Inviting The Money Talk to Tea

I think talking about money before you tie the knot is a no-brainer. I’m often surprised by the people who don’t want to broach this subject with their partners. While The Money Talk may not walk up to the table and sit down during your early dating days, by the time you’re contemplating tying the knot, The Money Talk should be cuddled up to your conversation.

Whether you’re afraid it’ll ruin the romance, or you would really rather not know, if you enter into what you hope will be the longest relationship of your life without much information you deserve what you get. You can’t act surprised at the fact that you’ve married a Money Moron if you didn’t spend anytime talking about money before you tied the knot. Neither of you can!

If you have a partner who seems reluctant to share, you may have to make like Sherlock Holmes to gather the information you need. You don’t have to go at it head on. Try a little tact: “Boy, I wish I had a savings matching program at work. Do you have one of those?” Or try: “Y’know, Marjorie’s husband, Mike, wants to retire early. He’s got them on a wicked savings plan. When do you think we’ll retire?” Not knowing is far worse than implementing a little strategy to find out what you need to know.

Avoid inviting The Money Talk to the table if you’ve had a few drinks. While you might think that plying your partner will help open up the conversation, it’s a dangerous strategy. Worse yet if you’ve both been avoiding the chat for so long that it can only surface when you’re both three sheets to the wind.  And don’t try to have the conversation by phone, text or email. This is a face-to-face thing. If you’re serious about your relationship, you must be able to have a mature discussion about the money.

Starting with “We need to talk” is a sure way to get your buddy’s hackles up. Far better you start with common ground: I’m signing up for my company pension plan, do you have a pension plan at work? I’ve got about $2,500 in my TFSA, are you saving for your own future?

Lest you think these are long-term issues and you don’t have to think about them right now (procrastinator!) think again. If your girl has neither a pension plan nor any RRSP savings, what is she doing to take care of her future? If your boy has been blowing through his money without a thought to retirement, will you ever be able to convince him that saving is important? And if you can’t, how will that affect your long-term plans together?

You want a partner who is thinking about the future as well as living in the present. If she just hasn’t given any thought to it yet, but is willing, you’re one up on the poor sod who is marrying a chick who believes HE is the retirement plan. And if your Prince Charming just can’t stop spending every cent he makes and then some, you better know that before you hitch your cart to his horse!

18 Responses to “Inviting The Money Talk to Tea”

  1. So true. Gotta talk about it. I am the money manager in our house and its taken six years but I think he gets it now! Sometimes I worry that I am marrying a money moron but I feel better now that we talk openly and can set realistic goals togrther-while living within our means.
    Thanks Gail!

  2. I couldn’t agree more with that part about long term issues and retirement planning. This must be a priority from early on. One person shouldn’t rely on another to fund retirement, and you certainly can’t rely on the government to support you although old age security payments are helpful. Be wary of a partner who is unwilling to plan for the future.

  3. You could always lead into the conversation by talking about goals. Bring up the fact that you want to have kids (or travel, or start a business . . .) and then steer it towards, so how are we going to live on mat leave benefits (or save, or finance the business . . .)

  4. I took me a while to get my husband on board, but he was never a money moron 😉 Never had any debt, but not a lot of savings either. Now he just gives me free rein and I keep him in the loop on where the money is going.

  5. My friend got married and then one year into the marriage she found out that her husband had $60,000 in debt. Over $40,000 was from OSAP. Now they are aggressively trying to pay that off. And when I asked her why she didn’t have the ‘money talk’ she said “he works at a bank. I assumed he was good with money.” BIG MISTAKE lol.

  6. This is so true. When I got married I was the money moron. Fortunately I have a smart hubby who is a good teacher and nearly 28 years later we are on the same page budget-wise and on track for a happy retirement.

  7. Ugh. Where were you Gail the first and second time I got married? I wasn’t the Money Moron in either marriage, but I was the Moron who married both of them. I think if you are avoiding the Money talk, you probably have a feeling it won’t go well. I knew my first husband didn’t make much money, but I thought I could get him making more. Well it was me that ended up making more, and working more to support him and his three children that I ended up raising and paying for.

