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Setting Financial Goals: Talking to Your Partner about Money

Updated: Jun 28

Have you ever had a disagreement with your partner about money? They say that financial issues are the leading cause of divorce. The Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) showed that divorce cases rose by 43.1% in 2022 during the COVID-19 pandemic. And while money can't buy happiness, it can certainly wreak havoc on your relationship if not managed properly. But how do we navigate talking about finances without potentially blowing a fuse in the relationship? Today, we’ll share some tips with you on how to talk about money with your partner so you can successfully set financial goals as a couple. 

a couple discussing finances at a desk

Why Money Chats Matter 

Initially, you may feel compelled to keep personal financial matters private—you stick with your own finances while your partner handles their own account. This might work for some; however, no matter how long you’ve been in a relationship, having an open conversation about finances is still important for a healthy romantic relationship.

According to a Bread Financial study, 44% of couples responded that they wish they had more similar financial mindsets as their partners, while 20% prefer having different financial mindsets. Baby Boomers (54%) believe they are the most financially compatible with their partners, while Millennials (23%) claim the opposite. Think of it this way: You and your partner are a team. You can only reach your goals if both of you are on the same page. Sure, you may have different strategies, but in the end, your end goal is the same. And discussing finances together isn’t just about budgeting or saving. It’s also about aligning your life goals and doing strategic financial planning to reach your end goals.

Figuring out the nitty-gritty of budgeting and expenses together can feel really overwhelming. So, here is a simple guide on how you can talk to your partner about your goals. 

How to talk to Your Partner About Goals

A couple listing down financial goals together

Begin by listing the financial goals that you have. Split them into two categories: Team Goals: These are shared aspirations that both you and your partner share, such as buying a dream house, travelling, and investing in your children's or future children’s education.

Individual Goals: These are aspirations that fall under personal goals like starting your own business, joining a marathon, or anything that’s close to your heart. Whether your personal goal involves your partner or not, it’s alright to have them even when you’re in a relationship. Writing down these goals helps in visualising them and understanding each other’s aspirations better. It also sets the stage for an open discussion about your dreams and how to achieve them together.


When you and your partner sit down to discuss money, there are a few ground rules you should follow:

Rule 1: Listen Without Judgement

Listen to your partner’s goal without judgement. Avoid ridiculing or running the guilt trip on them for having their own goals. Your partner’s goals and aspirations are part of their identity, so it’s important for you to respect them. Not giving your partner a safe space to share their dreams may make your partner resent you, which could harm your relationship in the long run. 


Rule 2: Reassure Your Partner

During your discussion, be sure to reassure your partner that they are still your priority. Clearly communicate that you want them to be a significant part of your life and that sharing your dreams with them is a way to deepen your connection. Your partner might feel apprehensive about some of your ideas, but you can balance your excitement with the reassurance of your commitment to them. 

Be sure to share your goals and values with each other so that you can both settle on a common goal. 


How to Set Financial Goals Together

Step 1: List Your Goals in Detail

Grab a pen and paper and list your goals in detail. Include what each goal means to you both as a couple, and as an individual.


For example, a personal goal you might have is wanting to wear a Rolex watch because it makes you really proud of yourself.


The goal of this exercise is for both of you to understand each other's core values and discover what motivates you and your partner to pursue these goals. 

Step 2: Prioritise Which Goals Matter 

The next step involves both of you deciding which goals to prioritize. Narrow down to three goals to focus on in the near future: one for both of you and one for each individual. For your team goal, it could be saving up for your wedding or buying a new home to start a family in. For the individual, it could be buying a watch or joining a club. Tip: If some of your partner's goals seem a little off track, now is the time to discuss the feasibility of achieving those goals. If you have any concerns about any of the goals, practice active listening and try to express your concerns to your partner in a respectful manner. Share your thoughts on why you believe the other goals are more important now. Remember that the goal of this conversation is to bring you together so that you can foster unity and work towards a common goal to strengthen your relationship. 

Step 3: Identifying and planning

Once you’ve narrowed down your priorities, talk about the resources you need to achieve your goals. 

For example, if you are trying to plan a vacation together, you will need to decide on your lodging, possibly transportation or airlines, and your itinerary, which could include shopping, cafe hopping, or visiting tourist attractions. 


Don’t forget to take into account non-financial factors such as applying for annual leave, and which month is best for your trip. For example, your partner may have a family tradition of celebrating Christmas together every year, which is a must-attend family event for your partner but may not be as important to you. The bottom line is that both of you will need to find a middle ground that you’ll both be happy with.


Step 4: Evaluating and Prototyping

The next step is to evaluate and prototype the scenario in which you both enjoy the goal or imagine how it might play out. You may discover that the resources are not worth the investment for those objectives.

However, you may discover that those things are far more important than you previously thought. 


Don’t skip out on this step because it will help you figure out whether it is really something both of you might want to work on. Assess the importance and feasibility of the objectives. Determine whether the resources spent on these goals are worthwhile and if they are consistent with your core values.

Step 5: Review and Adjust Your Strategy 

A couple reviewing their financial plan

The final step in this process is to review and adjust your strategy. Repeat Step 3 for each of your other goals, and keep in mind that this will not be a one-time discussion. It could be an ongoing conversation as you both grow in your relationship. Be patient, and take your time to understand each other's perspectives. Additionally, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and know that it’s alright if your strategy or goals change over time. 


For example, my partner and I had planned to buy a house, but after going through the process, we decided we wanted a property that we could personalise and truly make our own. So instead of rushing to buy an apartment or house, we decided to focus our efforts on investing in the hope that we can accumulate sufficient funds to buy our dream home. To add on, we are also in a stage of our lives where we want to explore our hobbies and do some travelling, we’d rather channel our financial resources to these things than rush into buying a home. As a result, we came to a point where we could maintain our happiness and financial health. It helped us to understand that while a beautiful home is something that we want, it’s not urgent enough for us to own it right now. And there are other goals that we could go for instead. 


Conclusion

So if you have the time, I encourage you to take the time off this weekend to talk about finances with each other. Talking with your partner about money is a continuous process of self-discovery and mutual understanding. It helps you become close with each other as well. Remember that it’s about finding what’s truly important to each of you and how you can support one another in achieving those dreams. You may even find yourself rediscovering your priorities. 


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