If you want your relationship to last, you’re going to have to talk to your partner about money at some point, and if that scares you, you’re not alone. A 2014 Wells Fargo survey found that 44% of Americans consider personal finance the most challenging subject to discuss with others, and according to a 2021 survey by Fidelity, nearly 40% of couples who live together don’t even know how much money their partner makes. But avoiding conversations about money doesn’t make relationships any easier, especially when you consider that financial problems are a leading cause of divorce. For a healthy, happy partnership, you’ll have to get financially naked together before you can take your relationship to the next level, whether that’s moving in together or marriage.
Here are ten questions you should ask your partner about money. Make sure you share your answers with them, too.
If your partner is a big spender and you’re pinching pennies to save for retirement, that could cause conflict down the line. Understanding your partner’s spending habits and learning what they’re willing to compromise will help you effectively manage your money together in the future.
We learn our money mindsets from the people who raised us, and our families’ lessons aren’t always healthy or accurate. Ask your partner how their parents or role models talked about money. This will give you some context for the financial decisions they’re making now. Talking about your earliest financial lessons together can also help you identify and interrupt false beliefs or harmful financial patterns you may have picked up in your youth.
The unfortunate truth is that most people have debt in the form of student loans, credit card debt, mortgages, car payments, and more. While some forms of debt are ultimately useful, having debt still impacts a person’s ability to save, invest, plan vacations, and make non-essential purchases. If your partner currently has debt, ask them if and how they’re paying it off. You won’t inherit your partner’s debt if you get married. However, if you live in one of the nine community property states, you and your spouse will both be liable for debts incurred during your marriage, so it’s a good idea to get on the same page about debt management.
Does your partner want to move into a nicer apartment next year or go on vacation this summer? Are they saving for retirement? Do they hope to own a home, start a family, save up for gender confirmation surgery, or pay off their credit card debt by a specific date? If your partner is setting financial goals — even small ones — that’s a sign that they’re managing money responsibly.
Budgeting can be stressful, and it can feel even more daunting for LGBTQ people, since we tend to earn less money than straight, cisgender workers. If your partner sticks to a budget, ask them about their budgeting tools. Do they use a spreadsheet or budgeting app? Do they break their monthly budget down into categories? Understanding how your partner budgets and sharing your own budgeting practices will help you determine if and how you’ll manage your money together.
Does your partner send money to a family member or friend? Are they currently paying child support? If you’re planning to pool your finances with a partner, you need to know if you’ll be supporting anyone outside of the relationship.
Would your partner rather eat beans and rice at home so they can dine at fancy restaurants on the weekends? Do they invest in their living space, or do they opt for cheap rent so they can splurge on excursions? Are they generous with their donations to organizations or friends in need? You might know the answers to these questions based on your own observations, but some of your partner’s spending and saving habits might surprise you.
Couples manage money in wildly different ways. Does your partner believe you should have a joint bank account now or in the future? Would they prefer to discuss big purchases together before making them? Learning more about your partner’s expectations will help you agree on a plan for your future financial management.
This question is for couples who are already in long-term relationships, and it comes from renowned couples therapist Esther Perel. Presenting these “what if” scenarios can help you understand just how specific and transparent your partner expects you to be when it comes to spending.
Does your partner have an emergency fund? If not, do they have friends and family who could offer financial help? Would they expect financial help from a partner? Your partner's emergency plan (or lack thereof) will tell you a lot about how they manage money, and it might inspire you to create a plan together.