IN AN EFFORT to understand each other’s financial background, my fiancée and I began holding a money date night. These finance-focused conversations started out slowly. But they’ve become our way to talk about money and our future together.
As a financial planner, I don’t want to dominate the financial side of our lives. I believe household finances should be managed together and not individually. We view this date night as an opportunity to learn about our individual feelings toward money and what our goals are. Having a chance to voice our beliefs around this sensitive topic has brought us closer together.
Want to try it yourself? A money date night might sound like a tedious, painful experience. But done right, it can be a fun and engaging way to connect with your partner or spouse.
It’s important for both partners to have an idea of the family’s finances—not least because misunderstandings over money are among the most common reasons for divorce. What does a money date night look like? This isn’t meant to be a full-on financial planning session. Instead, the conversation should remain light. There will be a review of the family’s financial goals, the previous month’s spending and a look at any upcoming out-of-the-ordinary expenses.
Before the money date begins, update the family balance sheet—the list of all your assets and debts—and pull together a cash flow statement showing how much income you receive each month and where it goes. This should be done beforehand, so you don’t waste time that could be spent talking.
To start the money date, grab your beverage of choice. Find a comfortable spot to sit, where you can have an uninterrupted discussion. This would also be a good moment to put phones in another room and turn the television off.
Your family’s financial goals are a great way to open the conversation. This is a chance to discuss any dreams or ambitions you’ve had recently. To avoid getting too deep in the weeds, stick to the top three goals—and make them as specific as possible. Some examples:
A review of last month’s financials should be discussed next. Did you spend less than you made? What expenses surprised you? How much money did you put in investment accounts? This should be viewed as an opportunity for both parties to get on the same page, especially if one partner handles the family’s finances.
Finally, talk about the irregular expenses you see on the horizon, such as vehicle maintenance, weddings to attend, medical procedures and home remodeling projects. What can you do today to budget for these pending financial needs? You might set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to a designated savings account, so you have cash to handle these unexpected costs.
How often should you have a money date night? I favor doing them monthly—or quarterly at a minimum. If you do it any less often, the family’s finances may get off track—and there’s a greater risk of financial misunderstandings.
Ross Menke is a certified financial planner and the founder of Lyndale Financial, a fee-only financial planning firm in Nashville, Tennessee. He strives to provide clear, concise advice, so his clients can achieve their life goals. His previous blogs include Slow Going and Flying Solo. Follow Ross on Twitter @RossVMenke.