In many relationships, money can be a bigger taboo than subjects such as sex, politics or religion.
Some people keep secrets from their own partner, while others hide money problems, or tell lies about their personal finances.
But if money issues such as earnings, debts and financial aspirations aren’t addressed, this can lead to bust-ups, or even to relationships breaking down.
Being open and honest about money is crucial, and can prevent issues arising further down the line.
Here’s some pointers on how to start a frank discussion.
Strike up the conversation
While it may feel as though there’s never a good time to tackle the taboo of finance with your partner, your best bet may be to simply seize the moment and open the dialogue. This is especially important if something money-related is troubling you.
Communicating well about money is crucial for the health and happiness of your relationship. You need to establish these conversations as the norm.
Set a regular ‘date’ to talk about money
A good way to get into the habit is to make a ‘date’ every month to discuss your joint finances.
You could even go so far as to write an ‘agenda’ of financial matters you need to discuss – then cross them off once you’ve covered them.
This should include conversations about bills, spending, big purchases you may wish to make, savings goals – and perhaps how to cut back to reach those goals. Be sure not to shy away from addressing any money worries that either of you have.
Set some shared goals
A good way to get onto the same page as far as your finances are concerned is by thinking about your hopes and ambitions – and what you’d like to achieve jointly.
Open up about your own money priorities for the short, medium and long-term, let your partner talk about their priorities – and then set realistic targets together.
This might, for example, involve you both wanting to save for a big holiday – or a wedding. Equally, it might involve you saving together for a rainy-day fund – or putting money aside regularly for retirement.
Understanding what matters to the other person and having common goals can put you in a strong position as a couple.
Share the responsibility
Often, in a relationship, it can fall to one person to manage the day-to-day finances and bills – or one person to oversee the budgeting, or saving for the future.
But rather than have one of you taking the brunt of the financial decision-making, talk to your partner about splitting financial chores – such as paying bills, balancing income and expenditure, or building savings.
Having both of you involved can mean you make better decisions.
Talk about how to split outgoings
It’s a common feature in many relationships that one partner earns more than another.
To avoid either party feeling hard done by or guilty, sit down and discuss how you are going to split the monthly bills, the annual insurance renewals, ad hoc house repairs and so on.
Decide if you are going to contribute the same amount, or whether you will each contribute a different amount based on your earnings. Reach a solution that both of you are happy with. And be prepared to re-visit this as and when your circumstances change.
Decide together if you want a joint account
As a couple, it can often make sense to have a joint account for shared ‘essential expenses’ such as bills and rent or mortgage, and then a separate sole account for your own spending.
But you’ll need to thrash out things such as what counts as an ‘essential’ expense, as opposed to a luxury – and be prepared for the fact you may have differing opinions on this.
Alternatively, you might also want to have money in the joint account for ‘fun’ things such as dates and weekend breaks and other treats. But once again, you’ll need to agree on what the joint funds can be spent on so both parties feel things are fair.
Understand the implications of a joint account
If you do open a joint bank account, you need to be aware that your credit history and your partner’s credit history will become linked.
If, say, your partner has a poor credit history, your credit-worthiness could be affected by this Lenders may base their decisions on the shared credit score, and refuse you credit – or not offer you the most competitive rates.
With this in mind, it’s worth each of you checking your credit report so you can both understand the way lenders see you as a couple.
You also need to think through what will happen to your joint finances if you end up going your separate ways.
For example, you may want to apply to one of the credit reference agencies – Experian, Equifax or TransUnion – for ‘financial disassociation’ to ensure your credit reports are totally disentangled.
Don’t be afraid of asking for help
If either you or your partner are struggling financially, it’s important not to hide money concerns from each other.
Tell your partner what’s worrying you – or be prepared to listen to what’s troubling your partner – and seek help together.