How to Talk about Money with your Significant Other

Ryan Ginn Relationships

I recently listened to an episode of the Tim Ferris Show called “Ramit Sethi — How to Play Offense with Money, Plan Bucket Lists, Build a Rich Life with Your Partner, and Take a Powerful $100 Challenge”. I want to expand on this conversation and spend a little bit of time talking about how couples can communicate about finances in a healthy way. 

The primary practice here revolves around the question that Ramit has come up with in his work with couples: “What does your rich life look like?” This is an open-ended question, and includes the question of what abundance looks like to your partner, what they would wear or do if they had a certain amount of money, what charities they would choose to give to if they thad the means, and what work they would say no to if they were able to make that choice. These are all just examples of where this conversation could go, but whatever conversation follows all hinges on how the question is asked. 

Be open and willing to hear all possible answers

What I often notice is that most people don’t know how to just listen to their partner’s wishes and dreams with respect to how they want to spend their money. It’s natural not to be very forthcoming about this, or at least to not be as honest as you could be, because this conversation is almost always filtered through a threat-detection system. One person may express a desire to go on a trip, or buy something specific, and the other partner instantly thinks of all the reasons why it’s a waste of money, or why something else would be better. 

Therefore, when asked this question, your partner may have a hard time answering because they are worried they’ll have to defend their opinions. So, go into this conversation by trying to make it as clear as possible – with both your words and your body language – that you’re genuinely curious to hear their response. The essential practice here is you being willing to stay curious and keep listening, and really put yourself in the seat, mind, and heart of your partner. Don’t assume you know what they’re talking about. Really dig deep and clarify anything you may have assumed. Ask them to paint you a picture of what exactly their ideas look like, and why they have these dreams

The point here is that, once you start priming that conversation, you get more information about them and their dreams and what they envision for their own future, and by proxy, your future together. You get it all out on the table in front of you, and then from there you’re in a much better position to actually go into the practicality of it all. 

Practicality comes second

Once you’ve had the opportunity to lay out your wildest dreams, imaginings, and desires regarding a “rich” life, then you can start talking about practicality moving forward. 

Remember that you want to have a relationship to money that is more empowering, and that is about so much more than just survival. So even as you talk about budgeting, and strategic planning, make sure there is still a sense of moving towards abundance – whatever that looks like to you. 

Abundance could be as simple as wanting a better car, or a small trailer, or a trip to a campground. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, although that is okay too. It all depends on you, and your partner, and your own definition of abundance. 

Don’t stifle the first part of this conversation – if necessary, leave all talk of practicality or actual planning for another time, so that you can really focus on getting all your ideas out there. Then, you can begin making priorities, and setting a five or ten year plan so that you can experience as much of those dreams as possible. 

Once you are ready to talk practicality, the first step is to create structure around your finances. Regularly check in with each other on your budget and your spending habits. While these conversations can sometimes be stressful, try to include conversations around watching your savings grow, or seeing certain goals being met. 

There needs to be a measure of inspiration and collaborative design in these conversations; otherwise, they’re a drag. They become boring conversations purely about survival and making ends meet, which no one wants to spend hours talking about. You want to create an inspired feeling around these conversations so that you feel like you are actively working towards abundance, even in periods of more financial stress. 

This whole process starts with you having a deep conversation about your wildest dreams and deepest desires for your lives. The practicality follows afterwards, so that you can work out how to support each other in achieving these goals. 

The point here is to change your mindset so that you’re committed to helping each other realize not just your needs, but your dreams as well.