personal finance

Financial Conversation Starters for Couples

Instead of reaching for the remote and an evening of Netflix, why not get really intimate … and talk about money instead? Sharing the same financial goals and being open about how you’re doing can be great for your relationship.

Ready to do something special with your love? How about taking a little time out together and talking about something that really matters, like each other and your finances?

Here are three conversations starters for the two of you, as you ruminate over some rosé.

Conversation Starter 1: Money talks pay off

Fidelity Investment's 2021 Couples & Money Survey highlights that couples who make decisions about their finances together experience positive benefits. These are heartening statistics in contrast to the 2014 American Psychological Association's survey revealing that 31% of adults with partners cite money as a major source of conflict in a relationship.

In light of these findings, consider these talking points:

  • What do you like about your (and your partner's) approach to money today?
  • What do you not like about each of your approaches?
  • How would you like to improve your conversations about money?

Conversation Starter 2: Are we focusing on the big picture?

Your finances go beyond your monthly cash flows, annual budget and retirement savings. Depending on the nature of your relationship with your partner, seemingly insignificant daily decisions — like whether to order in dinner or subscribe to that new streaming service — have the power to influence your quality of life now and your opportunities in the future.

Rather than getting overwhelmed by all your choices, focus on the big picture, i.e.: the six interdependent pieces that comprise your unique financial puzzle:

  1. Income
  2. Expenses
  3. Insurance
  4. Investments
  5. Debt
  6. Financial obligations to other people
Six key financial planning factors.

Caroline Wetzel, Procyon Partners White Paper

Source: Financial Planning: Building Your Personal Roadmap

As part of focusing on the big picture, for your next talking points, consider:

  • Do you understand the details for each of the six pieces of your own financial puzzle? For instance, how much of your current income are you saving and investing?  What kinds of investment risk are you taking across your retirement and brokerage accounts?  When it comes to your debt, what is your current payoff plan?
  • Does your partner understand the details for the six pieces of his/her financial puzzle?
  • Which pieces of your respective financial puzzles do you share as a couple? Keep separate? Why?

Conversation Starter 3: When did we last talk about ‘WHO’?

The words "Who," "How" and "Ownership."

Courtesy Carolyn Wetzel

If you share responsibility for any of the six pieces of your unique financial puzzle with your partner, it is essential to continuously clarify the “WHO”:

  • Who is monitoring which piece of the big picture, and where are access details stored? Delegating responsibility for a piece of the financial puzzle is not abdicating responsibility for it. It's OK if your partner takes on responsibility for a piece of the puzzle; however, you have to understand how he/she is doing it. For instance, if you trust your partner to oversee your investments, and he/she engages a fiduciary financial team to manage them, it is essential that you have a relationship with that team, you know how to contact them, and you understand how to access your account information.
  • How is each piece of the big picture doing (now)? Keep each other accountable for monitoring your respective pieces of your shared financial picture. In the same way that having a membership to the gym doesn't make you physically fit, being responsible for a piece of your shared financial puzzle alone doesn't mean that the piece of the puzzle is being cared for like it should. For example, if you agree as a team that you will save 15% of your income to retirement and investment accounts, who is checking to make sure that you're doing it? How is this person keeping you both informed of your progress, and how are you as a team adjusting your approach in light of your progress?
  • Ownership: As far as your investments, insurance and the other pieces of your big picture goes, does the titling and do the terms of each piece (still) make sense? Life is constantly changing. Just because you and your partner agreed to structure a shared piece of your financial puzzle in a certain way in the past does not mean that it continues to make sense for you. Perhaps you purchased a life insurance policy to cover your children's education expenses and a large mortgage and now your kids have grown and you've downsized? Maybe you cited someone as a beneficiary on one of your accounts, and you have changed your mind?

There are so many ways to express your love for your partner. Own your wealth and the power it presents you and your sweetheart every day. Have the courage to be vulnerable with each other, create a safe space to talk about your finances, and strategically use your individual and shared resources to realize your dreams.

About the Author

Caroline Wetzel, CFP®, CDFA®, AWMA®

Vice President, Private Wealth Adviser, Procyon Partners

Caroline Wetzel  CFP®, CDFA®, AWMA®, is a vice president and private wealth adviser at Procyon Private Wealth Partners.  She has worked in financial services since 2001 and began specializing in wealth management for affluent multi-generational families in 2015.  Caroline earned a B.S. degree in policy analysis and management at Cornell University and an MBA in finance and advanced certification in marketing from the University of Connecticut School of Business.

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