Sunday, May 26, 2024

How Couples Can Learn to Talk About Money

by Kathleen Burns Kingsbury
Kathleen Burns Kingsbury Kathleen Burns Kingsbury is a wealth psychology expert, founder of KBK Wealth Connection, and author of several books including How to Give Financial Advice to Women and How to Give Financial Advice to Couples. She serves on the CNBC Digital Financial Advisor Council and is a sought-after industry keynote speaker on the topics of women and wealth and advising couples. For more information, visit

Many people find discussing money to be awkward or complicated, but engaging in money conversations is an important skill to learn. For couples, managing money can be a stressful and emotional issue, with each party bringing their own viewpoints and anxieties. You may prefer to skip talking about money, but with a little bit of insight and training anyone can master financial conversations. Couples looking to examine their finances often find it best to agree on some ground rules prior to the discussion. Here a few tips that can help you have better conversations about money:

Be Respectful 

It is always important to treat the other person in the conversation with respect.  Listen actively (described below), do not interrupt, and refrain from using profanity or blaming language.

Use “I” statements 

Start the conversation with “I am concerned about X, Y, and Z,” not “You did X, Y, and Z.” It may feel like a subtle difference, but it will get both of you started off on the right foot.

Actively Listen

This type of listening involves paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal communication to find meaning in what your partner is saying.  Learning this technique takes time; however, with a little practice it is a very effective way of engaging in a money conversation.  The steps involved in active listening are:

  1. The speaker expresses an opinion.I think we should save more because we want to pay for the kids’ college and I fear if we don’t have an adequate savings fund that we will get into financial trouble.
  2. The listener then clarifies his or her perceptions of what is said.What I hear you saying is you want to save more to fund the kids’ college education and to feel safer.
  3. The speaker then restates essential points and ideas.Yes and to also fund an emergency savings fund just in case. This would make me feel more secure about our financial future.
  4. The listener then summarizes the content of the message to check validity and acknowledges the opinion and contribution of the speaker.You want to save more money for the kids’ college, to fund an emergency fund, and to feel more secure about our financial future.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

Practice Curiosity

Go into the conversation with a healthy dose of curiosity.  Pretend you are a scientist interviewing a subject for a research project.  Ask thoughtful questions to learn more about your partner’s viewpoint.  When you are truly curious you learn more and you are too busy wondering to pick a fight!

Don’t Try to Read Minds

It is important to ask your partner what his or her intentions are or were around spending, saving, gifting, or investing money and not assume you know.  You may make an educated guess but it will be based on your money scripts not your partners.  Jumping to conclusions and reading the other person’s mind can results in frustration and anger that is unproductive and often unfounded.  Do yourself and your partner a favor and don’t read minds. 

At the end of every financial discussion, make sure you build in a reward for taking this pro-active step toward wealth and wellness.  Coupling a positive experience with a money dialogue will reinforce that talking about money is an important and enjoyable experience.

Financial conversations can get emotional because money taps into our primitive sense of security in the world. Tread lightly and agree to disagree before you engage in a money dialogue. The goal is to understand each other’s viewpoint, to keep an open mind, and to lay the groundwork for more financial dialogues in the future.