    Marriage number 2. Well I just thought it would work itself out. He still lived at home, but had no savings even though he had been working full time for 9 years. He had a loan for his truck, but no other debt. We had an expensive lifestyle for a few years, and we could pay for most of it, but the line of credit wasn’t going down. Then he ended up with depression and started to try to spend his way out of it. Finally he decided he didn’t want to be married to me anymore so he cheated on me with our neighbour. Fun stuff!

  8. Maybe I’m in the minority because we treat marriage finances as a team event with everything pooled, and every cent completely out in the open and up for discussion. I can’t even fathom having a conversation about “my retirement” and “your retirement”. Yes a lot of marriages end in divorce, but shouldn’t Plan A be retiring together? I know it works for lots of people but I also don’t get the whole keeping your money separate thing (yours, mine and ours). Do you just assume your spouse is saving as much as you and will be able to retire at the same time? Do you really want to find out decades too late that they either didn’t make the contributions, or invested badly and all your plans are now impossible? If there is secrecy around finances, that in itself would be a giant red flag for me, before or during a marriage. What exactly is it you don’t want me to know about? If you have a huge amount of debt, I need to know. If you have a gambling problem I need to know. If you aren’t actually saving for retirement at the levels we both agreed to, then I need to know (and this will lead to the question, where did the money go if not to your retirement accounts?…) The usual logic for keeping finances separate is so that you each have a sense if independence and don’t have to justify every dime spent. I get that. I don’t care if you spent $2 or $10 on coffees or a new DVD. It isn’t about keeping track of each other’s minor daily spending. It’s more about the big picture. If you are intent on keeping a wall between us and only throwing the required amount over into the joint account for common bills, to me that really sends a message about how you view the marriage. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, buy a house, make babies, grow old together, trust you to make end of life decisions for me, but don’t you dare ask about my money. Really?

    To be clear, I recognize that 50%? of marriages end in divorce and you need to be prepared and selfsufficient. To that end, our spending plan spreadsheet also includes a Plan B page where we’ve laid out the calculations for me to live as a single (in the event of divorce) or as a widow (which would include life insurance settlements and no division of assets). We’ve worked out the math to confirm I would be fine. Since I’m the lower income earner, and women tend to live longer, if I’d be fine as a widow then he definitely would be.

  9. I don’t recall having The Money Talk with DH before we got married…probably because there was no money to talk about! We married young – just a couple years out of high school…no savings but no debt or credit either. We learned how to budget and run a household together (after quickly finding out the money only goes so far!). Everything has been joint from the beginning. I don’t think it’s a bad way to do it, so long as both spouses are on the same page. I’m definitely better with budgeting and money than DH, but he cares about staying in the black and is willing to take direction so it works out.

  10. I’ve been married for 40 years now. He will not discuss money… at all. He doesn’t believe in investing because (are you ready for it) it makes doing income taxes too difficult. We also don’t mingle our money at all. I know it sounds outrageous but sometimes in life you have to pick your battles and this is one battle I cannot win. So I decided in September of last year that it was time to put my own financial house in order (thank you Gail) and I’ve made a good start at it. Two credit cards paid off and less than $2,000 on the last one so it will be paid off within the next 3-4 months. I have $1,900 in savings and $1,200 in the emergency fund. No, I don’t have any retirement in place other than SS and his pension (I’m in the States).

    So I’ve started late but at least I’ve started. In 6 months I’ve cleared off more than $2,500 of debt and put away more than $3,000 for savings and emergency. I’m also building up a clientele for my quilting as a side business to bring in more income. It’s never too late.

  11. @ blaze, my partner and I keep everything separate except our mutual expenses. It’s quite straightforward though as we rent and have no children.

    However, being your own independent individual and keeping certain things separate does not mean privacy and secrecy. We know how much each makes, what we are saving for different things (like RSP, TFSA, vacations, etc).

    Think of it as we are a team trying to reach certain goals together, but remember individuals make up a team and each also has their own personal goals and individuality.

