She had a full-on panic attack.
My friend, Lexi, was shopping for engagement rings with her Fiancé-to-be. She should have been on Cloud 9, but she was so overwhelmed by the price tags. In her early 20s, Lexi racked up quite a bit of credit debt , but she was working with a financial planner was on track to pay off her fourth and final card this spring, YAY! 🎉 Still, Lexi struggles with financial anxiety. “I just felt like by doing this – buying a ring – I’d be setting us back from actually getting married or buying a house – I just felt so selfish.”
When Lexi’s anxiety takes over, it’s no fun for anyone, including her partner. So they set a date, not to shop, but to talk about their money stories and discuss their financial goals. Lexi learned that her partner isn’t actually as frugal as she thought – he’s just been saving for this occasion. Her anxiety was making it impossible for either of them to enjoy this exciting time.
By diving deeper into their own relationships to money and opening up about their shared goals and expectations for the future, they were able to define what a “successful” life looked like for them as a couple. After their money date, Lexi didn’t feel so alone in her financial anxiety and they were able to get back to enjoying this exciting time together.
At Aura, we’re on a mission to break the taboo around talking about money. Today, we’re bringing you a special V-Day edition with a step-by-step guide to setting a money date – with a partner, or yourself – to help you start building a healthy relationship with your money, today.
- Pick a time. Set a specific time and date to dive into both of your money stories with your partner, and pick a neutral place. Focus on each other – put away your phones, turn off the TV, and get cozy. Decide who goes first – Partner A will go first and ask Question 1, Partner B answers. Then Partner B asks Question 1 back to Partner A, Partner A answers. Both partners ask and answer each question before moving on to the next.
- Set up guardrails. Pick a safe word or set a “time out” rule. Conversations about money can escalate quickly – be mindful of how you’re feeling and do your best not to let your emotions take over. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed (particularly in Level Two and beyond) – call time out or say “banana” and take a pause. Check in with yourself, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “am I responding or reacting?” Set expectations before the conversation and make sure you’re both on the same page about how often you’re expected to call time-out and how to best support each other if the conversation gets tense.
- Lead with curiosity, not judgment. We’ve put some suggestions below to guide you, but feel free to have an organic conversation if that feels more natural. Remember, the goal is to get comfortable with talking openly about finances and build a foundation of trust – there are no wrong answers, just stories – stay curious, friends.
- Have Fun!
TIP: Talking about money is stressful, if you’re moving beyond a casual conversation (Level Two and above), make a little extra effort to set the mood. If you’ve had arguments about money before, it’s important to change your location – try to find a public place – a new restaurant you’ve wanted to try or pack a picnic and head outside. Changing your setting changes your approach to conversations and a new setting provides an opportunity to take a new approach.
Level One: The Basics
If you’re newly coupled, or just trying to break the taboo on money talk with your besties, we recommend you start with level one. You’re not going to DTR on your first Hinge date, but you might want to get some screening questions out of the way sooner rather than later.
- What is one financial goal of yours?
- How do you like to treat yourself?
- Is there anything you will splurge on?
- Is there anything you hate spending money on? Why?
- If you won $100 Million tomorrow, how would you spend it?
Level Two: The Foundation
Taking time to dream about and plan for a life together creates a bond between partners – building a shared plan to design and finance a dream life will bring you closer together.
- Do you want to go back to school at any point in the future?
- What is your ideal career path?
- Do you have an ideal age that you’d like to retire / stop working?
- Do you expect your partner to work? Full-time, part-time, never? For how long?
- How do you currently manage your finances?
- Do you currently save any money for the future?
- How do you like to spend your “fun” money?
Level Three and Four can be done together in a Q&A format like Level One and Two, or completed independently as a journal exercise. If you choose to do this separately, make sure you set a time to come back together and discuss.
Level Three: The Story
You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. Our money stories are ingrained by age 7 by our parents, our communities, and society at large. Are you ready to dive in and explore?
- What is your earliest money memory?
- What was your parents’ relationship to money like?
- Did you talk to your parents about money? If yes, which parent? Both or just one?
- Did your parents talk about money with each other?
- Did you get an allowance growing up?
- If yes, did you have to earn it somehow? If so, how?
- If not, how did you pay for things?
- What do you remember about the first time you earned money? This could be a job, a present from the tooth fairy, babysitting, etc. Do you remember what you did with that money or how you spent it?
- How do you think your relationship to money is impacted by your parents / childhood?
Level Four: Getting Down to Business.
If you’re ready for real talk and action items, please proceed with empathy and curiosity. Remember, assume best intentions and try to reserve judgment.
- How do you feel after spending a large amount of money?
- Are there any events or items that you are planning on spending large sums of money on in the future?
- House or rental unit
- Unpaid time off
- Vacation budget
- Other (Please discuss with your partner)
- Do you save any portion of your income?
- No, after rent, food, and the basic needs, there’s nothing left.
- Yes, ~$50 per month ($1-$600 per year)
- Yes, ~$100-$200 per month ($1,200 – $2,400 per year)
- Yes, ~$201-$1,000 per month ($2,401-$12,000 per year)
- Yes, more than $1,000 per month ($12,000+ per year).
- How do you prefer to pay for purchases?
- Credit card
- Buy Now Pay Later products
- A digital wallet
- Cryptocurrency when possible
- Are you satisfied with your credit score? (Note: A credit score of 580-669 is fair, while a credit score of 670 or greater is considered good or excellent (max 850). Anything lower than 580 is a poor score.)
- What percentage of your investments do you allocate to the following?
- 529 Plan, or college fund for current or future children
- Savings Account
- Equities/Fixed Income
- Digital currencies and NFTs
- Collectibles (i.e. fine wine, art, etc.)
- How often do you think about money? Is money a stressful part of life?
- A few times a week
- Every week
- Occasionally throughout the month
- Rarely or never
- Of the things you have bought in your life, which do you remember most happily and/or something you regret buying? (Is your goal to buy a home? Great – we encourage it if that means achieving a financial milestone! Be careful with larger ticket items – nearly ¾ of those who bought a house throughout the pandemic expressed some sense of regret with their purchase.)
- Do you lend money to family and/or close friends? Please only consider funds in excess of $500 when answering this question. A bankrate survey found lending money to friends and family goes wrong nearly 50% of the time, although 7 out of 10 US adults admitted they have recently done so.)
- Do you have a central location where you can view your accounts?
- If you received an extra $1,000 today, what would you do with it? (A CNBC survey found that only 37% of young Americans (ages 16-25) would put the extra cash into savings. However, given the majority of adults have some form of debt, experts recommend paying down student loans or credit card debt before stashing the money away.)
- Do you donate to charity? Do you contribute a certain percentage of your income to charity? (Only 11% of partnered or married couples disagree occasionally or frequently on giving decisions but it’s important to communicate to reaffirm the values you share as a couple.)
- Estimate how much you spend a month on each.
- Gas (vehicle and heating)
- Groceries (incl. alcohol)
- Subscription services
- Social activities
- Loan payments
- Other “fun” items/activities
- Other recurring expenses (Please list and indicate amount)
- List one money goal you have for yourself for the next 6 months, the next year, and the next 5-10 years?
- 6 months
- 1 year
- 5-10 years
BONUS ACTIVITY: If you and your partner have different answers, try setting up a shared budget. Whether fully shared, or you each contribute an agreed upon amount to savings and keep your own separate accounts, find out what works best to help aim to each save at least 20-30% of your income.
STAY TUNED: Coming up: Getting stuck? Our next newsletter we’ll talk about how to set goals for yourself that you will actually stick to – sign up at Aurafinace.io.