One of the keys to getting on the same page with your partner about money is to have open and honest communication. As Lifehacker has covered, scheduling periodic money check-ins—whether that’s weekly, monthly, etc.—is important in any relationship.
Where you might run into a problem, though, is if you (or your partner) are in charge of most of the financial tasks or decisions for your household. You can’t have an open and honest conversation if your partner doesn’t know what your accounts are or how they work. So, what to do?
On Rad Reads, Khe Hy suggests that one way to bridge this financial knowledge gap is with a data dump. Noting that his wife Lisa, an artist, isn’t as financially minded as he is, he took time to walk her through all of their accounts so that she had peace of mind.
The “moment” we shared as a couple was as simple as jointly logging into all the accounts (and the acrobatics of navigating my complex maze of 2-factor authentication). This was accompanied by compiling a list of key counter parties (accountant, life insurance rep, financial advisor, and the lawyer who drafted our wills) and also an opportunity to add her and the kids as the beneficiaries for each account.
This process was a reminder that when it comes to money, a couple can operate on wildly different planes: I was in the weeds optimising every account and she just wanted to know where to “find” everything should the unthinkable happen.
I’d add a few other items to Hy’s great list:
Look through spending on joint accounts together.
Update partner on your investments, and why certain investments were chosen.
Discuss the purpose of all of those accounts: What are your goals as a couple/family? How close are you to achieving those goals?
Review any debt obligations, and your repayment plan.
Calculate your net worth together.
If you’re the partner who doesn’t have a handle on the financials, well, this is even more important for you.
Write a letter of intent
If this is one of the first times you and your partner are discussing your finances, or the first time you’re honestly and thoroughly discussing them, the Balance suggests writing a letter to each other outlining what’s important to you.
“Talk in the letter about your financial past, including how your family handled money, and if you think they got it right or wrong,” the Balance writes. “Discuss how wealthy you hope to be and what you would sacrifice to get there. List your retirement dreams.”
That will give you entry to pursuing your dreams together, and making a comprehensive plan. It works because each of you becomes invested — you’re each aware of the emotional stakes and the hard numbers.
But even if you skip the letters, making a list of accounts and logins that each of you has access to will ensure that you’re on a level playing field and accountable to each other.