My husband routinely forgets our rule that forbids talking about money after 6 p.m. Cue frustration, words we wish we could take back and hurt feelings. Our arguments don’t surprise financial planners Marlow and Chris Felton. Discussing money often triggers emotional reactions, says this husband-and-wife-team who helps couples get on the same financial page.
“I always say, ‘Never talk about money when you are tired, hungry or under the influence of alcohol,’” Marlow says. Why the caution? Because money matters, says Marlow. “We put a lot of energy on money because it’s a life necessity and it often symbolizes control,” she says. "We often have more energy about money than sex.”
Their advice? Schedule a time to talk about money when you’ll be most relaxed. “For us, that’s Sunday afternoon when we don’t have a lot going on and we can think clearly and logically,” says Marlow, who has co-authored several financial planning books alongside her husband. Together they have a combined 29 years of finance know-how.
The Feltons’ best advice for couples: Focus on the future. If a couple gets clear on where they’re going together, they can avoid a lot of conflict and ease discussions around expenses that fall outside of achieving mutual goals.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. To help, the Feltons recommend these seven tips when it comes to talking about finances as a couple.
Never scold your spouse for financial habits.
Making a judgment before hearing your partner’s explanation is dangerous. They may have a perfectly reasonable rationale for their purchase, so ask and listen instead of lecturing them.
Never belittle income ideas.
What appears to be a “bad idea” may be the seed to a better idea. As a team of two people, your ideas are valuable together. When your spouse mentions a potential income opportunity, offer your two cents to make it a better reality for the both of you.
Interrogation shifts the power structure of a relationship in one direction. Incessant questions fired from one person isn’t a discussion. Avoid dictatorship-style methods and err on the side of communicating fairly, openly and calmly.
Never ask: “Why can’t you make more?”
It’s guaranteed that your spouse would love to earn more money, if it was possible. Your expression of disdain regarding their current income only creates conflict. Funnel your blame energy toward brainstorming suitable solutions with them that will lead to more income.
Never judge their purchases.
Avoid this by creating a “fun fund.” After expenses, savings and emergency fund needs are met, pour leftover cash into a fun fund. Each person can do whatever they want with this money Another idea: Use some fun fund for shared dreams or goals.
Never make assumptions.
Assumptions often lead us down a negative path strewn with minds fueled by wild ideas, drama and emotional harm. Communication and patient waiting are better ways to achieve results. Assumptions are a self-defense mechanism. When your mind leaps into assumption, stop and turn to asking questions and listening well. Actual discussion is better than a creative narrative created by your runaway brain feed.
Never refuse their questions.
Questions indicate curiosity. If there are questions, a conversation needs to take place to clear up any miscommunications. Necessary conversations aren’t usually as bad as you might expect. Better yet: Great relationships are built upon the scaffolding of uncomfortable conversations.