Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • February 2018
Written by 

Caring couples communicate about money

In February we take a break from winter’s icy grip to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Some of the most popular gifts include cards, candy, flowers and an evening out. What do you like to receive? While most people agree it’s important to express love on Valentine’s Day, people sometimes disagree about what they like to receive.

Disagreements are common too when it comes to money. Couples often have different financial priorities and goals. Here are some simple strategies couples can use to communicate more effectively about money.

Set joint goals

Talk about what is coming up in your lives. For example, talk about planning a warm, sunny summer vacation. Also talk about your long-term goals like saving for college and when you want to retire. What will retirement look like? Where will you live? When do you want to retire? If you want to retire at a young age, you may need to save aggressively to make that happen.

Review your long-term goals before making large purchases, like buying a new car. The new car smell wears off, but the car payments usually last for years. The average cost of a new car today is more than $30,000, and payments of $500 and more a month are common. That’s $500 plus a month going toward a depreciating asset and not toward your retirement. Don’t hijack your long-term plans making a large impulsive purchase you’ll regret.

Don’t blame

Don’t blame one person for doing all the spending. Usually both people spend more than they realize.

Spending money

To minimize blaming, each partner should receive some personal spending money every payday that can be spent on anything. You have freedom to spend this money spontaneously without judgment.

Talk through disagreements

When you disagree, get it out in the open and talk about it. Patient communication and compromise can help you resolve disagreements and identify choices both people can live with.

Plan for the unexpected

Unexpected expenses and low savings can strain relationships. Work toward having at least three to six months of living expenses in an emergency savings account. To boost your savings, talk with your bank or credit union about setting up automatic monthly payments from your checking account to your emergency savings account.

If you don’t have a significant emergency fund, use your tax refund to jump-start your savings. You’ll sleep better knowing you are prepared for the proverbial rainy day.

Keep debt low

Many couples disagree about how much debt they are comfortable carrying. While an affordable home can be a good long-term investment, it’s seldom wise to carry credit card debt. If debt is a concern, work toward reducing it. Don’t take on more debt unless you both genuinely agree.

It’s about balance

Managing money wisely isn’t just about putting numbers on a spreadsheet. Often there isn’t enough money to buy everything we want and save aggressively for retirement. We must talk through our needs and wants and balance competing priorities.

Valentine’s Day is a great time to express love for others. It’s also timely to reflect on how we can make our relationship even better and communicate more effectively about money.

Alan Prahl

Alan Prahl is the Education Leader with FISC, the Financial Information & Service Center. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and law degree from Hamline University. A nonprofit program of Goodwill NCW, FISC provides financial counseling and coaching, including a no-cost, no obligation 30-minute consultation with the “counselor on call.” To learn more, call 920-886-1000 or visit

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