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Tips for Talking About Money with Your Partner from a Relationship Expert

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Valentine’s day gifts generally don’t come with a spreadsheet, and with good reason – 49% of Americans polled by Marcus by Goldman Sachs think money can have a negative impact on relationships. But this Valentine’s day, Marcus reached out to relationship expert Mandy Len Catron, the writer behind the New York Times article, To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This. And she says talking money could be just what couples need to bring them closer together.

The key is how couples talk about it (and how often). So in honor of February 14 and togetherness, Mandy shared some questions to ask your partner that could help you get started, along with some tips that could diffuse some of the stress around financial discussions.

When talking about big decisions like opening a shared savings account or taking out a loan, explore your financial options – but do it together.

Questions to make it easier to talk to your partner about money:

  • If you won a thousand dollars tomorrow, what would you do with it?
  • What was the first big purchase you made for yourself?
  • Would you rather donate your money or your time to your favorite charity?
  • What did your parents teach you about money?
  • What’s the best purchase you’ve ever made?
  • Are you more or less comfortable than the average person when it comes to talking about money?
  • If you could change one thing about your financial situation, what would it be?
  • Do you think of yourself as a spender or a saver?
  • Name one way in which you and your partner are financially compatible.
  • How does the word “budget” make you feel?
  • When has someone else’s financial generosity changed your life for the better?
  • Do you remember the first time you felt really worried about money?
  • What would it take for you to feel financially secure?
  • Describe an experience that changed the way you think about money.
  • What are your biggest financial fears?
  • For you, what’s the most important thing money can buy?
  • Name something you admire about your partner’s relationship to money.
  • What’s your biggest financial regret?
  • What’s your biggest financial accomplishment?
  • What’s one thing you’d love to save up for?

Tips for talking about money: 

Talk about money early and often. Nearly a quarter (24%) of Americans Marcus polled said the right amount of time to wait until discussing finances with their partner is after 6 months. But it could be better to broach the topic a bit earlier. 

Mandy says that of course, if the first question you ask your date is about their salary, things will probably get awkward. But a first or second date is actually a great time to set the tone for how you want money to work in a relationship. 

She says a simple first step is talking about who picks up the bill. If you want to pay your own way, say so. If you like the idea of sharing expenses, offer to pick up the tab and ask your date to get the next one. If you’re not sure if they prefer to split the bill or share it, just ask. These are small gestures, but they make it easier to talk about the big stuff down the road. 

Ask about your partner’s relationship to money. More than two-thirds (69%) of Americans who are in a relationship said in a Marcus poll that they think they are financially compatible with their partner.

This doesn’t necessarily happen overnight, though. Mandy says take the time to figure out what money means to your partner, how it shaped their family life growing up, and what they want their financial future to look like. For some people, she says, expensive gifts are a way of showing love. For others, saving for a down payment on a house is a gesture of commitment. Even if you have different financial values, if you know where your partner is coming from, conflicts are easier to manage. 

Set up a regular financial date. Talking about money sounds unromantic, but Mandy says it doesn’t have to be.

Order your favorite takeout and give yourselves an hour to talk finances. Instead of waiting for conflicts to arise, think of it as an opportunity to sit down and decide what you’re working toward together. You’re not making a budget; you’re creating a shared vision for your future. 

Don’t leave the finances to one person. Even if you hate thinking about money and your partner is a financial genius, Mandy says to make it a point to share the work.

She says how we spend shows what we value and it’s hard to feel like you’re on the same team when one person is making all the decisions. When talking about big decisions like opening a shared savings account or taking out a loan, explore your financial options – but do it together.

Make space for generosity. Splitting everything 50/50 can feel like scorekeeping. Mandy says it’s important to look for ways to build a little generosity into your relationship. After all, science has found that giving makes us happy. Take turns treating each other to a night out. Or set aside some savings to donate to your favorite nonprofit together. 

Reaching your goal starts with saving for it.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.