Money Talk for Couples

by Susan Hirshman

Recently I was interviewed for a story in the New York Times that focused on “money talk” for couples.  I received so much great feedback on the story that I felt compelled to address it here.

The article opens up by saying…”One of the most difficult conversations a couple can have is not about love or commitment. It is about money — how it is saved and invested and what it means for their lifestyle.”

Do you agree?

I do.  Why?  I hear it practically every time I give a talk to women and open it up for Q&As.  The questions usually sound something like this:  How do I start a conversation with my husband about money?  How do I ask my partner to see our finances without having him feel like I don’t trust him?  How do we have a conversation without fighting?

Three words here…. communicate, communicate, communicate. Sounds simple, right?  But as we all know “communicate” is not always simple – especially when it comes to money. You’d be surprised (or perhaps you wouldn’t be) by how many people don’t know how much their spouse is making.  Generally, the problem is due to the highly emotional feelings (self worth, self esteem, power, control etc) and unresolved issues with money each partner brings to the table.

So sit back and have a think.  What does money mean to you?  How does your upbringing and past experiences affect your money attitudes?  What stops you from having these conversations – fear? interest? knowledge? lack of ownership? bigger relationship problems?

Having these initial conversations may not be easy but if you don’t have them you have a high chance of becoming part of the “if only” club.  You may not know what the “if only” club is, but I am sure you know someone (dare I say more than one) who is a member.  Do you have any friends, neighbors or family who were not involved in managing their finances only to find out in times of crisis that their husband was an overly aggressive investor, or he was loaned up to the hilt, or not saving for retirement, or not protecting the family from death or disability and so on and so on.  What do you think are the first words out of these women’s mouths?  Yep, you guessed it …if only I knew he was (fill in the blank), I would have (fill in the blank.) These scenarios break my heart, because they often result in unfortunate outcomes that could have been avoided or at least mitigated, if they were only talked about.

Therefore, the question I have for you today is this:  Will you be willing to bear some discomfort today to learn whether or not your future is on a path that will give you the greatest probability of success?   As the saying goes…”just do it”

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