Discussing money management with your partner isn’t known for igniting romantic passion. But, according to many therapists, communicating effectively about money is actually one of the keys to a healthy relationship, and one far more romantic than the alternative.
“When couples can talk in a healthy way about money, it lays the groundwork for romance,” says Alexandra Solomon, a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University. “It’s really hard to feel romantically drawn together when there’s this pile of unspoken stuff.”
In fact, according to Fidelity Investments’ 2015 Couples Retirement Study, while 3 in 4 couples say they communicate very well about money, 43 percent (up from 27 percent in 2013) couldn’t even correctly identify how much their other half makes.
Some 10 percent of respondents were off by at least $25,000, “so we’re not talking about a small amount of money here,” says Kristen Robinson, senior vice president of women and young investors at Fidelity Investments.
In part, that is due to a changing economy in which more people increasingly earn money based on projects or contracted work, on commission, or largely tied to success of their company’s overall performance, Robinson says.
A mutual understanding of available resources and agreement about financial resource allocation is the first step in communicating and planning a future together, analysts say.
Rachael Mangoubi, vice president at Mesirow Wealth Advisors, requires new clients to answer a questionnaire together about their plans for managing money and planning for their futures. She also recommends couples meet, with or without an advisor, once a month or quarterly to reconnect about finances and avoid end-of-the-year “surprises.”
It’s also important to keep in mind that life happens and plans change. Couples might decide to have more children, one spouse might want to retire earlier than initially thought, and unplanned events can jeopardize financial security. Organized discussions about financial planning should happen frequently enough to address new realities and dreams.
“Then, when you do achieve your goals, that’s something that you did together as a team and that feels really good,” Fidelity’s Robinson says.
An effective communicator in any setting will try to understand where their counterpart is coming from, and that strategy should apply to discussions of money, as well. For example, a person who grew up amid financial instability might be more likely to be a saver.
“It’s important to factor in a spouse’s background, and how that figures in to their decision-making,” Mangoubi says.
So, if you’re seeking some long-lasting romance with your spouse, grab a bottle of wine, light some candles, and hunker down with this couples quiz about financial compatibility.
More from Make It Better: