ASK KIM


Schedule a Money Date

Kimberly Lankford

This is a great opportunity to have a nice night out with your significant other and discuss the big-picture financial issues.



My husband and I are always fighting about money. He's more of a spender, but I worry about the future and want to save more money. What can we do to improve the situation?

In honor of Valentine's Day, how about starting out with a money date? Instead of just focusing on your day-to-day finances while you're hovered over the checkbook -- and ready to pounce on each other -- this is a great opportunity to step back, have a nice night out together and discuss the big-picture financial issues.

"A lot of people tell me, 'We talk about money all the time -- it's the major thing we fight about,'" says Ginita Wall, a certified financial planner and director of the Women's Institute for Financial Education. "That's not really talking about money. It's better to schedule a time when you're fresh and able to talk about things. Start with the fun things -- what are your dreams and goals for the future?"

Before the date, Wall recommends having each partner make a list of his or her financial goals, then compare them over dinner. This is a chance to look beyond your daily finances and think big. Would you like to start a business? Go back to school? Build a dream home? Take time off to be with young children, or return to work after they start school?

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"Money plays a role in everything," she says. Don't be afraid to bring up dreams that you think might be beyond your reach. This is the perfect opportunity to talk about whether you can work together to accomplish those goals, and whether you both want to make it a priority to get there.

The next step is to set those priorities. What are you willing to give up to reach those goals? This is where you find out whether you and your spouse really do agree. "Some people may give lip service to a goal that isn't actually something that is important for them to accomplish in the near future," she says. Focus on the long-term and short-term. "It's important not to sacrifice all of your short-term goals for long-term goals. But you also don't want to keep putting off the long-term goals like paying for retirement."

When you both have different approaches toward money, which sounds like the case with you and your husband, it's important to keep a positive tone to the discussion. "If you are in credit-card debt and one of your goals is to get out, avoid blaming your partner for that," says Wall. "You have to start where you are now and work until you're both in accord and respect each other's ways of getting to that." That's one reason why it's good to do this at a nice restaurant, where you're relaxed and in a good mood and unlikely to argue in public.

It's also a good time to have a heart-to-heart talk about what you would do if something were to happen to one of you. Follow up with some administrative work a few days later: Make sure your wills, insurance, beneficiary designations and other legal documents are up to date, and review your budget and investments to make sure they're on track to help you reach the goals you discussed.

Then have another money date again next year to assess your progress and talk about other goals. This might not sound like a romantic way to celebrate Valentine's Day, but you'll be surprised at how much you can accomplish when you work together. What's more romantic than that?

Got a question? Ask Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com.




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