Why talking about money can be good for your relationship?
Most of us would admit it’s tricky to talk about money, especially with someone you care about. It also feels easier to avoid conversations about money, but financial stress is one of the leading causes of tension between couples. The best thing you can do to reduce stress is to talk about how you feel about money and the earlier the better, say the experts.
We all develop different values, attitudes and habits around money management – some of us were taught from a young age how to save, while others might not know the first thing about budgeting but have great ideas on spending.
Here are some areas you might like to discuss together. They can help you work out what you feel when money and finances are mentioned. (We have listed just some of the financial decisions you could explore together.)
How do you feel about money?
Why not investigate your money histories: For example, how did your parents manage their family finances?
What do you secretly and not so secretly want to achieve: Do you know your partner’s financial priorities and goals and what your joint agreed financial priorities and goals might look like?
How will you save together, spend your money, meet the bills? How do you feel about having spending limits and talking with one another about spending habits? You might consider a joint bank account to ensure joint expenses are shared equally.
What’s your view on credit: will you have credit cards? If you have - or decide to get a loan - how will you handle the terms and conditions of payment?
Tip: Making a regular date with your partner with the sole purpose being to talk about your finances helps to keep you on the same financial path.
Get a handle on your debt.
When starting a life with your significant other, take time to address any existing financial baggage, for example, loans or liabilities. Common debts include (but are not limited to) personal loans, HECS/student debts, car loans and unpaid credit cards. Discuss your financial baggage together. It can help each of you create a plan for paying off the debt so you can move forward financially. Talk to your bank about how to reduce and pay off debt, they may be able to help.
Westpac’s Davidson Institute suggest there are five rules for managing debt effectively:
- Add up your debts
- Get urgent help if you need it. Talk to your bank.
- Set a budget
- Prioritise your debts
- Consider refinancing or debt consolidation
If you’re experiencing financial difficulty, worried you can’t make your repayments or your income has significantly changed, Westpac Assist are here to help and can be contacted on 1800 067 497.
Tip: It’s important to understand that all the people named on any loan accounts are responsible and liable for the debt, including fees and interest.
Get a handle on your credit rating.
Credit scores help lenders decide if they should lend money to you. The CreditSmart website can help with questions about credit scores, why they’re important, how you can get a free report, and what you can do to improve your credit rating.
Tip: What’s a good credit score? A credit score between 500 and 699 is considered healthy*. There are all sorts of ways you can tighten up on your credit behaviour, such as paying bills on time (including your credit card).
Get a handle on your assets.
Assets are simply all the things you own. It’s important to discuss each other’s assets and how, or if, those assets are to be shared. Your assets may include:
- Cash or cryptocurrency;
- Car or other recreational vehicles or equipment – perhaps sporting or other;
Tip: A Proof of Balance statement may make it easy to share the balances in each of your accounts. If you bank with Westpac, this is available to download from Westpac Live Online Banking, or you can go to your local Westpac branch and get your Proof of Balance.
Establish an emergency fund.
We all know that sometimes “stuff” happens. The car breaks down, the roof leaks, one of you needs to spend a few days in hospital. It sounds obvious but having just a bit of cash set aside for unexpected expenses can make a huge difference and ease the financial stress. When working out your budget, discuss and agree on how much money will be put aside into a separate fund for emergencies.
Tools like Westpac’s Savings Calculator can help you work out how long it’ll take to reach your Emergency Fund goal.
Tip: If you have significant discretionary purchases you wish to make – an expensive souvenir of your travels, upgrading your TV – you could use a similar strategy to save.
What is financial abuse from a partner?
Money is one of the greatest challenges in any serious relationship, and finding a healthy balance as a couple can be difficult at times. Understanding what financial abuse is can make a huge difference to you, a loved one or someone you know in the future.
Financial abuse is one form of domestic (or family) violence. Domestic violence is violent, intimidating or controlling behaviour by a loved one or a family member. It can come in the form of physical, verbal, emotional, social, sexual and economic (financial).
Financial abuse can mean that you are being restricted or limited in your involvement with the household expenses, how you spend your wage, your access to funds and a lack of control over debt in your name.
You may not be financially abused but it is always worth understanding what it is and how to prevent it. If you aren’t happy with your current financial circumstances, start by talking with your spouse and if you can’t agree, seek assistance from a trusted individual or professional. Read more about financial abuse here.