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3 Financial Tips for Couples During Effective Communications Month

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Talking about money can feel taboo — but when you’re in a serious relationship, it’s an important topic. If you plan on being with that person for the rest of your life, you’ll need to talk about how much money you’ll need to retire and how to afford kids if you plan to have them. You’ll also need to be able to handle any unexpected financial expenses and setbacks as a team.

Here are a few tips to help you and your partner successfully navigate money conversations during June’s Effective Communications Month.

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No. 1: Start small

“The first step is to have a super-basic discussion about your views on money,” says Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst. “If you don’t know your partner’s views on some fundamental issues around money and why they have them, it can be hard to get anywhere when it comes to managing money.”

You can start with simple topics: whether they’re a saver or a spender; whether their parents talked to them about money when they were kids; what their top financial priority is or what they’d do if they won $1 million.

“These can be fun discussions, but they can also shine some very real light on what people think at a basic level about money,” Schulz says.

If you’re combining finances, you’ll also want to ensure that each person’s financial boundaries — for example, the threshold for “big” purchases that need to be discussed beforehand — are understood and respected going forward.

No. 2: Aim for transparency

Once you’ve combined finances with a partner, it’s important to be transparent about your finances. After all, everything you do with money will impact them in some way — and vice versa.

“I think there should be near-total transparency for couples when it comes to money. You don’t have to tell your significant other everything you do all the time, but if they ever want to talk about finances and come to you with questions or issues, you should be willing to address them,” Schulz says.

Transparency is about making sure both parties have equal access to financial information. Whether that looks like fully combined finances, separate accounts or some mix of the two, you’ll want to make sure you’re both on the same page.

If you’re comfortable with it, a shared checking account can be useful here, since it lets you keep track of balances and act accordingly. That can allow a couple to move toward financial goals more efficiently.

There are some financial secrets you might want to keep for a little while (for example, if you’re saving up to surprise your partner with a ring or a special trip). Just make sure these costs won’t disrupt your joint budget or saving goals. If the surprise could affect your partner’s financial future, they need to know your plans.

Should you keep your own account?

Even if your finances are mostly combined, you might want to keep one account just for you. With a joint account, either person can take all the money out of the account at any time. In addition, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that financial abuse occurs in 98% of abusive relationships — it’s also often why people stay in an abusive relationship.

Even if your partner does prove trustworthy, there are still risks. For example, you could lose some of your funds if the other person is sued.

No. 3: Keep each other in the loop

As you move forward in your relationship, it’ll be even more important to keep the lines of communication open. That includes regularly checking in with your partner about your combined finances.

There are ways to make these conversations fun.

“You can schedule money dates where you talk about your financial situation over a nice plate of pasta and a bottle of wine,” Schulz says. “You can set some financial milestones and talk about how you’d celebrate reaching them.”

Money can be difficult to talk about. But clear, honest communication is key to overcoming unexpected financial obstacles. It’s best to go into these conversations with an open mind and remember that this is about working together, not assigning blame.

“This should be a conversation, a two-way dialogue where both people feel heard and not judged,” Schulz says.

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