Monthly Money Date?  How’s That Workin’ For Ya’?

Due to favorable responses we received on couples and money last year, we are using this Valentine’s Day month to revisit this important topic.

It’s said that money and sex are the two biggest reasons for divorce. Could it be only a coincidence they are also the most difficult topics for couples to discuss? A money date might not sound like the most romantic idea, but taking regular time, say, monthly, to talk about money can be like glue that holds a relationship together.

A money date doesn’t have to last that long, probably at most 15 minutes. My suggestion for a money date has 3 parts:

“Here’s what I made this month.”

“Here’s what I see for major expenditures next month.”

“How are we doing on our goals?”

First, telling what you made starts the conversation with recognition for your household contribution, no matter how big or small. If one partner stays home or is out of work, find a way to recognize other ways you contribute – whether it’s nurturing the kids or finding that next great job.

Second, talking about what’s coming up leaves little room for unpleasant surprises. While this may be the hardest part of the conversation, it’s placed here for a reason. Psychological studies show that thinking about how much we spend or have spent induces the same emotions that lead to depression, while counting what we have induces the same emotions that lead to happiness and fulfillment. That’s why the spending question is sandwiched between the other two.

Third, what goals are worth tracking? Like a dashboard or cockpit, try the following four indicators: Retirement contributions, savings levels, debt levels, and charitable giving. Rather than constantly comparing to an ideal number, find a way to be proud of how far you have both come from where you were. No matter where you might see room for improvement, walk away with at least one thing here you can point to and be glad about.

If you follow this formula successfully, you might find you’re both more interested in working on that-other-part-of-your-relationship-that’s-hard-to-talk-about. (And hopefully, that date will last a lot longer than 15 minutes.?)

Holly Donaldson

Holly Donaldson, CFP® runs an hourly and fee-for-service financial planning practice virtually from her Tampa Bay, Florida office. She also works with clients throughout the U.S. (except Texas) interested in retirement and tax planning advice without product sales or investment management. Holly is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch."

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