  12. @blaze and @tasi My husband and I also do the “yours, mine, ours” approach in the sense that we each maintain our own spending money, our own savings accounts, our own RRSPs, our own pensions at work etc. This is still quite simple, even though we have a mortgage, a child and another baby on the way. It’s all in how you define the “yours, mine, ours”.

    In our case, we have joint accounts for joint expenses and we make savings plans for our future and our children’s futures together. I know how much money he has saved, and he knows how much I have saved. We talk about expenditures and goals all the time.

    Essentially, in our case the “yours, mine, ours” means that we discuss all of our common goals and expenses and make sure they are taken care of, and we keep some money for ourselves. So, I don’t need to check in with him every time I buy shoes, and he doesn’t need to check in with me when he buys a video game. But quite honestly, even when we spend our own money, neither of us is ashamed to own up to what we’ve spent and on what.

  13. Blaze I love your post! That is exactly what I was getting at when I posted in response to Gail’s post yesterday – marriage is an emotional committment and when one partner holds very tightly to “their” pot of money I think it can really damage a marriage – it certainly did in my case. But before anyone weighs in, I’m not averse to “his” “hers” and “ours” arrangements just so long as they don’t trumph the emotional committment in the relationship.

    Blaze I’d love to know how you worked out your money plans with your guy though … was he just very open minded? I never thought money issues would become an issue for me or my partner at the time because he was super careful with money and I was fairly careful too – and he and I were very averse to debt. It was just that in holding back with the way he dealt with money, it also represented a holding back of emotional commitment and it poisoned the relationship in the end because the disparity between our wages was just never going to narrow and I increased the disparity by supporting him in moving to another country so that he could further his career (and make more money!) at the expense of my income potential (which I did not forsee before we moved).

  14. We married young also with no credit but no savings. 22 years later, 2 kids, we are on track to retire at 58. we are 43 and 47 and will pay for our kids university.

    There have been some hard lessons and we are not the best dressed or seem to spend like our friends but I think we are doing well.

    For the record I make x and he makes 4x but we pool everything, pay our bills and then take an allowance every pay of equal amount. Then he can buy a golf club and I can buy shoes as long as it is within the allowance with no complaint from the other.

    He does have more investments as they are payroll deduction and his income is bigger. But if we divorce at this point (unlikely) I figure I’m protected by Canadian law (50% split of all assets)

  15. @DL – that worked in a bank comment made me laugh!
    @ Deb B – it’s so inspiring to hear that even starting “late” is working out.

    I was really lucky – neither of us are really money morons, but my SO sat down about a year into our relationship and said, “hey, since we’re really getting serious I think I should let you know about my finances.” How sexy is that?? It made me feel like he was super committed to the relationship, so I would recommend anyone in that stage of a relationship try it – it’s not so scary 🙂

  16. Thank-you for this, Gail! People, a lack of communication about money KILLED my parents’ marriage. After over 25 years of marriage, that’s what did it. Now they’re divorcing and (from what I can gather) will each end up with ZERO or less for their net worth.

    You don’t want to be there, in your 50’s and find that you’re alone and have nothing because you and your spouse didn’t talk about money soon enough. Sorry if that’s hard to think about, but I’d rather you think about it now than when you get hit by that truck.

  17. @Deb B-I am in awe girl! You’ve not only taken the bull by the horns, you’ve driven the sucker back into his stall and slammed the door shut! I absolutely LOVE that you’ve got a side-gig there for yourself, and you’ve smashed that debt with a definite goal date to have it all paid.

    I’m in my mid-50s and recently (in the past 3-5 years) learned that it truly is NEVER too late to start. I find daily inspiration here with Gail, and there are some incredible people responding to her blog. I might not be up there with the really knowledgeable ones, but I’ve been able to take steps and make goals I might never have done by myself. It’s been tough, and there are times when I don’t think I’m worth it.

    Then I read a response like yours and think “She’s really got it together”. I wish you the best on a very successful journey toward your personal goals. You are a mighty inspiration!!!

  18. @Stephanie – I got my inspiration from the same place as you… Gail. I’m looking forward to hearing about your progress in the coming weeks and months.

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