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How to have a heartfelt chat about money during the month of love

How to have a heartfelt chat about money during the month of love
Choose the right moment to discuss finances with your partner and take the time to understand each other's attitudes towards money. (Photo: iStock)

While many will have celebrated love this week on Valentine’s Day, money matters may have been the furthest thing from their minds. However, the month of love and romance could also be an opportune time to initiate a heartfelt conversation about finances and money management.

Stats SA reports that there were 18,208 divorces in South Africa in 2021, up 13% from the year before. While local statistics don’t drill down into the causes of divorce, Forbes Advisor says that 24% of divorces are related to financial stress.

Certified financial planner Holly Donaldson says money is the third-most-frequent topic of marital arguments, after chores and children. But it doesn’t have to be. Don’t try to launch into the topic straight off the bat.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Marital contracts: Laying down the law to Cupid

Pick your moment

The morning rush, or the day before a frantic work deadline might not be the best time for this conversation. When you do find the right moment, bring up the fact that couples should be able to discuss their finances and casually mention that you hope you are a couple that can do so without conflict. You’ve planted the seed. Give your partner some time to get used to the idea before you suggest a time and place to have the “money talk”.

Pick a neutral venue so neither one of you feels cornered or vulnerable.

One of the things you need to discuss initially is your respective attitudes to money and where they come from. For example, one of you may be a big spender because they have never had to worry about money, while you might be a hoarder because you know what it’s like to live on very little money. This is important because you will walk away with an understanding of why the other person makes different money choices and you can be more tolerant of each other.

Stian de Witt, certified financial planner and executive head of financial planning at NMG Benefits adds that money affects many of the major choices you and your partner will make. Are you going to buy a house, and where? Where do you want to send your kids to school? What cars do you want to buy? When do you want to retire?

“By setting aligned and common financial goals, defining individual responsibilities, and establishing a budget, couples can build a foundation for relationship and financial success,” says De Witt.

Starting points for your money talk 

  • Agree on a “maximum spend” amount that must be discussed with the other partner before a purchase is made. For example, a maximum discretionary spend of R2,000. Any purchases over this amount have to be agreed on by both partners. It might be annoying but it will avoid conflict when you bring home that expensive set of golf clubs.
  • Align your financial goals and decide what you want to achieve in the short, medium and long term.
  • Decide if you are going to have a joint account, separate accounts with one joint account, or entirely separate accounts. Maybe you want to split all expenses 50/50, or a different split based on how much each partner earns. You might choose to have one partner handle “big finances” such as the bond instalment or rent and investments while the other handles “small finances” such as the weekly groceries and running the household. Whatever you decide, make sure you are both happy with the split so that there is no simmering resentment on either side.

Once you’ve opened up the discussion, remember to check in with each other regularly so that you stay on the same page. Money, like most things in relationships, requires an ongoing conversation, trust and honesty. DM


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