10 Financial Expectations To Setup in Your Relationship

communication financial intimacy Aug 18, 2021

It’s important to set and agree upon financial expectations in your relationship upfront.

Having a meaningful discussion about money and your financial expectations can go a long way toward creating more financial intimacy with your partner.

When you set financial expectations from the beginning there’s no need for confusion down the line. Plus, it greatly reduces money fights in the future. 

Set expectations together

Setting up financial expectations with your partner can take a variety of forms. There are many financial expectations that should be discussed with your partner. 

Examples include: 

  • Does one party want to stay home with the kids while the other works full-time? 
  • Do you want to retire early? 
  • Would you like to invest in property and have this fund your retirement? 

By setting clear expectations early on, you'll both feel better about your situation.

The important thing is to communicate your financial expectations together and to agree upon shared goals. 

So the first step toward setting up financial expectations is to decide on the expectation that you will both establish these expectations together. 

Your Financial Personality

Now comes the fun part - figuring out who you are when it comes to managing money. 

You may not realize it yet but there are three main types of people when it comes to handling money. Let's call them: The Spender, The Saver, and The Stasher. 

Each type will handle money differently so pay attention to the following descriptions.

Spenders tend to blow all of their money quickly without thinking about whether they need anything or not. 

Savers also spend everything they earn before saving any of it. But unlike spenders, savers usually don't feel bad about it because they've been taught to believe that having less than a certain number in the bank is not safe. So a saver may feel that as long as they have $10,000 in the bank and a certain amount in their retirement fund that they can spend as much as they want. 

Stashers hoard money rather than spending it. These folks rarely ever seem to be able to afford things even though they work hard. And while stashing money might sound nice, it actually makes it harder to build wealth. This is because this type may find it scary to invest. 

It’s important that you each identify what type of money personality you have so that you understand the expectations you each have about your finances. 

Discuss your lifestyle choices together

When you get married, you will probably start living under the same roof. This means that you'll share many expenses such as rent or mortgages, utilities, food, etc. If you haven't discussed all of these costs together yet, now is the time to do so. You'll find that there are quite a few items that you didn't consider sharing until you were already committed.

For instance, perhaps one of you likes gourmet items from the grocery store whereas the other person always buys the budget brand. 

Maybe one of you likes to entertain frequently or take friends out for dinner whereas the other is more frugal and doesn’t like to spend money on these types of things. 

Perhaps your partner likes flashy things like designer brands or new cars whereas you find that they’re a waste of money. 

Or maybe you have a desire to travel the world while your partner wants to invest and try to retire early. 

When you get clear about what your expectations are in terms of the lifestyle you’ll live you’ll benefit both you and your future partner. 

These discussions are a great way to ensure that you don't run into any surprises later down the road. 

Debt

Many people live paycheck to paycheck and never save enough money to get out from under their debt. They end up constantly taking on more debt in order to finance the lifestyle they wish to lead. 

When you become a couple it’s important to be in agreement on how debt should be handled. 

This includes both how you’ll handle your current debt including a plan for paying it off. 

However, it also includes a plan for how you’ll manage future debt, like mortgages or new credit card debt. 

It can be important to come to an agreement about how much debt you’re comfortable carrying and what types of purchases are worthy of accruing debt over.

For example, you might be comfortable taking on debt for education but not debt for luxury items like a new boat. 

This is an important expectation to negotiate with your partner upfront. 

Money Management

How you manage money is an important financial expectation. 

People manage their money in wildly different ways. Some people stay on top of every transaction and reconcile their bank account each month. Other people don’t pay much attention and tend to stick their heads in the sand. 

Although it’s highly recommended to be attentive to your finances and your books, what’s more important is to get on the same page with your partner about how you’ll handle your finances before one doesn't have your financial expectations met

One way to do this is to set aside 15 minutes twice a week to review your spending habits.

This might mean going through your bank statements line by line looking for errors. Or it can mean taking a few moments to look back over the past 3 months and see if you spent too much on certain categories such as dining out, entertainment, etc. 

The important thing is to have open communication about how you manage your money. 

Then ask yourself why your spending habits are this way.

Were these purchases necessary? Did you buy something else instead? Were you simply bored? 

This will help you foster healthy financial communication with your partner and financial empathy for one another.

Keep purchases out in the open

One of the most destructive things that can happen in a relationship is when one partner hides their spending from the other. 

This might include one partner buying a new car, one buying designer clothing, or even one having a gambling problem and spending money at the track. 

If this sounds like something that could potentially occur in your relationship, then it's important to open up communication about your spending. 

Discussing every purchase before making it, or all purchases or investments that exceed a certain dollar amount, ensure that no secrets remain hidden. It also helps prevent arguments over whether or not someone spent too much money.

By doing this, you'll save everyone involved time and energy.  

Establish Who Owns What

You need to establish what belongs to whom so there won't be any confusion later on about who owns what. 

First, this means establishing how much money each person brings into the relationship as well as how much they spend. It also includes deciding if one partner should contribute more toward household expenses. 

For example, if you both work full-time jobs and earn $50K per year then you might decide that you'll split everything 50/50. 

What’s more, you need to establish who owns what property in your relationship.

When you buy a car is it a joint asset or yours alone? Is the property that you inherited going to pass onto your kids or onto your partner if you pass? 

Whatever works best for you two. But whatever arrangement you come up with needs to be written down somewhere and potentially put into a contract, like a prenup or a postnup agreement or a will should one of you pass so that there’s no confusion later on.

Children

It’s important to discuss how you’ll handle your finances when it comes to your kids early on in your relationship.

Assessing how you'll spend money when it comes to your children has many different aspects to it. It's the basis for how you’ll instill financial values in your children. 

Questions to consider include: 

  • Will you send them to a private school? 
  • Do you believe in leaving your children an inheritance? 
  • Do you think you should pay for your children’s college education? 
  • Will you buy your kids a car when they learn how to drive? 
  • Will you help them buy their first home?

All of these questions require some sort of discussion between you two. Again, talk through these decisions together.

 

Extended Family

Extended family can be a complicated matter when it comes to finances. Some people believe it’s their duty to financially support their family. While other people believe that each person in the family is on their own. 

So it's important to be on the same page about how much financial support you'll give to your extended family. 

  • Will you care for your parents' finances after they retire? 
  • Will either of your parents move in with you? 
  • Will you help out a sibling if they fall on hard times and need help paying their mortgage?  

In order to avoid conflict, make sure you know exactly how much you'll contribute to your extended family and what circumstances would warrant you getting involved.

Learn to communicate about money

Communication is key when dealing with money matters. You need to have regular conversations about where your money goes so that there are no misunderstandings between you.

This means talking openly about bills, credit cards, investments, retirement plans, etc. 

Don't let these topics become taboo. Instead, try discussing them whenever possible. The sooner you start, the easier it will be to avoid problems later on.

When communicating about money, remember that honesty is essential.

No matter how difficult it seems, you must tell the truth. That includes telling your partner exactly how much you earn and how much you owe. Also, don't lie about debts or savings. Doing so makes it harder to get back on solid ground financially.

If you'd like to read more about how to communicate about money successfully, even when having difficult financial discussions, you can read more in 9 Powerful Communication Strategies to Handle Money Conversations and Eight Tips to Help You Have Tough Conversations About Money.

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