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When to talk about money in a relationship

A couple in a relationship talks about money.
October 23, 2018

By Kathryn Pins

Talking about finances with anyone can be awkward. But like many things that are uncomfortable, sometimes when you open those lines of communication, you’ll find your relationship is stronger. Different conversations about money can happen at different times in a relationship. Every relationship is different, so go at your own pace. Just know that transparency is most important. So, shake off any fear that you may have about talking money, and let’s dive right in!

Dating: observe and discuss money attitudes and goals

When you first start out in a relationship, you’re learning a lot about each other in a short amount of time. This is a great time to start observing your significant other’s spending habits. When you observe what they spend and how much they spend, do some self-reflection. Are their spending habits similar to yours? Are you comfortable with their spending habits? Trust your gut reactions and emotions.

This doesn’t mean you should scrutinize or judge their spending habits. Simply observe at first. Have some conversations about what is important to them or what they like to spend money on. Let the conversation come naturally so you understand their spending habits and savings goals.

I’ve found that when I share my spending philosophy and savings goals, my significant other will feel comfortable sharing theirs. For example, early in a relationship, I was planning a trip abroad. I was able to explain that I had saved for this trip because I prefer to spend money on trips and experiences. I learned from that conversation that he had a savings goal to purchase a home. Because of that conversation, we were able to support each other’s financial goals early on in the relationship.

Serious relationship: serious step in your financial discussion

When you’re more comfortable with the person and trust them, you can start having some serious conversations about finances. Again, it’s best to embrace opportunities to have financial conversations as they arise. If you’re up for a review at work, seek your partner’s advice on salary negotiation. Use this opportunity to talk about income and salary goals. Don’t be afraid of transparency at this stage in a relationship.

If you have a concern based on your observations in the dating stage, bring it up in a kind, nonjudgmental way. Discuss your spending philosophy and how it might differ from theirs. Here are some tips on how to talk to your partner about finances.

As you progress in your relationship, find ways to talk about your debt and assets, income, credit scores and credit history. I find it helpful to frame these conversations as genuine learning opportunities. For example, we’ll share our credit scores and explore why they’re different even though we have similar histories.

Now it’s REALLY getting serious

Congratulations! You are now taking a big step in your relationship. You’re moving in together, getting married or purposely coupling. If there is something that you didn’t bring up previously, try not to delay. For example, if you have a mountain of student loan debt, share that information. Many of us have this kind of debt and your significant other could be helpful in figuring out how to refinance and pay off the debt.

I like to think of this stage as more of a nitty-gritty stage in a relationship when it comes to finances. At this stage, you’ll probably start talking about how you are splitting bills and if you’re combining finances. Figure out a fair way to split bills. Will the electric bill be split 50/50? Will you pay off the car while you spouse pays the rent? A friend of mine is in a relationship where their incomes are very different. They use a percentage system to pay for utilities, daycare and the mortgage. It is a method that really works for them because they don’t want to combine their accounts. Find what works for you by reading Managing Marital Finances.

Finances can get emotional, so honesty and transparency is key. When unexpected life events happen and the bills start piling up, remember you’re a team. Keep the lines of communication open. Sometimes it will take difficult conversations and negotiation, but you can both come out winners in the end.


Kathryn Pins is a marketing content specialist at Alliant. She’s passionate about finding and communicating meaningful financial information with Money Mentor readers. Kathryn is a saver who gets more excited about certificates and her Roth IRA than shopping. When she does spend her earnings, it’s on furthering her education, travel, unique experiences, and loved ones.