Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Couples often come into a relationship with different attitudes toward spending and saving. While it might feel uncomfortable at first, talking about money with your partner is essential in building a strong relationship and can help avoid arguments, busted budgets and unmet goals down the road.

If you’re ready to tackle the money talk with your partner but don’t know where to start, use these five conversation starters to ease into the topic.

Conversation #1: What beliefs and attitudes towards money have we grown up with?

Before you leap into the more serious money talks, learn the stories behind your partner’s financial beliefs. This isn’t about deciding if either of you have money styles that are “good” or “bad.” It’s about gaining insight into both of your financial behaviours and beliefs by understanding how money was earned, spent, saved, and discussed as you were growing up. This will help to ensure your money discussions take place without judgement or criticism.

Conversation starters:

What was the greatest financial lesson you learned from your parents?

How did your parents talk about money?

What has been your greatest fear with your own finances?

Conversation #2: How are we doing with our expenses?

It can be a challenge to balance your financial needs with those of your partner, but it’s an important step in securing long-term financial success for your family. Make a list of recurring monthly expenses, those that are shared as well as individual expenses, and compare this to your cash inflow for the month. As you budget together, prioritize needs over wants and be clear about what should come first and why. A great way to do this is to sit down together and use a budget calculator.

Conversation starters:

What are we spending most of our money on these days?

Is there an opportunity to reduce our expenses? Which cuts will have the greatest impact on our ability to save?

Conversation #3: What are our financial goals and priorities?

Once you’ve examined your day-to-day habits, it’s time to think about the future. Discuss your financial goals and what you’re saving for. Prioritize your goals together, make them specific, measurable, and actionable, and identify a realistic time frame for achieving these goals.

Conversation starters:

What is our No. 1 financial priority this year?

At what age do we want to retire? How do we want to spend our retirement?

Do we want to pay for our children’s post-secondary education, or should they pay for some or all of it?

Conversation #4: When it comes to our financial future, what keeps us up at night?

On top of managing everyday expenses and bills, many couples also juggle competing financial goals. For example, while you may have saved early for your kids’ education, this may have compromised your retirement savings. Whatever it is that’s gnawing at you, it’s important to talk openly about it and discuss what steps you can take together to reduce that anxiety. Seeking the help of an advisor can go a long way in alleviating your fears. An advisor will take the time to discuss your money concerns, share strategies to help you take control of your financial situation and build an action plan to meet your financial goals.

Conversation starters:

Are we on track to meet our savings goals?

Do we have a plan to pay off our debt including our credit cards, line of credit, and mortgage?

If an emergency were to happen, are we financially prepared?

Conversation #5: What will happen to our finances and loved ones when we’re no longer around?

Confronting the possibility of a death or serious illness is uncomfortable but planning ahead can help you ensure your specific wishes are carried out. If you want to make sure your children are looked after in a certain way or want to leave a legacy to a specific charity, your estate plan can help make that happen. It’s important to make these decisions together and communicate your plan. An advisor can guide you in creating an estate plan and will engage the right experts to ensure your wishes are fulfilled.

Conversation starters:

How would we like to distribute our assets and to whom – for example, to our children, loved ones, and charities?

Has anything changed recently that requires us to update our will?

What happens to our family’s financial wellbeing if one of us gets sick? Who’s going to make important decisions for our children in the case of a death?

Ultimately, you need to be open and honest. If you’re not on the same page at first, try to understand each other’s point of view. In the end, the subject of money is like most everything else in relationships: it works best when you’re both involved and engaged, and it all comes down to communication.

Ready to have the talk? Connect with an advisor to help guide the conversation.


Advertising feature provided by CIBC. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

Interact with The Globe