Unsurprisingly, our finances can be both a massive taboo and a topic capable of sparking many strong emotions – good and bad.
Yet skating around a subject, is never going to be the answer. No matter how nerve wracking, or argument-inducing it may seem, having those honest and open conversations with partners about our cash is an essential part of building a healthy relationship: both with them and with your money.
If you’re not sure about how to get started, or what questions you should be asking, we’ve created this guide to help set up your conversation.
1. Do you have a budget?
Budgets are one of the most important elements of effectively organising our finances. So, understanding how your partner approaches budgets will give you a good indication of how well they are able to plan and manage their cash.
2. What are your spending habits like?
Imagine if one of you believes in scrimping and saving every spare penny, whilst the other is a splurger? The differences in how we spend can be a source of conflict if they aren’t properly discussed and understood.
3. How much do you save every month?
In a similar vein, this can give you a good indication of whether your partner is forward thinking and prioritising financial planning. Savings are important for helping us reach financial goals, and plan for big-ticket purchases, as well as ensuring that we are covered for financial emergencies. Understanding if your partner is taking this seriously or not is a good indication about how they approach financial planning and can tell you if the two of you are on the same page.
4. Are you concerned about which of us is the ‘breadwinner’ or earning more?
Remember all those articles claiming that millennial women are worried about earning more than their partners? (spoiler alert, most of the women we speak to strongly disagree with this!) Well even if this whole discourse made you roll your eyes, it’s worth finding out if your (male) partner is comfortable with you earning more than them. And on the flip side, are you comfortable with them earning more than you? Regardless of how things may be now, financial situations, earnings, and jobs can change over time, so make sure you’re clear on where you both stand with this.
5. What’s your attitude towards debt?
Be it good or bad, large or small, most of us have had debt at one point or another. Debt can also have a huge impact on our financial and emotional wellbeing, so it is important to know how your partner views and handles their debt. If you are someone who dislikes debt, are you going to be comfortable with someone who has no qualms with it?
6. How much debt do you have, and how are you handling it?
As well as understanding their attitude to debt, do try and find out how much debt your partner is carrying, and how they are planning to deal with it. Depending on the amount, it could at some point impact credit scores, financial goals and your ability to access finance jointly.
7. What is your credit score?
This might sound forward, but at some point, you and your partner could find yourselves looking to make a large-scale purchase such as a home together. If your finances are going to be linked, it’s important you know their credit score in advance and how it could potentially impact you and any joint financial purchases you could be making.
8. Do you want joint or separate accounts?
Do you want the ease of sharing financial information or do you prefer the financial freedom of separate accounts? There isn’t necessarily a wrong or right answer here, but you will need to be on the same page.
9. What is the maximum amount one of us can spend without consulting the other?
While many of us may not really think about our day-to-day spending, or buying the things we want, when it comes to a big-ticket item, how far are you happy for your partner to go without consulting you first? It might feel restrictive, but if it is an amount of money that could impact the relationship, then understanding and agreeing a spending limit, (and sticking to it) could really save you some conflict at later points in your relationship.
10. What are your financial goals?
Goals are an important part of our financial journey, and we should understand what we are trying to achieve both in the short and long term. Again, there aren’t right or wrong financial goals. However it’s important to know that your financial goals align with those of your partner.
11. How are we dividing up who pays for what?
Remember the whole Gabrielle Union debate a few months ago? Whether you want to split things 50/50, or find another way to divide up the bills, you need to ask the question, and have the conversation to ensure that it is an approach that you are both comfortable and happy with.
12. How would you handle a sudden windfall? Would you treat yourself, pay off a debt or put it into savings?
This is a low-pressure, fun way to understand your partner’s financial attitude, goals and spending habits, as the way they speak about spending a metaphorical windfall can give you a pretty good idea about their financial priorities.
13. Would you seek professional financial support if you needed it?
Although many of us like to do things ourselves, there are times when we do need to seek out the help of experts if we truly want to improve our situation. If there is a financial issue that is spiralling out of control, impacting both of you, or causing a lot of financial stress, would your partner be willing to seek out professional help to solve it, or would they simply keep powering through, even if it was to their detriment?
14. Do your relatives currently pay any of your bills?
Research has shown that around 35% of millennials are relying on parents to help them with at least one monthly bill. With the ongoing cost of living crisis, it’s understandable that some are turning to relatives for financial support. However, this could also be an indication of someone who is struggling with budgeting, and/or living within their means.
15. What did you learn about finances growing up, and how did those who raised you handle money?
The messages we are given about money when growing up can have a major impact on how we approach things even when we are adults. Could there be negative money scripts that your partner is dealing with? Did they learn to spend responsibly? Have they inherited fixed views about how money should be handled in relationships?
16. How are you planning for retirement?
It might seem in the distant future, but when we consider the magnitude of the gender pension gap, it’s never too early to start putting money aside for our retirement. Attitudes towards retirement also tend to be a good indication of financial forward planning. If your retirement savings are low or non-existent, you could find yourselves working long into old age. Is that part of the plan?
17. Are you investing, or aiming to start doing so soon?
If you are serious about building long term, sustainable wealth, you need to start investing, or be planning to do so soon. If this is something you are already doing, it’s important to know that your partner is on the same page in terms of long-term financial goals. If not, this could become a source of conflict further down the line.
18. Are you supporting anyone else financially?
It’s helpful to know where your partner’s money is going. Whether it’s a child or children, a parent, sibling or other family member, it’s important to know if they are financially responsible for other people besides themselves. While this isn’t necessary a deal breaker, it is something that you may need to plan for and work into budgets etc to ensure that it does not become a financial strain somewhere down the line.
19. How would you handle a financial emergency?
We might not want to think about it, but at some point, we’re all likely to experience a financial emergency of some description. We can’t necessarily control what might hit us, but we can control how we approach it. You will need to understand if your partner is prepared, and has an emergency fund, or whether they are planning to well, just wing it. While we’re not fans of pessimism, preparation for financial shocks is vital!
20. If we get married, would you want a pre-nup?
It can be a sore subject for many of us and one that we’d like to avoid, but understanding what our prospective spouse’s attitude is towards carving up assets in the event that your relationship sadly does not survive, could help you decide whether or not it is right for you.