you’re meeting to discuss money, to begin with.”