Talking to a partner about finances for the first time can be intimidating.
The way we manage our money, from how we spend to what we’re saving for, can feel very personal. Bringing up the “F word” might feel like a big step, but talking about your finances will help you understand each other’s current situation and long-term goals. With a little help from the wealth management team at ATB Financial, we’ve compiled a list of five conversations about money to have with your partner. Ultimately, having these (sometimes difficult) money chats will make your relationship stronger. They allow you to make financial plans that ‘account’ for a future together — and how sweet is that?
1. Spending habits
Talking about spending habits may be the best way to ease into the financial discussion. What do you each like to spend money on? Are you more of a spender or a saver? Couples often feel friction around these issues when their habits differ greatly. Our financial behaviour is influenced by our upbringing, including how we saw our parents handle their money and what they taught us about financial wellness.
Recognize if there are factors in your life or your partner’s life that affect your spending. Maybe one of you buys lunch every day at work because there’s no time to meal prep — or maybe someone’s spending increases when they’re experiencing anxiety or stress. Discussing your spending and the things that influence it can help you gain some understanding of (and empathy for) your partner’s habits and how they interact with yours.
If anything is scarier than the “F word,” it’s the “D word.” But laying all your debt out on the table is an important part of understanding one another’s financial situations. Do either of you have debt from things like a loan or a maxed-out credit card? How do you approach paying it off? One partner might try to put all excess cash into paying the debt down as quickly as possible, whereas another might only be comfortable making the minimum payments.
If you find that the topic is difficult to bring up, or that you just can’t find the time, schedule it into your calendar — and do something to make it more fun. Make a nice dinner together and have the conversation as you eat, then reward yourselves afterwards with an outing like a trip to the movie theatre. Framing the discussion positively will help eliminate any feelings of guilt or discomfort.
3. Emergency funds
How much cash do either of you have set aside for the unexpected? Emergencies happen, whether it’s a large bill at the vet or the replacement of a major appliance. How long could you afford to live if you were unable to work for a period of time? Out-of-the-ordinary costs can crop up at any time. Talk to your partner about what level of savings you both have for those unplanned expenses.
4. Long-term goals
This is the big one. This money chat is about what you want out of life and where you’re headed as a couple. What are your financial goals around major life milestones, like owning property, starting a business, having kids or retiring? Do you want to spend your winters somewhere warm? Have either of you started saving for any of these goals?
ATB Financial Advisors can help you plan for how to achieve your individual and collective goals. These specialists are all about finding the financial solutions for you. Put your money to work for you and the things you want to do down the road.
Part of achieving those long-term goals might be a smart investment plan. Based on your savings, and how covered you are in case of an emergency, you and your partner may have varying levels of comfort with investments. Talk about how you might be able to invest to help advance your financial goals. Consider what kinds of investments are best for your priorities, whether it’s an RESP to save for a child’s education or an RRSP to save for retirement.
Transparency is a key component of ATB Financial’s approach to wealth management. From private banking to investing, wealth planning and portfolio management, they work closely with you and your partner to deeply understand your financial situation and suggest ways to make your investments count.
Talking about budgets, debts and dreams early on in a partnership sets you up for success. From little weekly splurges to home ownership aspirations, money chats really are just opportunities to bring you and your boo closer together.
ATB Wealth consists of a range of financial services provided by ATB Financial and certain of its subsidiaries. ATB Investment Management Inc., ATB Securities Inc., and ATB Insurance Advisors Inc. are individually licensed users of the registered trade name ATB Wealth. ATB Securities Inc. is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.