How To Have The Money Talk With Your Spouse When You’re The Breadwinner

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Feb. 27 2024, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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If you find yourself bringing home the bacon (and frying it up in the pan) while your partner’s income sizzles at a lower heat, you may have encountered the infamous “money talk” dilemma—that heart-to-heart where you discuss the details of your finances with your significant other. Simply put, it can be about as fun as a root canal. 

First, let’s address the elephant in the room—that gender stereotype about men being the primary earners. In almost 30% of opposite-sex marriages, women are now equal-earners, and 26% of Black wives earn more than their spouses.

The money talk can be a tough topic to broach when you earn more, especially if you were taught to keep your finances close to the vest. But it’s crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship. Here are a few tips to make these vulnerable conversations as painless and peaceful as possible:

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1. Set the stage.

Choose a time when you’re both relaxed and not amid a heated argument about whose turn it is to do the dishes. Maybe over a cozy dinner or during a rainy weekend in the house – wherever you both feel comfortable and open to discussion.

Lay all your cards on the table – income, expenses, debts, savings, the whole shebang. And don’t be afraid to reveal your fears and financial insecurities in this conversation. Transparency builds trust, and trust is the foundation of any successful relationship.

2. Listen up.

Communication is a two-way street, so make sure to listen as much as you talk. Your money mindset may differ from theirs and it’s important to understand where they’re coming from. Encourage your partner to share their thoughts, concerns, and financial goals. This is a dialogue, not a monologue.

What may seem like fun and innocent indulgences like daily Starbucks trips and scratch-off tickets could actually lead to bigger financial conflicts in your relationship, so it’s important to be honest about your spending habits and money mindset.

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3. Set common goals.

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Discuss your shared financial goals and aspirations. Whether it’s buying a house, having children, traveling the world, or retiring early, ensuring that you have a common vision will keep you both in sync with your future selves and avoid financial conflicts.

4. Divide and conquer.

Determine how you’ll manage your finances together. Will you pool your salaries into a joint account or keep separate accounts for personal expenses? Find a system that’s comfortable and works for both of you.

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5. Plan for the future.

Don’t forget about the bigpicture. Discuss your long-term financial plans, such as retirement savings, investments, and insurance. If you’re in a long-term relationship but not yet married, it’s a good idea to discuss how you’ll be distributing your assets and financially protecting one another if, sadly, something were to happen to either of you. 

6. Seek professional help if needed.

If you’re struggling to find common ground or need help with complex financial matters, don’t hesitate to seek advice from a financial planner or counselor. They can help you talk through any issues, build a strategy, or counsel through challenges.

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By: Carri Helman

Carri is a recovering long-term corporate employee turned freelance copywriter. Although she earned a degree in business and spent almost 20 years in automotive manufacturing and quality engineering, she knew the 9-to-5 corporate grind wasn’t her final destination and launched her copywriting business in 2021. Carri is also a multiple myeloma care partner and advocate, working closely with global organizations and pharmaceutical companies like the International Myeloma Foundation and Pfizer. She is also the content manager and editorial director for the nonprofit Health, Hope, 𝄞 Hip-Hop, which focuses on health equity in underserved communities.

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