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Money talks: 5 steps to strengthen your financial relationship

Two young adult concerned girlfriends in casual clothes communicating drinking coffee in kitchen at home
(Zinkevych/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Between falling in love, moving in, getting married, and raising kids, you and your partner may not have had time for an important relationship step—The Money Talk.

Money-related tension takes a toll on even the strongest relationships: 80 percent of couples argue about money at least once a month, and more than 30 percent have financial secrets, according to TD Bank’s annual Love and Money survey. Add to that the fact that 40 percent of people would consider ending a relationship over “financial infidelity,” according to a 2021 American Institute of CPAs survey, and it becomes clear why having a strong financial foundation is so important to the health of your relationship.

The good news is that it’s never too late to decide you want to have The Money Talk. Think of it as participating in a trust exercise. Approaching the topic of money honestly and transparently can help improve your finances and deepen your intimacy. To help you get started, Bay Federal Credit Union, a local not-for-profit cooperative with the mission of making a real difference in the financial lives of its members and the community, compiled these tips:

1. Set the ground rules

Agree to be transparent, use “I” statements, and withhold judgment. If either of you haven’t been forthright thus far, it may have been because of feelings of guilt or embarrassment.

2. Schedule a time

Make sure to plan a time that works for both of you, when you’re unlikely to be interrupted. Scheduling a talk before the kids’ bedtime or during an on-call weekend may lead to additional (and unnecessary) stress.

3. Discuss:

  • Your Goals - Chances are that before you found your partner, many of your financial goals were chosen with one person in mind—yourself. Talk about joint goals you would like to explore. What might improve your life together? Examples include eliminating debt, going on vacation, buying a home, having money on hand for the holidays, or saving for retirement.
  • Your Budget - Now that you have goals in mind, talk about how you’re going to save for them. If you don’t have a monthly budget yet, create one together. Budgeting is the best way to live within your means and to finish the month with money to set aside for something special. Find a worksheet here to get started.
  • Any Debt - The Federal Trade Commission encourages consumers to request their free credit report at least once a year (even if you don’t have any debt that you know about). Use the report as a guide for your conversation, and make a list of which debt you will tackle first. If you’re looking at a mountain of bills that have been sent to collections, Bay Federal partners with GreenPath Financial Wellness to offer members a free financial counseling call.

4. Stay positive

Emotions can run high when talking about money. Focus on the positive. Remember that you’re both in this together, and focus on solutions. You can do it!

5. Rinse and repeat

Anytime there’s a big life change, it’s time for another money checkup. If you’re sending a kid off to college or retiring, celebrate and then sit down together. Should you update decisions you agreed upon before? Periodic check-ins will help you both feel secure with your money relationship.

Shot of a smiling young couple talking together while relaxing on a beanbag sofa at home
(kupicoo/Getty Images)
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Bay Federal Credit Union was started when local school teachers pooled their money together to start a credit union. That investment has grown through an amazing journey of involvement (evolution) into the area’s largest locally-owned financial institution, with over $1.6 billion in assets.

Bay Federal provides full service financial products and solutions to Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties. Whether a community member is looking to buy a home, purchase a car, save some money, or access the latest in banking technology, our local and friendly employees are here to help.

Additionally, Bay Federal provides free financial education resources directly and through a partnership with GreenPath Financial Wellness.