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4 Ways to Discuss Debt and Money With Your Partner

Avoid arguments and achieve your financial goals with these simple steps.

Medically reviewed in July 2022

Updated on October 27, 2022

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There’s an old bit of etiquette that says you shouldn’t discuss politics, religion, or finances with your friends. But what about your partner? Though you should ideally be able to cover money topics, discussing your family’s finances can range from easy, to awkward, to downright difficult. Case in point: About three in four married or cohabitating Americans reported finances as a major source of conflict in their relationships in a 2021 survey conducted by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. It’s clearly a tough topic of conversation for many of us.

Communicating your issues with debt, your savings status, and your financial goals is key to achieving your money objectives and maintaining an open, honest, and communicative relationship. Poor or weakened relationships have been linked to chronic stress, which can cause a host of problems in the body, ranging from depression, to cardiovascular disease, to reduced immunity. Being open isn’t just good for your bank account—it’s good for your health and wellness, too.

Not sure how to strike up money conversations? Keep the following points in mind.

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Start with your financial goals

Kick off the conversation with your short-term and long-term financial goals, and how you’ll achieve them as a team. Questions like Where do you want to be in five years? Or 25 years? How many children do you want? At what age do you want to retire? can establish a clear focus and path to accomplishing your money objectives. Having specific, distinct goals can also help you rein in unnecessary spending and start saving more.

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Discuss how your parents managed their money

Whether we like it or not, we adopt many of our parents’ behaviors—even the financial ones. Accordingly, discussing how your parents handled their money can help shed some light on your beneficial and problematic habits. Once you both understand each other’s backgrounds and tendencies, you can assess and reset. Keep up with the good customs—like contributing to a 401(k) or your savings every month—and ditch the pricey ones. (Goodbye, daily $5.00 coffee.)

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Don't fall into the "supposed to" trap

When it comes to your family’s finances, what you’re “supposed to” do is up to you and your partner. Many financial advisors (or well-meaning, albeit nosey relatives), for example, recommend merging your finances after marriage. If you don’t feel comfortable merging finances, don’t do it! If you want to keep your own separate savings account for special occasions, more power to you! The important thing is to figure out a system that works best for you and your partner. Be sure to ask lots of questions and consider all of your options before making any decisions.

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Review your finances and establish "tasks"

Once you’ve discussed your financial goals, it’s time to lay it out on the table—literally and figuratively. Sit down together and review all of your finances: debt, active credit cards, student loans, checking and savings accounts, retirement plans, and mortgages. Then, figure out how you’re going to tackle any debt and achieve your goals. That may mean you start keeping a highly detailed monthly budget, working with a financial advisor, or contributing more to your retirement plan.

No matter your game plan, it’s important to assign specific “tasks” or responsibilities to your partner and yourself. That way, no one feels left out of financial decisions and you can work towards your goals as a team.

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Just remember

Discussing your finances doesn’t have to be awkward or difficult. Being open and honest about any debt you may have, as well as your financial goals, can help set up you, your partner, and your family for a more comfortable future. Figure out the budgeting and savings techniques that work best for your family’s lifestyle and work together to stick to them.

Slideshow sources open slideshow sources

AICPA.org. Relationship Intimacy Being Crushed by Financial Tension: AICPA Survey. February 4, 2021.
StepChange.org. Talking to loved ones about your debt. Accessed October 27, 2022.
MoneyHelper.org (UK). Talking to your partner about money. Accessed October 27, 2022.
Miriam Caldwell. How To Communicate About Finances With Your Partner. The Balance. April 20, 2022.
Melinda Opperman. How to Talk to your Spouse About Debt. Credit.org. Accessed October 27, 2022.
American Psychological Association. Happy couples: How to avoid money arguments. 2015.

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