How to Talk to Your Spouse About Money

Couple using laptop at kitchen table
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Talking to your spouse about money may not be at the top of your to-do list, but it's important for your marriage. Not talking leads to fights, busted budgets, and underfunded savings accounts.

According to a study by Jeffery Dew at Utah State University, couples that fought about money more than once a week were 30 percent more likely to get divorced, which is why you need to learn to talk to your partner calmly about your shared financial future.

Make a Money Date

Talking about money is serious, but it doesn't have to be difficult. Together, you and your spouse need to set a time for discussing financial issues such as the budget, savings, and retirement.

Dedicate all of your attention towards this meeting. Find a time when neither one of you is distracted by phones or children crying. Make a date out of the occasion by going to a local cafe with free wifi. Bring your laptop along and use this quiet time outside of the house to focus on your financial future. Repeat these meetings each month to ensure that both of you are meeting your goals.

Write Letters

Learn each other's financial goals by writing a letter to each other outlining your financial plans. Talk in the letter about your financial past, including how your family handled money, and if you think they got it right or wrong. This gives you insight into each others "money mindset." Discuss who should have control over the money and if you want a joint or single bank account. Discuss how wealthy you hope to be and what you would sacrifice to get there. List your retirement dreams.

Ask Questions

During your next money date, ask your partner questions about their letter. Is your spouse happy renting, or does he or she want to purchase a house one day? What does your spouse want to do during retirement? When do they want to retire? Are you going to pay for your children's college education? Remember that nobody is right or wrong here, but you both need to be honest so that you can work on figuring out a way to compromise. 

Think "We"

Create a realistic budget together based on the future you both want. Write the plan using words like 'we' and 'us' instead of 'me' and 'you.' Marriage is a partnership, not a dictatorship. If you're in a spender/saver dynamic, and you're the saver, be empathetic. Accusations only serve to put people on the defensive. You want to get to the root of your money issues.

Dig deep to find why one of you is a saver, and the other is a spender. Your letters should tell enough, but if they don't, you need to figure out your underlying motivations for your financial actions. 

Listen to Each Other

If your partner feels uncomfortable putting $200 a month in savings, ask why. Is it because the spouse wants to use that money to pay off debt or student loans? Because they want to eat out more and stay home less? Listen to what your partner says and find out if there is a reasonable compromise. Again, both partners have to be on the same page for a budget to work.

Talk Through Mistakes

Your spouse may overspend on their portion of the budget. Don't assign blame when this happens. Instead, find ways to prevent it from happening again. For example, did your spouse overspend because car repairs were costlier than expected? Add more money to the "repairs fund" to prevent future problems. (This budgeting worksheet can help). Arguing with your partner without understanding what went wrong, or assuming why they overspent, is a recipe for disaster.