11 Financial Issues To Confront With Your Partner (And No, It Doesn't Have To Be Awkward)

Let's be honest — you could be as close as can be with your partner, but money is still sometimes just a downright awkward subject to broach. It's no secret that financial issues are one of the biggest roadblocks in a relationship and one of the most common reasons once-happy couples go their separate ways. In fact, Slater and Gordon Lawyers found, in a 2018 study, that as many as one in 10 married couples could break up because of money troubles. So, to give your healthy relationship the best chance of staying that way, it's pretty important you make sure you're on the same page with your partner if you're looking to be with them in the long term.

There are a number of ways you can bring up the subject of money without it being totally awkward and unproductive, though. As financial therapist Dr. Megan Ford explained to Well + Good, "Rather than approaching [money] interactions with any intention to correct, change, or convince, go into conversations with the mindset that you're there to learn."

With that in mind, here are some of the financial issues you should bring up with your partner to ensure you can go the distance. 

Talk debt

Debt may be one of the most awkward subjects to discuss with your partner, but it's also one of the most important. If you're starting to get serious with someone and even thinking about getting married or buying a house together, debt could affect their ability to contribute to any big purchases, as well as have an impact on your ability to get a joint mortgage. When it comes to debt, things can also get messy if you live in a community property state, as, in some cases, debts incurred after you tie the knot could become the responsibility of both spouses.

Not only that, but you could potentially find yourself liable for their financial obligations if you decide to put your money together and one of you has a poor credit score. For example, if you opened a joint credit card account with your significant other, you would both be liable for paying it off. So, if you're signing on the dotted line with someone who has a history of getting into debt, that's something you'll definitely want to know before putting down your signature and potentially risking your own credit score.

Get to the root of your spending habits

If you're struggling to understand why your partner handles money the way they do, or they can't comprehend your spending habits, it may be a good idea to get to know what their financial situation was like as a child — particularly if you find yourself on opposite ends of the spending spectrum. If they're a total spendthrift, while you very rarely make a frivolous purchase, talking about your financial past could be extremely useful in helping you establish a middle ground that works for you both, because there could be something from your past that's influencing splashing the cash or locking it up tight. 

As Megan Ford explained to Well + Good, many people are influenced by the way their parents or caregivers spent money — and they may not even realize it! Some people may hold on to every penny because they didn't have financial stability growing up, or others may be frivolous because they never really learned the value of a dollar. Working out why things are the way they are will make it easier to comfort your partner and identify what you can do to stabilize your finances while still having the fun you deserve.

But regardless of whether your attitudes towards money are learned behavior, better understanding each other's spending mentality will give you a better perspective of what the future looks like when it comes to your finances as a couple.

Decide if you need help from a professional

But what are you supposed to do if you can't find a middle ground? If you talk through your spending habits and find you're still on very different pages when it comes to your financial plans and preferences, with no hope of compromise, it may be time to turn to a professional for help. Enlisting the help of a financial planner as an impartial third party could help you to see things from another perspective while giving you the resources to strike the right balance for you both — potentially sidestepping any of those relationship-ruining money arguments. 

Heading into couples therapy could also help you both get a better understanding of why you feel the way you do about money if you're struggling between yourselves to really get to the root of your money issues.

Being so open with one another is a great way to keep your relationship strong. As Jake Northrup, a CFP with Experience Your Wealth explained,  it could be something the two of you do on a monthly basis. He even suggested making a fun date night-esque event out of it, so it becomes something you start really looking forward to, rather than inspiring a monthly feeling of dread. "Try to make it fun: Get out of the house, have a glass of wine, and reflect upon your finances for the past month," he told Insider.

Prepare for a prenup

If you're preparing to head down the aisle with someone, it's always a good idea to work out if you or your partner would like to create a prenuptial agreement (aka a prenup), should you go your separate ways. Though you've probably heard the term multiple times when it comes to celebrity splits, a prenup is for us mere mortals too. It defines exactly how the money and assets accrued in the marriage will be divided up in the case of a divorce.

It may not sound like the most romantic concept, and, let's be honest, it isn't the most lovey-dovey thing in the world, but don't let the potential awkwardness stop you, especially if making sure you're financially protected in any situation is important to you. Speaking to Insider, finance author Michele Lowrance recommended choosing the right time to bring the concept up, while always framing the chat as a proper back-and-forth conversation, not just a list of demands. She also suggested being clear about why you want the prenup and what you want from it, and broaching the subject more than once (always in a calm manner) if your partner isn't overly receptive the first time. 

On the flip side, if it's your partner that wants the prenup and you don't, think long and hard about why it's so important for them and if it's something you're willing to compromise on before you sit down with them.

Decide on your divide

It's important early on in your relationship to get an idea of what you and your partner consider to be a fair division of the finances, particularly if you're planning to live together or already do. For example, one of you may decide to pay for the everyday expenses, like groceries, while the other may prefer to be responsible for the bigger expenditures, like the mortgage. If you're more comfortable with a regimented check on exactly who's spending what, you may prefer to keep a list of exactly what's been spent week to week or month to month and then split that between you.

Remember, though, that a fair divide may not always mean 50/50, and what works for one couple may not always work for another. For example, if you earn a lot more than your partner, you may have no issue contributing a little more financially to keep the household running. The same could be said if you have (or plan to have) children, as one of you may feel more comfortable putting in a little more financially while the other puts a little more time into childcare.

The most important thing, though, is that you clearly communicate with your partner what you're willing to contribute and what you expect them to contribute. It may also be beneficial to get your financial agreement down in writing so you both know exactly what's expected of you.

