Let’s Talk About Cents, Baby

It’s an unfortunate fact that money is one of the leading causes of divorce. Because finances aren’t always the easiest topic of conversation, many couples refuse to have an open and honest discussion until it’s too late.

Even though you’d probably rather discuss new releases in the movie theater or the latest bestsellers on the newsstand, if you make time to talk about money, you’ll be doing yourself and your relationship a big favor.

If the term “money talk” freaks you out, don’t think of it as something intimidating or scary. Think about it as the best way to head off future money problems in your relationship. Once you get it out of the way, you and your partner can have a better understanding of where you stand financially and there won’t be any surprises down the road.

Think about the financial issues that are currently at play in your relationship. Are there problems with overspending? Do you or your partner have a lot of credit card debt? Are you struggling to save for retirement? Answer some of these basic questions and you can establish a good base line for your discussion. Don’t be afraid to delve into sensitive issues. Discuss all topics where there is potential conflict and begin your chat as soon as possible. Here are three reasons why couples need to talk about money.

1. To Avoid Divorce. This may sound blunt, but it’s true. Every day couples go through divorces that are due largely to money matters. If you want your relationship to last, have your money talk now. It may not be easy, but it’s certainly easier than waiting until you and your significant other are already at odds. Keep in mind that the discussion may get heated, but you can get ahead of the game if you straighten out these differences now.

2. To Formulate a Joint Game Plan. When you have your money talk, insist on coming to an agreement about the biggest financial issues you’re facing. There’s no way to get your partner to agree to a spending budget if they haven’t been able to fully express their side of the story. Both of you need to lay all your cards on the table and speak clearly about where you believe you can improve your financial partnership.

3. To Avoid Arguments. If you’ve ever been married or spent time in a committed relationship, you know that arguments are just part of the landscape. Think about your money discussion as one of the only ways to stop future arguments before they get started. Once you have your talk, you can straighten out spending issues, retirement plans, emergency fund issues, and more. In other words, talk now or prepare to yell later.

Choosing when to have the money talk with your partner is just as important as thinking carefully about what to say. It’s not something to be discussed lightly over dinner or television reruns. Schedule some uninterrupted time when you can sit together, review bank statements, and truly confer about what’s best for your financial future.

David Bakke is a single dad living in Atlanta who recently went through a divorce, largely due to money issues. He shares his tips related to money and relationships on the blog, Money Crashers Personal Finance.

Image(s): Irene Chan

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