Healthy Finances for Couples How to Have the Money Talk

Kathy Jo Pollack

By Kathy Jo Pollack, Certified Life Coach, Trainer and Speaker

Want to stay married, talk about money.  Creating healthy finances when two people join their lives takes effort.  Are you having money talks with your spouse or significant other?  Many people will talk about anything before money and yet money is the #1 reason for divorce and the driving force in an estimated 90% of divorces.

If you are not married yet, have you opened the door to communicating about money?  There is no better time than now to start talking.  If you have issues about money before you walk down the aisle, rest assured that they will not magically disappear when you say “I do.”  In fact, they will most likely be magnified.  A prenuptial agreement may be something to consider so that whatever debt or property each of you brings into the marriage remains yours if the marriage dissolves.

Why is it so tough for couples to talk about money?  Think about it.  We were each raised differently, in different homes, and possibly under different circumstances.  Money may have a different meaning to each of us, too.  One may be a spender, the other may be frugal and a staunch saver.  Then we enter a relationship with different values, beliefs, habits, and goals around the topic of money and expect that we can maintain healthy finances with little effort.

The over-riding goal for a couple to build healthy finances is to have open, honest conversations. Find at least one financial goal they can both agree on and work towards together.  It can be anything…a vacation, holiday gifts, a house.  Always look for a win-win.  This is not a time for all or nothing.  If your relationship is the most important part of your life, then you will want to look for common ground, ways to compromise, and consensus.  There is no right or wrong, it is about what works for you both, as a team.  Working as a team, you can start to build your healthy finances together.

Building healthy finances in 4 steps:

  1. Invite the discussion  during a neutral time (i.e. not after you open a late bill or see an overdrawn account). Merely say I would like to talk about our future and how we can work together to achieve our goals. Set a day and time, and commit to it.
  2. Set the stage for the talk. No distractions. Go for a walk; sit on the porch. Get a babysitter and turn off all technology – no TV, cell phone, or Blackberry. Give this meeting your undivided attention. This also means to create a trusting environment. Listen intently. Be in the moment; seek to understand your partner. Ask questions to clarify.
  3. Select a topic for discussion. If this is your first meeting (and hopefully there will be many more), you may want to brainstorm all of your goals…all of your hopes and desires. Trust and honesty are crucial. Don’t hide the fact that you want to own a house or that you prefer to rent. You may also want to discuss how money was handled in your household growing up. These topics will help you to understand your partner and lay a foundation for moving forward as you start building healthy finances. Ultimately, you will want to select one goal to work on, with more to come.
  4. Set a follow-up meeting, preferably weekly, and keep the momentum flowing! This is just the beginning. Future topics may include selecting a family CFO, developing a budget, managing debt, handling bank accounts, requesting and reviewing credit reports, as well as reviewing and setting ongoing goals.

Healthy Finances Cardinal Rule: NO secrets and NO surprises and that includes debt. How would you feel if you and your spouse finally find your dream home and proceed to apply for a mortgage only to learn that there are unpaid delinquent bills revealed on your spouse’s credit report which may hinder your ability to secure a mortgage?

Hot Buttons:

This leads me to two hot buttons; both excellent topics, as mentioned above, for future talks. The key is to have a discussion before either becomes an issue.

  • The first hot button is debt. Debt is the #1 issue to spark a fight. If you are married, the debt that one or both of you have is now a problem for you as a couple. Work on a plan together to pay down the debt without any late payments and without commingling accounts. However, even if you keep your finances separate, the debt may still affect your ability to secure joint credit. If you are not married, give some thought to what I previously said about considering a prenuptial agreement. As you move forward with taking on new debt as a couple, make sure that you have fully discussed this and agree.
  • The second hot button that I would like to mention is bank accounts. For example, do you want separate accounts, one, or a combination? Many newlyweds face this issue. Give yourself time; there is no need to rush things. The important thing is that whatever system you have works for you as a couple. Your system should reflect your shared goals and priorities, which you have been openly discussing

Good communication is the key to a lasting relationship and healthy finances. By listening, compromising, and putting a plan into action, you will reap the benefits of a financially healthy future. If you find there are barriers to your ability to communicate as a couple, consider a third party such as a marriage counselor, therapist or coach. Building healthy finances together is a foundation for building a healthy future together.

About the Author:
Kathy Jo Pollack is a certified life coach, trainer, and speaker with a focus on finance, relationships, and etiquette.
She is a Featured author in Life Choices: Putting the Pieces Together.
Please visit her at: You may also contact her directly at 1-724-224- 6619 or

An Interview with Kathy Jo Pollack--Handling Change

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