Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate that special someone in your life. During this season of romance, the last thing on your mind is probably talking to your sweetie about money. But if you want your relationship to last for the long haul, you might want to reconsider.
While it’s not fun to think about the impact that money has on relationships, study-after-study tells us that financial problems are one of the main challenges couples face. In fact, a 2023 survey found that, although financial security was the main reason people got married, financial stress caused one in four divorces.
Fortunately, having an open and ongoing discussion about money can help flip the script. Here are some questions that can help you better understand each other’s financial fears, set goals together and improve your chances of celebrating many more Valentine’s Days together in the future.
In This Article
1. What’s your “financial personality”?
Everyone has their own financial personality or a set of traits that inform how they deal with money. Whether your partner is a big spender or hates thinking about money all together, understanding their financial personality (and your own) can help you avoid misunderstandings and better support each other.
How many financial personalities are there? It depends on who you ask, but these are some questions you can ask to get a sense of your partner’s personality and how they deal with money day-to-day:
- How does spending or saving money make you feel?
- What amount of income or assets do you feel is “too much” or “too little”?
- How does thinking about or discussing money make you feel?
- How do you decide if a purchase is worth making?
- Which financial habits do you want your partner to have?
2. What are your financial goals?
Does your partner want to buy a home by the age of 40? Do they want to start a business, travel the world or help their parents retire? Unless you ask your partner about their specific financial goals, there’s a chance you could go years without knowing what they are. Even worse, you could be unknowingly making it harder for them.
Instead of assuming your partner is working toward the same financial end goals as you, take some time to ask about the specifics, including their timeline, how much they think it will cost and whether or not they already have a plan for achieving the goal.
3. Should we combine our finances?
There’s no right or perfect way to go about sharing financial responsibilities with your partner. The decision of whether to share financial accounts and expenses depends on where you’re in your relationship and your personal preferences. Some options include:
- Pooling your money into joint accounts
- Keeping your financial accounts separate
- A mix of shared and separate accounts
- Keeping your expenses and spending separate
- Splitting expenses 50/50
- Splitting expenses proportionally to your income
Whatever you choose, it’s important to make a decision, since you’re already impacting each other’s finances whether you like it or not.
For example, your partner’s love of fine dining or spontaneous travel might be eating into your savings account. If you don’t decide how to navigate these costs in advance, you can set yourself up for arguments or even financial trouble.
Instead, do some research and come to an agreement together. If you’re considering marriage or domestic partnership, learn about your state and local laws on joint property and debt.
Make sure you understand how your decisions can affect your partner’s financial well-being and vice versa. You’ll also want to make sure it’s clear who is in charge of managing which bills and accounts and inform each other how to manage your separate responsibilities if an emergency comes up.
4. Are we saving enough money?
Murphy’s Law makes no exceptions for love—if something can go wrong, it will.
Experts recommend saving three to six months’ worth of living expenses for emergencies so you can cover anything from an unexpected hospital visit to the loss of a job, without spiraling into a financial crisis. But a survey from the Federal Reserve found that 32% of U.S. residents don’t have enough money saved to cover a $500 emergency expense.
Instead of hoping for the best, make a plan for how you’ll cover emergencies, even if it’s just setting up a $50 a month deposit into an emergency fund. Making the plan together, and following it, will help you avoid or reduce future stressors that can damage or even end a relationship.
5. Do you have any debt?
Credit card debt has been on the rise since 2021, but it saw a massive year-over-year increase in 2023. On top of credit cards, many Americans juggle student loans, car payments, mortgages and medical bills.
It’s no secret that all this debt adds stress to relationships. Debt from your past can impact your relationship and cause resentment between the two of you. But even if you’re debt free and your spouse is not, the laws of your state might consider their debt “community property,” meaning the bills they accrue during your marriage belong to both of you.
In addition to asking about your partner’s “good debt,” like mortgages and student loans, you need to know if they have issues with high-interest debt, like credit cards or payday loans. If one or both of you is in trouble, you can make a plan together that includes cutting back on expenses or meeting with a certified credit counselor to explore debt management options.
6. What are your credit scores?
If you want to achieve certain financial milestones as a couple, such as renting an apartment together or buying a car or a home, you’ll both need to have good credit scores. But a 2023 survey found that 30.6% of Americans did not know their credit scores.
Identifying and discussing your credit scores can help you decide if you need to work on improvements together. For example, if your partner’s scores need help, you might want to add their name to one or more of your credit cards as an authorized user, which lets them benefit from your history with the account.
Not sure what your scores are? You may have complimentary access to one of your scores through your credit card company or bank, or you can sign up for free score monitoring through Experian.
7. Are you planning for retirement?
Do you and your partner have a 5-year plan or a retirement plan? If so, are the plans aligned? These are important questions to explore together, especially if you’re thinking of homeownership or you have financial dependents.
Unfortunately, less than 20% of U.S. workers report that they’re very prepared for retirement. However, planning together with a partner—especially when you have dual incomes—can make it easier to progress toward your goals.
Want to jump-start your retirement savings? Check to see if your employer offers a match on your retirement contribution, and max out their match if you can afford to. We also recommend talking to a financial advisor for advice on investing that’s suited to your unique income, debt and tax situation.
Regardless of what you choose, the bottom line is that it’s important to develop and plan as a couple, so that you’re working as partners and not against each other. After all, you want to build a solid path toward happily-ever-after together.
Written by Sarah Brady | Edited by Rose Wheeler
Sarah Brady is a financial writer and speaker who’s written for Forbes Advisor, Investopedia, Experian and more. She is also a former Housing Counselor (HUD) and Certified Credit Counselor (NFCC).