More couples fight about money -- 70%, according to a MONEY survey -- than about household chores, togetherness or sex. One big problem is that many couples have money conversations amid a heated argument. That’s a big mistake.
Instead, set aside a specific time and place to for an opening conversation about the dreaded topic. Try to reduce emotions by setting some ground rules. No judgments, for instance -- just open dialogue. And commit at the outset to sharing financial information, like outstanding debt or any secret bank or investment accounts that may be floating around.
You also need to make sure that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to financial priorities. Lay out your existing ideas about retirement and college planning and discuss your cash flow management.
Split Responsibilities, Share Info
Then, either as part of that conversation or soon after, develop a plan that lets you divide financial responsibilities but share information. Work toward each partner’s strength.
If one enjoys managing spreadsheets and tracking money flow, perhaps that one should manage the day-to-day bill paying. If the other is more inclined to manage the investments, that’s fine. No matter how you allocate the tasks, make sure both of you understand and agree on the game plan.
You also need to have a systematic plan for revisiting it periodically. Even if one spouse is completely uninterested in your investment plan or other financial details, set up quarterly meetings to go through your most recent statements. Start with the overall objective -- even something like, “we have a balanced portfolio, which means that we split the risk between stocks and bonds” -- and make sure that you explain the different parts of the statement itself.
Often, one person is more comfortable with investing risk than the other -- setting up a conflict over your shared investing strategy. This is not an argument one of you should try to “win” -- but it's one reason to consider working with a professional financial adviser, who could help you determine what level of risk is appropriate, given your shared goals and objectives.