Flashback several years ago to my last relationship. The guy I was dating at the time wasn’t open to discussing his “numbers.” Mind you, this was several years into our relationship. Although I disclosed how much I earned and saved, he was radio silent. Needless to say, it didn’t work out between us.

When it comes to talking about money: It’s no big secret: we’d much rather talk about sex and politics than money, according to an article in The Guardian. We despise being defined by our wealth—or our lack thereof. We’re also often taught that talking about money is a faux pas. In fact, 7 out of 10 people think talking about money is rude.

Taking a step back, it’s no surprise that we don’t want to talk about money—a cause of stress for many people. In fact, 90% of Americans are stressed out about money, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association. Add to this that saving money is hard and many people don’t even have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency Why would they want to discuss finances?

Yet, in order to break through the money taboo, it’s important to learn how to openly talk about money matters. Here are some tips to break the ice when it comes to discussing money with your significant other or spouse.

Get financially naked

We all have different money values. In fact, your perceptions about money were likely formed when you were young. And, since you were raised differently than your partner, you may even have polar opposite money values. For example, you may have the “scarcity mindset,” in which money is hard to come by. This means you may be a penny pincher. Your partner, on the other hand, may be prone to emotional spending and find it challenging to save money.

Regardless of your different relationships to money, it’s important for you and your significant other to get “financially naked” when it comes to talking about money, according to Time Magazine. Financial infidelity, or hiding your financial matters from your partner, can ruin your relationship.

You can start making money discussions fun by setting up a monthly date. You can keep it casual and perhaps schedule it after a relaxing night after a homecooked meal. Topics you’ll want to discuss may include your net worth or outstanding debts, your short- and long-term money goals, creating a budget, and whether you should have a joint bank account. You can also use this time to discuss future job changes and general concerns you have about your finances.

Keep in mind that if you are cohabiting or engaged, it’s important to get your money matters out in the open before you make any major life changes, like uprooting to a new city, getting married, merging investments or raising kids. By starting now, you can lay the foundation for building a life together.


You Think Talking About Sex is Taboo? Let’s Talk About Money


Talk about your pain points

When it comes to money, it’s no surprise that many turn to personal finance forums on Reddit and Quora. These channels offer a virtual space where you can disclose details about your financial situation and remain anonymous. Although it seems uncomfortable, why not instead discuss these topics with people you know?

I know it seems strange, but sometimes being the first in a group to disclose your money matters can pave the way for others to do the same. This way, you can all support and help each other achieve your financial goals. For instance, I am usually the first one in my circle of friends to discuss my savings goals and the financial resources I’ve stumbled upon. I’m also not afraid to talk about my biggest challenges.

If you don’t want to talk about anything big, start by discussing a small win, like how you saved money at the grocery store last week or earmarked some of your bonus toward your summer vacay. By doing this, you’ll let your social circle know that “hey, I’m comfortable talking about money, and you’re welcome to do it, too.” My friends and I now talk freely about saving for retirement. I also receive texts when someone made a final car payment or paid off his student loan.

Going beyond your immediate social circle, it’s also a good idea to practice discussing money with family members or roomies. This will make it easier to broach topics like splitting a dinner tab or dividing up household bills.

Know your worth

Knowing your worth in the working world and asking for greater compensation is a crucial part of climbing the corporate ladder. When you know the value you’re contributing to the job, and just what it takes to level up to the next rung, you can feel confident asking for a raise. While it still remains taboo to ask your co-workers what they earn, you can still discuss this with your boss. This way you’ll have a better idea of what it takes to earn more, and what it takes to perform to move up the pay scale.
Likewise, in order to net higher rates as a freelancer, it’s important to know what others earn so that you can effectively raise your own rates. As a self-employed writer, rates vary and it can be challenging to determine how much to charge clients. To help me out, I often reach out to other freelancers to talk about what rates I should charge a client.

Regardless of how you decide to get your money matters out in the open, keep in mind that money is a tool. That is, money is a resource to help you achieve your goals so that you can live your preferred lifestyle. By openly discussing money, you’ll be more apt to align your money goals with your values. And that, my friends, is the sweet meat of having heart-to-heart discussions about money.

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Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam is a personal finance writer. Her work has appeared in Investopedia, Magnify Money and The Bold Italic, and she’s been featured in Money, Kiplinger, Forbes and Woman’s Day. She runs Cheapsters.org, a blog to help freelancers and artists with their money and to balance their passion projects and careers.