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How to Handle Marriage and Money Talks

Written by Laura Martinez - 6 Comments

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Talking to your spouse about money can be difficult, but such conversations are vital to a healthy relationship. In fact, money problems are a common source of marital strife, so it’s important to maintain an open line of communication.

What follows are some general guidelines for talking with your spouse about your family’s finances:

  • Pick the right time and neutral ground for your conversation(s). Trying to have a financial conversation on the spot can make your spouse feel like they’re being ambushed. Instead, pick a mutually agreeable time in the near future when you can sit down and talk.
  • Choose your words carefully, show respect, and be specific. Don’t let the discussion to turn into a heated argument, and don’t point fingers. Instead, try to present your concerns as a team issue. Rather than making blanket statements about how your spending is out of control, ask things like “How do you think we can decrease our spending?” or “What do you think about reducing our spending in category X by Y dollars?”
  • After you come to an agreement, write down your goals. This is an important point. While you don’t want to hold anything over your spouse’s head, having a concrete list of goals/steps can be an excellent motivational tool.
  • Be willing to meet on an ongoing basis. Not all problems can be solved through a single conversation. Moreover, even if you’re able to quickly agree on the proper course of action, continuing to talk about things can help keep you both on track.
  • Celebrate your success. Finally, don’t be afraid to celebrate your successes. It’s a team effort, and you both deserve a pat on the back whenever you score a victory.

What about you?

Do you have any tips for handling money conversations with your spouse? What works? What doesn’t? And what types of problems have you faced?

Published on April 14th, 2009 - 6 Comments
Filed under: Miscellany

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. You nailed a couple of my favorite tips. Don’t meet on the spot. Give each person time to prepare their attitudes and thoughts. It makes a world of difference.

    Keep the meeting short 15-20 minutes and resume at another time if necessary. It helps stop the talk from degrading and is respectful if there is a person that doesn’t like finance talk as much.

    I also just did a post on giving your spouse a choice that is really relevant to point #2

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 15th 2009 @ 12:33 pm
  2. I think the basic assumptions and attitudes toward money need to be somewhat compatible for the discussions to get anywhere. Very important to address.

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 15th 2009 @ 4:11 pm
  3. I think the most important aspect is using the ‘We’ approach as opposed to the ‘You’ approach. Putting your spouse on the defensive isn’t going to solve anything and is likely to make it worse. But, putting it in a way that makes them feel as though they are part of a team is generally more motivational.

    While you’re having the discussion, it may be relevant to point out the benefits to them. Let’s face it, most people – regardless of the discussion – want to know what’s in it for them. The benefit could simply be taking a special vacation, more in the retirement account, or any number of personal goals specific to you as a couple. But, the key with this is that your goals have to be aligned. It’s no good to tell your spouse that saving X dollars benefits them by adding more to their retirement account if they’re not really interested in retirement saving. Baby steps. They have to see the value in something before they can commit to it fully.

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 16th 2009 @ 12:21 am
  4. “Pick the right time and neutral ground for your conversation(s).”
    There is never a such thing as the right time or place, so if you want to have the talk now, have it now, don’t wait.

    I think you are missing a big chunk here too, how about determining your spouses money habits past and present?
    How about seeing if there goals, financially are similar to yours?
    How about kids, marriage, career, etc?

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 18th 2009 @ 10:44 pm
  5. Good post! Comunication and partnership are key to making it work for us.

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 20th 2009 @ 10:28 am
  6. Have an agenda and avoid talking about it in between meetings.

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 20th 2009 @ 4:53 pm

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