March 21, 2016

Financial conversations with your partner aren’t always easy. Actually, they are rarely easy (and yes… even when you’re a financial planner, these conversations can still be tough!). They are often influenced by different experiences, a different knowledge base and, the most difficult of all, our emotions.

After sitting down with hundreds of couples over the years, I have found that there are three common practices that separate those couples who can have successful conversations from those who too often get caught on the ‘crazy train’. (And if we are all honest, we have all been on that train before with our partner and it is not fun.)

My wife and I began implementing some of these best practices into our conversations over four years ago and, speaking from experience, they have made a huge impact on our ability to have successful financial conversations.

Safety First – No, that doesn’t mean you need to strap on protective headgear in preparation for financial conversations (even though you may feel it might be helpful at times). Instead, make a point to agree on creating a safe environment. For my wife and I, this means that we always make a point of having these conversations in a place that we both feel comfortable, and where we aren’t surrounded by distractions, feeling tired, or being caught off guard. Ask your partner these questions to learn what this safe environment might look like to them:

  • In what kind of environment do you feel most comfortable discussing finances? (Setting, location, etc.)
  • What time of the day would you prefer?

Routine – This is the secret ingredient for maintaining successful financial conversations. While they aren’t always fun to have, creating a routine you both agree on creates a rhythm for these conversations to occur. (The key to success in this area is to have proactive conversations versus reactive conversations.) For us, we’ve found that setting aside time on our calendar once a quarter to discuss our finances allows us both to know that, no matter what, we’ll be able to talk about it. Ask your partner the questions below to help establish this routine:

  • How often should we plan to talk about finances so that you feel comfortable something won’t be missed?
  • What day of the week is best for you to create this safe routine?

Write it down – This is one lesson that we learned the hard way. Writing down the main takeaways from these conversations is the key to building from them and not feeling like you are addressing the same issues over and over again. Purchase a small journal or notepad and take turns writing down your takeaways from these conversations so that you can build off them next time. Also, this is a great time to write down major goals, concerns, or questions that you want to share with your financial planner the next time you meet with them. Ask your partner these questions:

  • What topics seem to keep coming up between us about our finances? (Write the takeaways from those down to work on.)
  • What questions can we ask each time we sit down to feel like we are addressing each major financial issue we face together?

Now for the hardest part — taking the above best practices and putting them to use. Speaking from experience, you won’t get it perfect the first few times, but you will get better with time. Taking these important steps forward in your financial conversations with your partner will get you one step closer to accomplishing your goals.

Good luck!Tyrel LaceyFinancial PlannerMainspring Wealth Advisors