Few conversations spark arguments as easily as discussions around money and finances. However, being on the same page when it comes to your finances is a crucial aspect of a happy, healthy relationship. We’ve outlined a few steps you can take to develop your own financial goals as a couple, and some best practices to achieve those goals.
Before you even start to discuss finances or begin to develop your goals, concentrate on leaving your emotions out of the process. Stress and emotions can quickly take over a discussion around money, so it’s best to stay as level-headed and practical as possible. Remember that you want a safe environment to discuss your financial goals–turbulent emotions can quickly contaminate that environment.
Establish Your Life Goals
Think of your life goals as the “why” when it comes to your financial goals. As in, why are you developing these goals in the first place? What do you hope to achieve together as a couple? List out things you both want to accomplish in one, five, and ten years into your marriage or relationship, and further organize them by prioritizing the importance of each. Your life goals could be anything from buying a house or having children, to where you hope to travel and how often. Once you have a better understanding of the milestones you want to achieve, you’ll be able to develop a specific action plan and list the financial resources needed to meet those goals.
Consider Your Financial Personalities
Are you a saver or a spender? What about your partner? Your financial personalities and spending trends are important topics to include in your discussions and planning sessions. By understanding where each of you fall on this spectrum, you’ll encounter fewer surprises along the way as you progress toward your goals.
Create a Budget
Once you’ve established the things you want to do with your money, you must factor in the expenses you need to budget for each month. List out all your necessary expenses and bills–things like rent or a mortgage payment, car payments, utility bills, groceries, etc. Discuss where you think you could cut back or set money aside to put toward your goals.
While you should both always be aware of all financial activities, it can be helpful to task one person with the management of bills and other monthly expenses. Chances are, one person in the relationship is more organized than the other–this person should be in charge of making sure all bills are paid and taken care of on time. You can quickly lose traction in achieving your loftier goals by getting behind on regular payments and drowning in late fees. Don’t let something as simple as staying organized get you off-track.
Build an Emergency Fund
Unexpected expenses are some of the biggest contributors to couples not achieving their financial goals. An emergency fund can provide you with the resources to cover that unexpected medical procedure or sudden job loss. Even the most stable financial situation can be shaken by an unexpected, costly event. The easiest way to ensure you have the means to actually contribute to this fund is by factoring it into your monthly budget. Decide on a set amount to be deposited each month, and align it with your other necessary expenses and bills.
Financial goals are a shared responsibility. Make sure each person in the relationship is aware of your financial situation, and how you are both adhering to your plans in achieving your goals. Communicate on a regular basis about the progress, and make necessary adjustments to your action plan and budget when needed. Keep a shared calendar to remember important due dates and milestones. When you’re both on the same page about your finances, you’ll be more likely to achieve your goals.
Having trouble getting the financial conversation started? You can schedule a counseling session with us and have a therapist help you and your partner get on the same page about your financial goals.