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How to talk to your partner about money (and yes, you really need to)

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17th Feb 2024
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How to talk to your partner about money (and yes, you really need to)

“Let’s not talk about money, darling”, said about 45% of divorced couples, everywhere. Lorraine Donegan on why clear communication about finances is crucial, and how to broach the conversation with your partner about money.

Talking about money is an emotional, draining, awkward, complicated business – but if you’re married, engaged or serious, it’s vital that money conversations become a regular talking point in your home.

Money is one of the top five reasons couples argue, but you don’t have to become part of that statistic – if you approach the subject correctly and ask the right questions, things will be easier both now and in the future! Here are my top five tips.

1 Understand how you individually value money

Ask yourself and your partner questions such as: Why is having money important to me? Do I have a mature and realistic view of my money? How much do I save, spend, invest, etc. currently – and how/when will that change as I get older?

How do I feel about money? Anxious? Comfortable? Out of control? What was the financial situation at home (when I was growing up), and how has that affected how I feel/deal with money now?

Answering these questions honestly will help you both to identify if you’re a spender or a saver and take action accordingly. If you or your partner are a spender and approach money with a “you only live once” attitude, this could become very problematic as you move through life together and have to deal with a mortgage, loan and bill repayments.

The bottom line is that you both need to be savers – it doesn’t really matter how much. If you save, then you value money, and as you move through life together, your savings will grow and give you future security.

2 Understand your current debt and income

To understand your current debt/income, ask yourselves questions such as: What do I earn annually, including bonuses? How will my income be affected in the future? Am I progressing in my career, how will/can I increase my income?

Will one of us “step out” of the workforce if we start a family? Will I be taking on some of my partner’s debt? If yes, how do I feel about that?

Answering these questions regularly (review every six months or so) will keep you focused and financially on track as a couple.

3 Understand your future debt, income and goals

Similar to the point above, in 5, 10, 20 years’ time, where do you see yourselves? Do you want to rent, buy or upscale your home? Do you want children – they are adorable but expensive! If you have children already, have you factored in their current and future education costs?

What are your career goals and how will they progress? Is it a dream to have your own business, are you both prepared for the financial strain that will have? Will one/both of you take a career break? How will you manage your monthly incomes?

All couples differ. Some couples merge their incomes, others like to keep a ‘what’s yours is yours, what’s mine is mine’ approach to retain a sense of independence.

I advise most of my clients to combine the two options (retain a separate account for personal spend and a joint account for house/family expenses) so that you have the best of both worlds. Choose whichever option works best for you, but be clear on who pays what; make sure it’s equal, pro-rata and fair and review if your circumstances change.

4 Work to a budget

The Golden Rule of finance is “never spend more than you earn”… and budgeting will go a long way in making sure you never break that rule. Regularly checking in with each other about your finances, and whether or not you’re sticking to the budget, will keep you both on track and financially harmonious.

5 Invest for your retirement

One of the biggest areas couples neglect is their retirement planning, so it needs to be a regular topic of conversation. Ask yourselves: how are we going to afford the lifestyle we want when we’re 68? Do you really think that you’ll be able to live on the state pension (€253.30 per week)? Do you want to work until you’re 80?

My guess is that the answer to both those questions is no, so it’s time to get talking now so you both visualise your retirement and make it one of your financial goals. It’s a great opportunity to discuss your long-term hopes and dreams.

Don’t forget that a good financial planner will help you outline and achieve your goals in a tax-efficient manner, so find someone you can trust and set them to work on your marriage’s behalf!

Lorraine Donegan, AKA the ‘Money Muse’ is a CEO & founder at Donegan Financial Services. If you’d like to ask any specific questions about any finance-related topic, email [email protected]

This article was originally published in January 2022.