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Do we need to talk about money?

All couples benefit from talking about finances, whether they have just met, are in a long-­term committed relationship, experiencing financial stress, or are financially happy.

While money conversations are not the sexiest conversations in a relationship, they are necessary. There is no perfect time to have a financial conversation and all relationships are different. However money discussions are necessary for many reasons throughout a relationship.

It is very common to hear people say

“We should have had money conversations sooner.”

With that in mind, starting financial conversations early in the relationship is most beneficial as it will set up a system of money communication right from the beginning.

As well as specific changes in your relationship, such as moving in together, having children or retirement – there are other situations stated below that would benefit from a financial conversation.

When is a good time to talk about money?

You’re feeling uneasy about the other person’s financial habits or decisions.

You are about to make a big decision, such as a holiday, studying or other large purchase, which will impact the family’s income.

You’re thinking about the structure of your banking, you want to develop a budget or you have disposable income for spending.

You’re personally holding off financial plans because of your partner.

Do you feel uncomfortable?

Addressing feelings of discomfort is another time when financial conversations are necessary.

It is time to talk with your partner if you are feeling uncomfortable or experiencing any of the situations below.

When one person earns less they can experience guilt. Making purchases when you are not the one who earned the money can also lead to feelings of guilt. For men, this may be a challenge due to traditional ideas of men as providers, regardless of how their relationship is structured.

The higher earning partner may resent the partner who earns less if they buy goods that aren’t considered essential. The partner earning more may feel taken advantage of, or that the household budget is unbalanced. Staying at home to raise children can also lead to feelings of resentment, particularly if this was not planned, and leaving their job felt forced.

Money equates to power, and often control. Sometimes the primary income earner believes or positions themselves to have power to make the majority of decisions about how money is spent and/or managed – which can be a slippery slope to financial and economic harm, impacting all elements of the family dynamics.

There are many reasons couples may lie or withhold information about money – overspending, embarrassment, issues of control, discomfort, etc. Whether intentional or not, these behaviours have the potential to damage trust and respect in the relationship.

Hiding money is another issue – it may be put aside as an exit plan if things don’t go well, or a secret stash for spending. For a relationship to be and remain healthy, financial decisions need to be discussed so both people know what’s going on. If however, the relationship doesn’t feel safe for these conversations it may be useful to seek additional support.

If the family’s assets (typically property) are only in one partner’s name, this can lead to issues relating to security, commitment, and a person’s sense of equality within the relationship.

If any of these behaviours above feel particularly controlling, you may be experiencing economic harm.

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The information, content and materials provided in our Healthy Financial Relationships Toolkit is for general informational purposes only and does not take into account the financial situation and/or particular needs of any person. Before making important financial decisions, you should seek professional advice if possible. This Toolkit contains links to other third-party websites. Such links are only for the convenience of the reader, user or browser. Good Shepherd NZ and AUT do not endorse the contents of third-party sites.

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