Most people will talk about almost anything else before talking about their finances.

The best way to teach your kids about money is to share your own financial management details, but who wants their 10-year old blabbing about their income and debts to everyone at school?

And, unless you’re in a union-type job with a stepped wage scale, salary talk is discouraged by employers and uncomfortable for employees.  People don’t want to find out that they are earning less than their peers.

Why is that money conversation so difficult?

Love conquers all

Various estimates have pegged money issues as the driving force in 70 percent or more of divorces.  Yet most couples do not talk about money before they marry.

How do you mix love and money when you’re in the throes of romance with someone who has swept you off your feet?  It’s not enough to have a lot in common and enjoy each other’s company.

While I’m not suggesting asking for a credit score on the first date (maybe wait a few dates), there are indications of how the other spends right from the get go.

Related: Treating your marriage like a business (financially)

Does he always buy?  He may seem overly generous, but can he afford to treat every time?  Does she always look for the cheapest alternative?  Is this being frugal, or tightfisted?  Do you always end up paying for everything?  Is she selfish?  Misunderstandings and assumptions abound.

Keep an eye out for patterns and especially warning signs.  Don’t let red flags go.  Don’t try to be the saviour, “He’s made these mistakes in the past, but I’m here now, I can fix it.”

Have a conversation about how you see your future, financial and otherwise – next year, in 5 years, in 10 years.

Share your feelings, experiences and hopes about money.  Discuss how your parents dealt with money and what it meant to you when you were growing up.

Be honest about your feelings.  If you’ve always been independent, it may be difficult to share.  If you have more assets, you may fear risking your hard-earned money, or feel resentment over the other’s poor spending habits.  How will you deal with combining your finances?

Rethink the relationship if someone is unwilling to discuss money, or lies about their finances.

Don’t think it’s not your problem.  After marriage it does become your problem.

Equal partnership

Do you find it difficult to talk about money matters with your spouse?  Some couples have never had an in-depth conversation about what they want or what their expectations are.

Related: Joint or separate accounts? How should couples handle their finances

There can be power struggles if one spouse earns considerably more, especially if the wife out-earns her spouse.  Money pushes a lot of buttons for people – fear, anxiety, guilt and anger.

Don’t let financial issues come between you.

When only one partner handles the finances the other can be genuinely unaware of the real cost of living in the household.  Instead of issuing blame or finger pointing, give them a sense of what’s going on.

Some couples have monthly meetings to discuss their goals, planning decisions and the current status of debts and investments.

Does anything need to change in the budget?  Are any large expenses coming up?  How can we work as a family to make this happen?

Couples often tend to marry their financial opposites – saver vs. spender, risk taker vs. security conscious.

In the long run having different approaches can strengthen your finances and relationship, but only if differences are acknowledged and you’re both willing to negotiate.

You need to consider yourselves equal partners with equal say in money management and work together to come up with your plans.

Talking to parents – a touchy subject

When the dynamic changes between adults and their parents one of the toughest topics is related to money.

Related: Talking to your elderly parents about money

Parents may not be comfortable sharing financial details with you because of the barriers of pride and privacy.  But the more you know, the better you’ll be able to help them.

Set the right tone.  If you come on too strong your parents may think you’re trying to force them into a nursing home, or that you’re just after their money.  If you’re too timid you’ll be brushed off with, “Don’t worry, we’re fine.”

A good time to talk about financial arrangements is when you’re working on your own – will, power of attorney, health care directive, funeral arrangements.  Ask if they have taken care of these too.

If something has happened to a neighbour or the parents of one of your friends – illness, death, loss of savings – it can provide a good entry point for a discussion.

Use a story or recent headlines and talk about what you’ve read – frauds and scams, changes to CPP, investing and saving.

Ask if you can put everything in a binder for simplicity.  Help them consolidate accounts and have bills paid automatically and deposits paid directly to their account.

Offer to lighten their load.  Suggest taking over some financial responsibilities such as preparing their taxes.

Pull a credit report to make sure they’re keeping up with bills and are not victims of identity theft.

Many older parents assume they’ll take care of each other, or that you’ll take care of them.  They also don’t want to be a burden.

Related: Are you expecting an inheritance?

Respect your parents’ right to determine what they are willing or not willing to share.  Let them set the pace.  Always respect their preferences.  You can make suggestions, but not tell them what to do.

If you are sincere and concerned for their well-being they will be more open to and grateful for your assistance.

Final thoughts

There is still a very strong taboo around talking about money, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Volunteer your own feelings about a financial issue and it may encourage your partner, or parent, to do the same.


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