10 Steps for Having Better Money Conversations With Your Spouse

The way you approach these conversations can set the stage for your whole relationship — for better or worse.

A man sits on the floor in front of the sofa where a woman sits as they look at a laptop and paperwork together.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Money and finances can be a truly divisive topic, and nowhere is this more true than with romantic partners. With differing spending and saving habits, economic backgrounds, values or beliefs around money, couples may find it difficult to get on the same page when it comes to their finances. In some cases, disagreements around money may even lead couples to break up or divorce. Because of this, it’s vital couples have conversations about money early on to set a better foundation for their financial future together.

However, ensuring you’re having these conversations the right way — without them turning into arguments — is key to your success. To offer their guidance, 10 financial experts from Kiplinger Advisor Collective each share one piece of advice they’d give to a couple about how to approach money conversations in a better way and work together to accomplish their financial goals.

Start by communicating openly and honestly
“When approaching money conversations as a couple, the key lies in open and honest communication. Establishing trust through transparency about your financial situation — including income, expenses and debts — is crucial. Additionally, setting shared financial goals can provide a road map for your financial future, fostering a sense of unity.” — Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, TheMoneyCoach.net LLC

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Create a safe space for financial discussion
“Creating a safe space to talk about money and finance is key — especially early in a relationship (ideally, while dating). Listen to and for money mindset signals. When it's time to combine your household or merge finances to achieve goals, be deliberate in your approach. Create a system that works for you and your partner, and avoid asking for outside opinions. Keeping finances personal honors the safe space.” — Lyndsey Monahan, Women Inspire Wealth

Share your past and present experiences with money
“Do not start with the numbers. Instead, begin by sharing about your experiences with money and how those influence you today. Then, clarify your current financial situation together — income, expenses, debts and assets. Finally, venture into the more complex conversations around understanding your priorities and preferences so you can turn them into a joint plan.” — Adam Kol, The Couples Financial Coach

Set a near-term goal to achieve together
“It's a team sport, but the team can't win if the goal isn't clear or if both partners aren't on the same page. One thing that helped my wife and I was having a near-term ‘financial independence’ goal to shoot for, rather than a more nebulous ‘we'll just keep saving for 30 years’ goal. Seeing our progress was really motivating and helped align our spending habits with the more immediate goal.” — Nick Loper, Side Hustle Nation

Drop the labels
“Drop the ‘spender’ and ‘saver’ labels, because they don’t mean anything. Everybody spends money — just at different times. Spenders spend money now, and savers spend money later. That's it. You can think of spending as a choice, not a label, and you can think of saving as a strategy, not a virtue. Swap your paradigm from ‘good or bad’ to ‘now or later’ to find creative ways to accomplish your goals.” — Kiersten Saunders, rich & REGULAR

Kiplinger Advisor Collective is the premier criteria-based professional organization for personal finance advisors, managers, and executives. Learn more >

Put yourself in your partner's shoes
“Listen to one another and state your opinions. Then, try to see if you can understand the other’s opinion by putting yourself in their shoes. This will help you relate and understand to further continue the conversation and get on the same page.” — Bob Chitrathorn, Wealth Planning By Bob Chitrathorn of Simplified Wealth Management

Work to understand rather than disagree
“Start with self-reflection, and share your money stories. Everyone has a unique history and relationship with money that affects how they make decisions now. Your partner needs to understand that relationship so together you can make decisions that accommodate both of your needs. When you disagree with a decision, don't argue your side; instead, ask your partner why they landed there so you can understand.” — Dana Miranda, Healthy Rich

Discuss what money means to both of you
“We all have money scripts based on our values and experiences. Money means different things to different people. For some, money may mean security or peace of mind. For others, money may mean power or control. It is important to understand your individual money story and allow time for self-reflection. If you and your partner or spouse don't agree, approach the conversation with curiosity.” — Marguerita Cheng, Blue Ocean Global Wealth

Define your joint vision for the future
“One piece of advice for couples to approach money conversations more effectively is to establish short- and long-term goals. It's crucial for both partners to openly discuss their financial goals, values and expectations. Creating short- and long-term goals allows the couple to create a joint vision for the future, making it easier to make financial decisions that support both partners.” — Greg Welborn, First Financial Consulting

Agree on a plan of action
“I would tell a couple that they should sit down to rationally discuss their respective financial goals and come to an agreement on what will achieve those goals while leaving room for some wants and not just needs. Be more understanding of your spouse and remember the golden rule: Treat them how you would like to be treated. You have to pull in the same direction as a couple, or you’ll tear your family apart.” — Dennis Futch, The Tax Shop

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The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

Kiplinger Advisor Collective

Kiplinger Advisor Collective is the premier criteria-based professional organization for personal finance advisors, managers, and executives.