The single most important thing about money in a relationship with your partner or spouse is to talk about it! Here are some tips on how to start (and keep) the money conversation going.
*Set up a money date at least once a month.
Instead of bringing up the conversation about money spontaneously, set aside an actual day and time. This will avoid any surprises and catching people off guard. Have each person bring up a specific money topic they want to talk about (ex: going on a trip, splitting the bills, etc.). While you're at it, make the money date fun! Open up a bottle of wine or sip on your favorite beverage.
*Avoid the blame game.
Money can be a sensitive topic for many, especially if one partner or spouse makes more than the other. Instead of placing blame, talk about how your current money situation makes you feel and come up with solutions together on how to navigate through the issues. If after several times you can't seem to find a middle ground, consider going to counseling to determine if there's a deeper problem at hand.
*Consider separate accounts.
The traditional thought of needing to combine ALL your money and accounts doesn't fit everyone's situation. One strategy that's helped my clients is having one joint account for joint bills (ex: mortgage, utilities, groceries, Netflix subscription, etc.), and each partner or spouse having their own separate account for their own bills (ex: student loans, credit cards, their own "fun money", etc.).
*Determine what's an "equitable" split in bills.
If there is a large difference between incomes, consider a percentage-based split instead of a dollar split. For relationships where one spouse or partner doesn't work, it's important to take into consideration how the other spouse or partner is contributing to the household. For example, if one parent stays at home with the kids, that in itself is a full-time job (that unfortunately doesn't include pay) and is saving money from having to hire someone for additional childcare.
*The most important tip.... BE HONEST.
Whether you're about to enter a serious relationship or you're already in one, it's important to be open and establish the communication about money early on. Money is one of the leading causes of an unhealthy relationship, but you have the power to change the narrative.