Money is a tough subject to discuss, even when times are good. But during a global pandemic, it can be even more fraught.
On Wednesday evening, couples therapist, podcast host and best-selling author Esther Perel interviewed two couples about their financial disagreements during SoFi’s Twitter live event, “Financially Ever After“
“Money is a charged subject,” Perel said. You might be a saver, while your partner is a spender. Or maybe one partner plans with spreadsheets, while the other has no interest in budgeting.
When approaching money from two different perspectives, things can quickly escalate since, because as Perel explained, we’re never really just talking about cash.
“Money is interwoven with every dynamic of our relationship,” Perel said. “And ever more so in the time of a pandemic.”
Perel argued that money represents power, access, comfort, trust and more, noting that recent events have increased the inherent tension that can occur when you talk about money.
“People are, at the same time, having to experience the stresses of confinement and quarantine, with economic challenges and job losses that are prevalent at this moment, with the racial and social reckoning that is happening in our society,” Perel said.
With so many forces colliding, it’s no wonder money talk makes us anxious. Even so, these are important topics to discuss. To help you initiate the conversation, Perel offered 12 questions that help partners reach a better understanding of the thoughts, beliefs and habits they’ve developed around money.
1. What does having money mean to you?
Perel noted that money might symbolize comfort and pleasure to one partner, while another may see it as security, power, independence or even a way to access opportunities. Whatever the case, your perception of money will influence the way you borrow, save and spend.
2. What does it mean to be good with money?
3. Did your family talk about money growing up?
How your family thinks about money has a bigger influence than you may realize. Ask your partner who taught them the most about money when they were young. You’ll probably understand your partner’s present actions a lot better once you do.
4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate how we spend our money?
Chances are, your partner has some opinions about what you could be doing better with your money. Ask them to share their honest thoughts — and be prepared to adjust if necessary.
5. If I spent $100 on something and didn’t tell you, would you be upset with me? How about $1,000?
Honesty and transparency are fundamental when talking about money, but how specific does your partner want you to be? If you have a hobby, such as gaming, dining out or going to concerts, it’s easy to spend $100 without running it by your loved one. Make sure you are on the same page about what requires a conversation and what decisions you prefer to make by yourself.
6. What is your biggest money regret or mistake?
Be honest with your partner about choices you’ve made in the past, what you learned from them and how you want to work together to do things differently moving forward.
7. What keeps you up at night about our finances?
Roughly 77% of Americans are anxious about their financial situation. Sharing your stresses is a good way to get it off your chest, and it will help your partner understand what you care about most.
8. What will we do when we disagree about money and just can’t see eye-to-eye?
Disagreements happen. Decide how you want to handle them with your partner so nothing throws you off-guard.
9. What would we do if one of us were laid off?
10. How has the pandemic changed how you think about our finances?
As the economy stalls during the coronavius pandemic, it may feel harder than ever to focus on your finances. Take the time to process the rapidly changing landscape with your partner and discuss whether it has change your priorities. Review what you’re already doing well, and recommit to keeping your finances on track while protecting your credit score until things start looking up again.
11. Do you feel like we’re on track financially to achieve our goals? What are our financial goals?
Chat about your shared financial goals, so you know what you’ll need your money for and when. You may have dreams of buying a house, saving for a baby, going back to school or buying a car. You also might want to take annual vacations or own your own business. The possibilities are endless, which is why you should keep the conversation ongoing.
If vacations are on your mind, now might be the right time to open a travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or the American Express® Gold Card so you have plenty of time to earn and map out how you’ll use your rewards to offset the cost of a trip. And if you’re more focused on saving up for a new home, you might begin comparing traditional savings accounts vs. high-yield accounts.
12. What’s one money habit that you admire about me?
To end your conversation on a positive note, take a moment to recognize the way that your better half compliments you and balances you out.
When you argue with your partner about the way they use money, you are usually arguing with them about the very qualities you were attracted to, Perel said. The spendthrift most likely appreciates the stability of their “saver” partner, even if they feel limited by them from time to time. Likewise, the “saver” probably values their “spender” partner’s perspective.
“How can you at this moment, stay more in the center, at the place where your differences actually work beautifully for both of you?” Perel asked.
You can read SoFi’s full list of 12 money questions every couple should ask each other.
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