The Questions

Now it's time to have your money talk. Make sure you have your groundrules in front of you, and your relationship repair kit handy in case things get hairy.

If this is the first deep conversation you've had in a while, tough feelings may come up. Slow is always better than fast, so take breaks, allow your partner time to think and breathe, and before doing anything else, take a deep breath. No matter what happens, always pause to take a deep breath.

Choose a question that seems interesting to both of you. If you get stuck, roll a die to see who gets to choose the first question - but remember that the person who chooses the question first, answers the question first! The right way to compromise isn't to choose something that kinda works for each of you, but instead to spend some time on something that works GREAT for one of you, and then some time on something that works GREAT for the other. In the meantime, each of you can enjoy how much your partner is getting out of the thing they chose!

Some sample questions to get you started

  • What do you like or respect about me when it comes to money?
  • How would you like us to handle money better?
  • If you found out you only had five years left to live, what would you want to do with it?
  • In what ways should we 'live for today' and in what ways should we 'save for tomorrow'?
  • What did your parents teach you about money?
  • What did you learn about money from watching your parents?
  • Were you rich or poor growing up? In what ways?
  • If you were choosing a money hero, who would it be, and why?
  • Do you feel that we have enough of an emergency fund?
  • What are your best money traits (and what are your worst)?
  • In what ways did you think you wouldn't be like your parents (around money)? Are you?
  • What charities should we give to? How much?
  • What do I do that upsets you around money (be gentle so I can work on it)?
  • Name something you've bought, but wish you hadn't. Are there ways we can help each other prevent that in the future?
  • What is your greatest money fear?
  • How confident are you around money?

How should we merge our money?

Know that whatever works for you is the right choice, regardless of whether others are doing it or not. In my opinion you're balancing three things: Autonomy, Connectedness, and Convenience.

If your money is all in one bucket, that can feel too constraining. If it's all separate, it can feel to disconnected. And with too many accounts, it's just inconvenient to keep track of it. That's why it makes sense to balance these three needs - in a way that works for both of you.

When couples are asking for my recommendation, I suggest the following. Have all couple income flow into one central bank account. That way, anything you bring in, comes into the couple. Then, choose an amount that feels good for your individual expenses. This will be different items for different couples, for some it will just be little gifts for the other partner, trips to Starbucks, etc. For other couples this may include personal hobbies, etc. As a couple, you can decide what feels good to come from 'Our Spending' vs. 'My Spending'.

Connecting Incomes

What if that version doesn't feel good to me?

This is your life, and you should have a version that works well for you. Couples that are happy don't necessarily follow that model, they figure out a version that works for them. Here's a blank version, which way would the arrows feel best to you? And what spending goes in each bucket? How much will you save and invest as a couple?

Connecting Incomes - Open Ended

Quick Tips

Stick to your rules

Allow your partner to help you

Breathe, breathe, breathe!

Take breaks

Go for a walk together

If it gets too tough, turn your chairs back to back

Write what you can't say in a letter

Try some playful things, like speaking really slowly, or whispering (it works!!)

Write your partner a little love note and give it to them

Ask how you can help - what tone of voice you can use

Allow yourselves to succeed

Quick Quotes

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. ~Dorothy Nevill

Debate is the death of conversation. ~Kitty O`Neill Collins

To listen closely and reply well is the highest perfection we are able to attain in the art of conversation. ~Janet Watson

To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation. ~Chinese Proverb