How to talk about finances with your partner

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Do you and your partner struggle to agree on money matters? Personal finance expert Maya Fisher-French follows the journey of the Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge contestants. Here’s more on communicating about finances and how to deal with a salary squeeze.

Any financial journey can’t progress unless your partner is on board. If you share a household, you share your finances.

The money makeover challenge for executive PA Catherien is getting her husband on the same page when it comes to the family’s finances.

“My husband, Jan, has a fluctuating income and believes it’s impossible to budget. This causes extreme tension and puts so much pressure on me because I believe in paying bills on time. I’m tired of being the nagging wife, but I know that if we’re on the same money page we’ll do well,” Catherien wrote in her Absa/City Press Money Makeover application.

In situations where a couple find it difficult to talk about money, having a third person such as a financial planner can be a powerful tool, says personal finance expert Maya Fisher-French.

By understanding each other’s perspectives and putting an agreed plan together, their relationship has changed, she adds. Understanding your spouse’s money perspective provides a context within which to have those money discussions, Fisher-French says.

Jan’s parents had never spoken about money and never taught him about managing finances.

They gave him money when he needed it. Catherien was raised differently, with the importance of saving and budgeting drilled into her. She worries about not having enough control, which can also create financial stress in a marriage.

Being able to discuss these issues without judgment allowed the couple to start trusting each other to talk about money issues.

While Catherien accepted a more realistic budget, Jan accepted that he can’t work with credit cards. Not spending money one doesn’t have is a challenge for someone who finds sticking to a budget difficult. He’s agreed to close two of the credit cards and Catherien will keep the third one, with a low credit limit, for safe-keeping.

Newlywed Nono found that even in the honeymoon phase of her and husband Vusi’s relationship going through the money makeover journey has brought the couple closer.

They’re having more real conversations, especially since Nono discovered she’s pregnant. “Now we have conversations about investments, our future and planning for our child. What’s been most important for me is that we budget together so we know exactly where our money is going.

“We’ve even started a piggy bank for nappies!” says Nono who adds that the couple are also supporting each other to pay off debt. “More than anything it’s the teamwork – if you’re alone it won’t work. You have to plan together.”

What to do if you have a salary squeeze

Money is a highly emotional topic and is cited as the No 1 reason for divorce, says personal finance expert Maya Fisher-French. So, having a relationship in which you can speak openly about money is really important.

  • Avoid your bond as easy credit. You may think you’ll pay it back, but in most cases, you end up financing short-term needs over 20 years.
  • Talk about money on a regular basis, not just when there’s a crisis. Have a monthly money meeting at a regular time and place that’s always in your diary.
  • Find a time and place to sit down and discuss your monthly budget and make your financial plans. Discuss your financial goals and how you’ll reach them. This is also the place to discuss money issues – such as overspending on a credit card for example.
  • During the rest of the month don’t discuss money, especially if you’re feeling emotional about it. Have a “to-discuss” box in the house where you can put notes on what you want to discuss at the next money meeting.
  • When you do talk about money with your partner emotions are always involved. So, if you or your partner start to feel extremely emotional, stop the conversation and say, “What is this really about? How are you feeling about this?”
  • When talking about money have a “no shame, no blame” rule. Your partner won’t want to talk about money if they feel “blamed”. Discuss the problem and a way to resolve it together.

These are questions to discuss:

1 What role does money play in your life?

2 What needs to happen in the next few years for you to feel like you're making good progress?

3 What money mistakes have you made in the past that you want to avoid in the future?

Have you found the tips helpful? Follow the journey on social media #CPMoneyMakeover

Facebook : @CPMoneyMakeover,

Twitter: @CPMoneyMakeover and on Instagram: @city_press

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