Work out your will

Although it's not the lightest conversation you can have with your partner, knowing where you and other family members stand in their will could potentially save everyone from a lot of drama further down the line. Sadly, when emotions are high and potentially life-changing sums of money are on the line, things can sometimes get frosty fast. Being aware of each other's wills can prevent future falling outs. 

Knowing exactly what your partner plans to leave to you and vice versa will also make planning for the future a little easier should the worst happen, even potentially allowing your partner to act as your mouthpiece to ensure your financial wishes are properly carried out. You may even want to make your partner the executor or administrator of your will, or, if not, tell them exactly who you have chosen to minimize any surprises later down the line.

There's also the option of creating a joint will with your partner, which comes in handy for couples (or any two people who want one) if they have a similar collection of assets they want to go to each other when one passes away. The best part? You don't even have to be married to create one, making it perfect if you're in a solid relationship but have no plans to head down the aisle.

Back yourself with a backup plan

Though we always want to hope for the best, it's never a bad idea to plan for the worst — just in case. In this scenario, you'll want to chat to your partner about the many what-ifs in life, so you both know where you stand should you find yourselves in need of a little extra financial support. 

For example, if one of you had to take some unpaid leave from work due to a personal issue like bereavement or health, would the other person be willing or able to lend financial support? If so, how long could they feasibly keep the household running in the way you've both become accustomed to? This may be a particularly important conversation for you both to have if one of you has health issues that may stop you from working at short notice, or if one of you is self-employed and can have sporadic income.

Determining this early will help you both be able to make better decisions when it comes to things like insurance, and such honest conversations also have the potential to bring you closer as a couple. Remember, though, that neither of you should feel pressured to support the other if you physically can't or don't feel comfortable doing so. Responses to this kind of conversation might help you better understand if this really is the person for you.

Find out if a joint account is for you

While some couples may want to pool their money together into a joint account, others may prefer to keep their finances totally separate. Even if you live together and have the same bills, you may want to pay for different amenities separately from your own accounts and keep things totally detached. Other couples may prefer to have a joint account from which all their joint bills are paid. 

If the latter sounds like you, there are a few different ways of setting up joint finances. You could both have your earnings go straight into a joint account while still keeping your individual ones (which you could keep topped up with regular or one-off transfers from the joint account). Or, you may prefer to keep your incomes linked to your solo accounts, moving a set amount into your joint account every month.

If you do decide to pool your finances, set clear boundaries about how much each of you should (ideally) be spending. "If it's our money, there needs to be agreed-upon rules about how our money is addressed. There is no room for hypocritical judgment for discretionary spending, which leads to conflict," Matthew Gaffey, a CFP with Corbett Road Wealth Management, told Insider. What works for you and your partner is completely up to you two, but, whatever you decide, you need to make sure you're both on the same page and know your boundaries.

Get budgeting

No matter how you decide to keep your money, whether it's separately or together, one of the best ways to ensure you both have enough is to budget together. Sitting down and working out exactly how much you need to spend on everything — from groceries, to insurance, to bills (if you're living together) — will make sure you both know, in no uncertain terms, where you stand when it comes to money. This could also be a good time to set expectations on how much you spend on things like gift-giving between you both and for other people, to make sure there are no unwanted surprises in your finances.

Judith Ward, senior financial planner and vice president of T. Rowe Price Associates, told Forbes that couples budgeting together should also plan for the big, rare purchases as well as the more everyday expenses. That way, if, you're planning a dream vacation, even if it seems like it will take years of saving, you'll stand a better chance of getting there one day, especially if you put it in your budget from day one. "Build your savings goals into the budget and you're more likely to achieve your goals. Understand the money that's coming in and how you're spending it. And maybe how you're going to be spending it in the future so you can figure out what's going to be best for your household," he said.

Don't make spending a secret

One of the best ways to keep money from ruining your relationship is by not hiding it. If you feel like you have to be secretive about what you're spending or you've found your partner has been making big expenditures they haven't told you about, that's an issue you need to address. As Michelle Perry Higgins, principal of California Financial Advisors, said to Forbes, "So many couples are hiding money or debt or charges and then the spouse finds out and it's war in their marriage."

To combat those pesky money arguments, be as open and honest as possible with your partner about your spending habits and, if you're the one worried about the rate your other half is going through cash, create a safe space where they can talk to you about it without judgement. If, for whatever reason, you don't feel like you can speak to your partner about something so important, or they feel they can't talk to you, that may be a major red flag for your relationship. 

"Very often there are issues with these topics because people are afraid of being judged or being put in a corner. You keep the silence but you have a lot of thoughts and feelings that don't go away. And when you go silent, problems will always grow," psychologist Linn Heed told The Guardian.

Get your retirement priorities in order

Making sure you and your other half are both planning for the future means you'll actually be able to enjoy your future together — even if it seems a long way off! Though you need to respect your partner's choice when it comes to how much they're setting aside for their pension, putting similar amounts (work permitting) aside for your retirements will only benefit both of you in the long run, ensuring you can do all the things you're looking forward to in your golden years.

As Scott Ferguson, a wealth advisor for the Abundant Life Group at Thrivent, admitted, most people are more likely to want to chat about their vacation saving plans over their retirement saving plans. But by getting on the same page, you both will be able to ensure all those years of work are going towards spending your golden years together. You can do this by finding out things like when your partner plans to retire (and if that lines up with your timeline), what they want to do when they stop working (and how that could affect you if you have to continue working for a few more years), and if they're interested in creating a pension plan with you. 

Some financial planners also advise retiring separately to increase your benefits as a couple, so deciding who will retire first and when is always worth thinking about.