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How to keep the financial conversation flowing with your partner

Discussing money can be stressful, especially with your spouse. Brenda Pollock, a financial counselor with Evergreen Credit Union has some advice.

Schedule a money chat date night. What I mean by that, is talking about money is serious but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Set up a time, each week, when you can discuss money matters. Then, follow that up with a taco & movie night at home, or talking a walk; anything you can do together. Getting into the habit of maintaining a regular schedule to discuss money matters in a respectful, calm manner, followed up with a date night, will certainly help keep your relationship healthy.  

Speaking of healthy relationships, statistics show that finances are one of the major factors behind divorce. Would you agree? 

Regrettably yes. It’s the second leading cause of divorce and money is the number one issue married couple fight about. Mo matter how much you love your spouse, you are merging your lives, and the way you think about and manage money. You both are coming from different life experiences and you probably have very different views when it comes to wants vs. needs.  

What are your recommendations when couples come together. Keep separate checking accounts or combining your incomes into one account? 

Some couples think it is best to maintain separate checking accounts and each pay bills separately.  And for some, that may work well. However, when I work with couples, I strongly believe this lays the groundwork for problems. Look, marriage is a partnership. Separating money and splitting bills only leads to more of a disconnect regarding money and problems down the road. If you put everything into one account, have regular money chat date nights, you’ll be more apt to work towards the same goals, motivate one another, and handle financial emergencies better. I’m a huge fan of married couples sharing one account and learning from one another.  

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In many relationships, one person is really good with money and one not so good. What is your advice on how to come together to manage money? 

The first thing I like for couples to do before putting a budget together, is to individually make a needs and wants list. Couples needs and wants lists look very different. Then make a budget for every month because what your budget may look like in December may be far different that your budget in May or June.  

Once you know what you have left each month, that is after setting some aside for savings, look at your lists. A healthy marriage requires a great deal of compromise and respect. Understand what each other’s mindset is regarding money and decide how you can manage to include items on both your lists.  

Do you think a spouse who is more financially savvy can change a spouse who is not? 

No. However, when you work together as a couple to manage all aspects of your family finances, like discussing your what retirement will look like for you or what charities you want to support, and what are some big dreams like adding a backyard pool or making a large purchase like a sailboat. Overtime, and through healthy money habits, and honest conversation, you’ll both benefit from working together to achieve financial goals.  

So how do recommend handling the conversation with your spouse, if they overspend or cannot stay on budget? 

This is always going to be easier for some than others, but the key is to be certain you’ve created a realistic budget around WE and not ME. A budget should take into account the needs and wants of both parties.  

Listen and respect one another. You are a team. And the best way to figure things out is together. Be sure you’re on the same page for any budget to work and respect one another’s thoughts on the budget.  

Talk about mistakes. If someone makes a mistake and overspends, rather than point blame when it happens, start the discussion about why they overspent and finds ways to prevent it from happening again.   

For more information on a free Financial Wellness Program with Evergreen Credit Union, click here

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