Wealth Planning

3 Strategies to Master Love and Money Together

February 14, 2024

3 Strategies to Master Love and Money Together

Do you recall that childhood rhyme we used to sing? ‘Romeo and Juliet sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G! First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.’ While love is undeniably wonderful, couples can strengthen their relationship by regularly engaging in candid discussions about money rather than jumping from one stage of their relationship to the next without these important conversations.

In my line of work, I find myself immersed in daily money conversations, both with clients and guests on our podcast, Money Tales. As a result, financial discussions are far from taboo in my world. This is precisely why I’m deeply passionate about helping our clients find productive ways to communicate about this crucial topic.

Just as constructing a house requires a sturdy foundation, building a secure financial future together necessitates intentional efforts and honest and open communication. As we celebrate love this Valentine’s Day, let’s also explore three key strategies for nurturing a thriving financial partnership and navigating common challenges that couples may face along the journey.

1. Talk about money to build a strong foundation

Talking about money may seem straightforward yet many people find it difficult. According to a recent study by Fidelity Investments®, more than one in four couples say money is their greatest relationship challenge. However, it’s crucial, much like ensuring a solid foundation when building a house to prevent future issues. Open and honest communication plays a vital role in establishing this foundation and reinforcing it over time. I encourage couples to regularly communicate about finances to foster understanding, empathy, trust and alignment of values. Here are some key components to consider:

  • Share experiences and be vulnerable: Sharing personal stories about money experiences can help deepen understanding and empathy between partners. A question to help get a conversation started is, “How was money handled in your home when you were growing up?” By building on this base and becoming more vulnerable and “financially naked” over time, couples can build a deeper connection and navigate financial opportunities and challenges with greater ease and resilience.
  • Active listening: Effective communication involves not only speaking your mind but also actively listening (i.e. listen to comprehend, not to talk next) to your partner’s perspective. Creating a space where both of you feel heard and valued is essential for building mutual trust and understanding. Here is a five-minute video from TED-Ed providing ways to improve your listening skills, which can help in discussions about money and love.
  • Focus on values and goals: Rather than solely focusing on financial transactions, prioritize discussions around shared values, purpose and long-term goals. Having a vision for your financial future will allow you, as a couple, to align financial decisions with overarching values and foster a sense of unity and purpose in your financial journey.
  • Set aside dedicated time: Intentionally schedule regular money conversations and designate time for constructive dialogue. Following these discussions with enjoyable activities or dates can reinforce positive communication habits and strengthen the bond between you.

2. Develop structure for your joint financial life

Once a foundation of open communication is established, couples can focus on structuring their financial arrangements to support their shared goals and responsibilities. Here are some considerations:

  • Combine your finances? Keep them separate? Or pursue both approaches? Determine how you’ll organize your finances as a couple. Since there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, take the time to determine what’s best for both of you and make tweaks when needed along the way. There are many factors to consider such as such personal preferences and feelings, income and net worth disparities and family obligations. I work with many couples who prefer to keep separate accounts so that they each feel empowered and in control of their money. Once you’ve determined the structure, establish clarity around how you’ll allocate financial responsibilities, make financial decisions and keep each other informed to ensure both of you stay on the same page.
  • Develop systems and clarity: Implement practical systems, such as titling accounts appropriately, establishing online access for both of you to joint financial accounts and establishing prenuptial agreements or cohabitation agreements if applicable. Regularly revisit and revise these arrangements as circumstances evolve and financial goals shift.
  • Seek professional guidance: Consider consulting with a financial advisor or planner to navigate complex financial decisions and gain unbiased insights. Professional guidance can help you customize your financial strategies to align with your unique circumstances and aspirations. Money coaches and therapists can be helpful too if one/both of you need help creating new habits or are emotionally stuck on a money matter.

3. Care for and protect one another

Every great structure has a roof to protect it, so make sure you and your partner care for and protect each other. Here are a few essential steps to protect your financial house:

  • Emergency preparedness: Set aside funds for emergencies and unexpected expenses to provide financial stability during challenging times.
  • Investment strategy: Develop a sound investment strategy tailored to your joint goals, risk preferences and time horizon. Regularly review and adjust your investment portfolio to adapt to changing market conditions and life circumstances.
  • Insurance and estate planning: Ensure adequate insurance coverage for various risks, including health, life, disability and property. Establish a comprehensive estate plan, including wills, trusts and beneficiary designations, to protect your assets and provide for your loved one and other VIPs in the event of an untimely death.

Love and money are interconnected aspects of any committed relationship. By prioritizing transparent communication, structuring your finances in support of your financial goals and safeguarding each other’s financial well-being, couples can build a resilient financial home together that supports your shared journey toward a fulfilling and prosperous life together. You’ll be able to navigate life’s challenges with confidence and unity. This isn’t just about managing money—it’s about cultivating trust, understanding and shared aspirations for a future together. Connect with us to better understand how to discuss your financial planning.

Sandi Bragar
Sandi Bragar

Chief Client Officer, Partner

Sandi is the Chief Client Officer at Aspiriant and leads our Planning, Strategy & Research team. The group is responsible for our state-of-the-art wealth planning platform that fosters intimate client relationships and helps families navigate the complex facets of their financial lives. Sandi also co-hosts our Money Tales podcast. Sandi joined Aspiriant in 1999 and became a partner of the firm in 2002.

Sandi began her professional career in 1993 at Ernst & Young, where she spent two and a half years as a senior tax consultant in the firm’s Personal Financial Counseling practice.

Sandi is a member of the Financial Planning Association and serves as a mentor in the Financial Planning Association’s Residency Program. She is also an active member of the Purposeful Planning Institute. Sandi has been frequently quoted in the media, including CNBC, Bloomberg TV and Radio, Fox Business News, Yahoo! Finance, The Wall Street Journal, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Among other accolades, Sandi has been named one of Forbes America’s Top Women Advisors and Best-In-State Wealth Advisors in 2021.

Sandi holds a B.A. degree in Business Economics from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She earned her Certified Public Accountant credential in 1996 and her Certified Financial Planner™ credential in 1999. Sandi is Treasurer of the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco.

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