1. What are your long-term financial goals for us?
Do each of you have specific financial goals for the future? Have you thought about saving for a major purchase or for your children’s education? Have you put together a retirement plan? Is there debt that needs to be paid off? You might have differing financial goals, or one of you might have considered these goals and the other isn’t focused on it. As a couple, you need to be on the same page about your financial goals and how you are going to reach them.
2. What should we do to stay on top of our financial goals?
Once you discuss your financial goals and come to an agreement on what your joint goals should be, think about the specific actions and plans you want to implement to make those goals happen. How and when will you implement them? Who will be in charge of taking the actions? Even if one of you is more active with financial planning than the other, it’s important that all plans and decisions are made together. Neither of you wants to feel an “imbalance of power” when it comes to your finances.
3. What are your values and beliefs about money?
Our personalities, families of origin, and life experiences determine our attitudes about money. Some people view it as a scarce resource and hold tightly to what they have. Others see money as always available and abundant and have few fears about spending. Some see making money as an interesting pursuit while others view it simply as a means to an end. As a couple you have an obligation to balance your values and beliefs to find common ground between you. Talk about your attitude related to money with your partner and how you developed the values and beliefs you have.
4. What causes you the most worry or frustration about money now?
Wherever you are in your life right now, you likely have some concerns about money. Maybe you want to make more. Maybe you’re concerned about your debt. It could be that you worry about the stock market and how your money is performing. Allow your partner to express his or her worries and just listen without passing judgment or reinforcing those concerns. Ask your partner if he or she wants to discuss possible ways to address the worries.
5. How are our spending and saving habits complementary?
Talk together about the way you both handle money and how your habits are similar. In what areas of spending and saving do you both agree? For now, just talk about the common ground and how you are alike in this regard. Even if you have differences in how you handle money, it’s important to focus on the similarities and see that you share common values and behaviors.
6. How are our spending and saving habits different?
You will likely have areas of difference in your spending and saving habits. These differences might have caused conflict or resentment in the past. Without pointing fingers or getting defensive, simply articulate how you are different. Then ask your spouse more about the emotions behind his or her habits. Money habits often have emotional drivers.
7. How should we handle it if we have a disagreement about money?
Having a better understanding of your spouse’s values and emotions about money can help you manage disagreements about it. If you have defined your values as a couple and you agree on your financial goals for the future, you should be able to return to those for guidance in addressing disagreements. This requires you are both equally committed to your mutual values and goals. However, there will be exceptions and times each of you might want to stray from your goals for a new priority or opportunity. Talk about how you can address these future issues without it becoming a heated discussion involving blame or shame. Determine your hot buttons about money conflict and how you can avoid these hot buttons and have a productive conversation.
8. What kind of debt do you feel is acceptable for us?
Some people don’t want any debit except their mortgage. Others are fine using credit cards, financing their car, or taking out a student loan. What are your individual attitudes about debt and how much you should carry as a couple? If you disagree about this, how can you determine an acceptable amount of debt? Once you mutually determine this, are you both committed to sticking to the agreement?
9. How much money should we save each month?
Saving money is essential for reaching your financial goals and dealing with any unexpected emergencies or life priorities. If you are living beyond your means or have debt, you need to address these. But it’s still important to get into the habit of putting money aside, even if it’s a small amount. Based on your financial goals and your current level of debt, you should have some idea of how much you should save. This might require you to cut back on expenses or alter your lifestyle. Are you both willing to do this? Discuss together how much you believe is realistic to set aside each month.
10. Do you feel on top of our finances and know where our money is going? If not, how can I help you be more aware of this?
Sometimes one partner is more involved and informed related to finances than the other. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of allowing this partner to handle everything without being involved in decisions or understanding where your money goes each month. However, you both need to feel invested in financial decisions and have a basic understanding of your expenses, investments, and debts. If this is the situation in your relationship, make it a point to bring your partner up to speed, even if he or she hasn’t asked you to do this.
Follow-up: Are there any financial concerns you’d like to better understand from your partner’s viewpoint? What specific action steps will you both take to support each other in your financial goals as a couple? Write these down and determine how and when you will initiate these changes or actions.