There's no denying that certain topics of conversation with our partners instantly induce sweaty palms and increased heart rate. Whether it's conflicting political views, past relationships, or even about spicing things up in the bedroom, some things are just flat out uncomfortable to discuss with your significant other. And unsurprisingly, landing a top spot on the list of unpleasant conversations seems to be a couple's finances. Because money talk is the worst kind of talk.
John Hancock, an international financial services group, teamed up with savings app Twine to create a study called "#RelationshipGoals: How American Couples are Saving Together." The study surveyed 1,000 adults aged 25 or older—who have been in a long-term relationship for two years or more—about their saving habits. The results found that one third of men and women in the U.S. feel fear, confusion, and anxiety when it comes to saving money with their partner. So it only makes sense that the study also revealed that communication was a major problem, with 70 percent of couples admitting to only having financial conversations with their S.O. every now and then.
It's also a matter of where these few and far between financial convos are taking place, which can have an impact on whether or not the couple will reach their saving goals. While there's no perfect setting to chat about money, the study discovered that 52 percent of couples bring up money matters over a meal at home, 20 percent talk finances at a restaurant, and 11 percent even bring it up via email or a text message. Only nine percent of couples set preplanned meetings to go over finances.
"A third of people feel stressed or anxious when it comes to finances with their partner, and bringing it up at dinner seems more casual," explains Twine CEO Uri Pomerantz. "It’s more about not finding the time, and people are stressed about it, so it comes up sporadically."
So, how to avoid killing the mood this Valentine's Day (or in general) and keep calm about your and your partner's financial situation? Pomerantz advises focusing on shorter-term financial goals that hold emotional ties for you and your sweetheart, but then hammer out the nitty gritty saving details later.
"It’s important for couples to have a business-free zone to go out for Valentine's Day and talk about things that matter and their goals, such as saving up for a wedding or vacation or kid," says Pomerantz. "That’s the glue that holds people together. If finances do get brought up, bring up the goal that has emotion behind it."
According to Pomerantz, the best time and place to discuss money depends on the couple, and they should establish a specific time to have the dreaded conversation. For example, Pomerantz and his wife make time every Sunday to plan out their logistics and finances for the week, and then spend the rest of the week focusing on their goals.
The John Hancock and Twine study found that even with the apparent financial communication issues, couples still want to save money and budget together. However, most lack the right resources to reach their financial goals. In this case, Pomerantz recommends couples turn to technology, like Twine and other services, to help them set a goal and establish money-saving habits. Thirty eight percent of survey participants said they used technology or an app to help save money, and 84 percent of that group said doing so has benefitted them financially in some way.
"In the context of the study, there is no right or wrong," says Pomerantz. "The most important thing is taking a step back and making your financial goals happen at some point and creating automatic habits and that will have a huge impact over time."
May this year's Valentine's Day meal with your S.O. be your most money-positive one to date.