When you’re in a romantic partnership, you discuss everything from your career ambitions to travel bucket lists. But conversations about money can get put on the back burner.
Money is the root of so many decisions you’ll make in your life. Talking about it can help bring you closer, show where you’re financially compatible (and where you might need to do some work) and avoid problems later.
So whether you’re just starting to get serious or have been together for years, here are five essential money questions to ask that can strengthen your relationship.
What are your goals?
Living out your dreams and goals is possible, but it’ll take some planning — and the sooner you start, the better. If you want to take that trip next year, how much can you both start setting aside for it? Or if you’re deciding whether to have kids, do you picture both of you working, or would one of you commit to child care full- or part-time?
It can be a lot to unpack, for both you and your partner. When you’re in a committed relationship, though, your solo dreams are shared dreams, so it’s important to agree on how you’ll achieve them. Once your goals are out in the open, you can talk to a financial advisor about how to work them into a financial plan.
What was your experience with money growing up?
Maybe your parents were open and honest about the family’s finances, or maybe they didn’t mention money at all. How you and your partner grew up talking (or not talking) about money has a huge impact on how you feel about it today.
For instance, if your parents bought you a piggy bank and encouraged you to save early on, then stashing money away may already be second nature. But if you watched your parents struggle over bills without understanding why, then you may automatically associate money with stress. You may have adopted your parents’ money habits — or decided to do the opposite.
Think back to what money meant to you as kids. Talk about your parents’ attitudes, whether you grew up thinking money was a blessing or a burden, and how you handle the financial lessons you learned as a kid in adulthood.
Do you have any debt?
The goal of the question isn’t judgment. But if debt comes as a surprise, it can take an emotional toll on a relationship. Knowing how much you owe means you can come up with a plan to tackle it together.
Ask your partner: How much debt do you have, and what kind is it? How are you paying it down? Does it worry you, or does it feel manageable? The answers can help you figure out how to pay it down strategically while also making progress on your other goals.
What do you consider to be ‘a lot of money’?
For some people, $500 for shoes could be a reasonable amount to spend. For others, it's a massive indulgence.
Choose a random item, whether it’s shoes, a car or a concert ticket. Ask your partner: What’s your limit? How much are you willing to pay for these types of things? What’s considered appropriate is personal, so don’t be surprised if you come up with very different answers.
You can do a similar exercise with salary. What do you consider making “good money”? How much would you personally need to make to feel comfortable and secure? The answers will reveal more than just numbers. They can help you understand how the other person makes financial decisions and help you align your values.
What’s your credit score?
This number is hugely impactful. Your credit scores tell lenders whether you can responsibly borrow money, and they'll have a big impact on your future. For instance, if you’re planning on buying a home together — or even just renting a place — your credit health will matter.
If a not-great credit score has you worried, use it as a starting point to figure out what behaviors and choices led to that number, and how you can get to fixing them.