There’s one thing I hate talking to Mrs. Planner about: what happens to characters in a book or movie after the story ends. You see, she’s a literature teacher. She likes talking about the characters, what they’re thinking, and what they may hypothetically do next. I dislike that. It stresses me out. Why? Because the characters don’t exist, and I find it to be a waste of brainpower. Does this make me pig-headed and dumb? Absolutely. But I refuse to spend one second discussing the crappy ending of Vanilla Sky or any other movie. It ended, let’s leave it that way.
But what if it was important for Mrs. Planner and I to discuss why Forrest Gump might end up being President of the United States? Then I would have the conversation. I would just need to set some ground rules that would prevent me from going crazy.
It’s quite possible that you hate talking about money with your significant other. And if you don’t, there’s a possibility they hate talking about money with you. But unlike my aversion to to discussing whether or not Dirk Diggler will ever work again, your financial life actually matters.
What if your money conversation didn’t stress you out? What if they didn’t suck? What if they were actually awesome? I can make that happen. I can prove it. I once had a client blame me for their new child. That’s right. A child was the result of post-financial talk vibes. And if the conception of a child isn’t proof of a successful meeting, then I don’t know what is. Know what I’m sayin’?
Financial conversations generally suck the way middle school dances sucked. You only half want to be involved with it, and you don’t want anyone to notice your blemishes. Below, you will find the perfect plan for having a great money meeting. In fact, I plan on whipping this out on Mrs. Planner this weekend. We have great money conversations, but I refuse to ask you to do something that I wouldn’t personally do myself.
Don’t go running home tonight and whip the following list of questions out on your pookie. Spontaneous money conversations often lead to stress. Either email your snuggle bunny right now to ask if it’s cool to talk about money tonight, or schedule the talk for the weekend. You may present it like this, “hey baby, a very handsome ginger gave me some good tips for having a productive financial conversation. Can we take 30 minutes to discuss this on Saturday afternoon?” Believe it or not, allowing the other person to get their mind right, is an important factor in this discussion’s success.
When it’s go-time, allow the following 12 items to guide the conversation. Feel free to open a bottle of wine.
1. Is there something that I’m currently doing, in relation to our financial life, that stresses you out?
2. What’s my most annoying financial habit?
3. What am I good at, when it comes to money? (Hopefully he/she doesn’t say “spending it”)
4 . Do you worry about money?
5. Do you think we were in a better financial position 12 months ago?
6. Do you think we’re trending toward being in a better financial position 12 months from now?
7. If we could wave a magic wand and eliminate one expense, what would it be? Do we need a magic wand to eliminate it?
8. Do you mind if I answer the same questions, as they relate to you?
9. What is the first step we need to do, in order to create some positive momentum towards addressing some of the concerns we just discussed?
10. Perfect. So I will _________ in the next week. And you will ___________ by next week. (This is where you collectively assign tasks and homework to begin taking action on getting better)
11. This was great, but we shouldn’t celebrate over a nice dinner out.
12. Let’s go hug aggressively.
Money conversations are hard, because most people don’t know what they need to do to make progress. This plan will help you make progress. You are going to need to be transparent, humble, and understanding. And if the meeting does go very well, send me a birth announcement.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.