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Tax Season 101

10 Money Conversations Everyone Should Have

Essential talks to have with your spouse, your kids, and your parents.

By Walecia Konrad
Illustration of people talking about moneyWesley Bedrosian

Conversations to Have With Your Spouse


Where Does All Our Money Go?

Why it’s important: If you don’t know where it goes, you could end up running low, not to mention straining your relationship. “Financial issues are the number one reason I see couples divorcing,” says Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist and the author of Emotional Fitness for Intimacy ($11, amazon.com). The biggest marriage-buster among them? Over-spending. “Oftentimes a spender marries a saver,” says Goldsmith. “They need to master the art of compromise, and if they don’t, their relationship can quickly get complicated.”

The ideal time to talk: Yesterday, says Goldsmith. Every couple needs to have this discussion. Even if your finances seem to be in good shape, you should check in regularly in case priorities change or debt sneaks in unnoticed.

What to do first: Suggest to your spouse that the two of you―together―keep a monthlong spending journal that tracks personal and household expenses.

How to bring it up: When the month is over and it’s time to talk, focus on your feelings rather than his actions, says Puhn. Something like “Honey, I will sleep better if I know that our finances are in order” takes any judgment out of the discussion and offers your spouse a concrete way to work with you and make you happy. Then use the spending journal to help you both look for ways to stay on budget, cut back spending, or save more. It’s also a good time to create a list of long-term savings goals.

Do We Need to Change Who Does What?

Why it’s important: Let’s face it: It’s rare and not always practical for couples to share equally in day-to-day financial duties. If the balance gets out of whack or if you’re juggling tasks that you don’t understand, then bills could be missed, credit scores could suffer, and, again, resentment and conflict may ensue.

The ideal time to talk: Some time before you feel like yelling, “Must I do everything around here?!”

What to do first: Compile a list of every financial decision that is made or task that is performed in your household, from paying the gas bill to reallocating your 401(k) investments.

How to bring it up: Suggest holding a monthly household-business meeting. When you talk about money at an appointed time, tempers stay in check and work gets done, says Goldsmith. At the first one, go over your list and reassign responsibilities more evenly and appropriately. Repeat as necessary.
 
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