An interesting question popped up in the surge of same-sex marriages after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized them in June 2015. Married and unmarried same-sex couples asked, "Now what?"
Until then, we only knew what marriage equality looked like in theory. To be sure, there were test cases in some states, such as Massachusetts and California, but even there, differences from opposite-sex marriages existed. Prudential’s 2012 LGBT Financial Experience Survey showed that, before the legalization of same-sex marriage, "same-sex couples tend[ed] to have equal and open communication about financial concerns (at similar levels to general population couples), [but] they often maintain[ed] separate financial accounts."
As Debt Free Guys and the hosts of the Queer Money podcast, we’ve seen an anecdotal shift in the questions and comments we receive from our audiences. Before June of 2015, we only occasionally received questions from people in same-sex relationships about how to manage their money together. Since then, we’ve seen a marked increase in questions about how to handle money as a couple. However, usually, the partner seemingly doing better financially wants advice about how to get the other partner to talk about money.
There’s no irony that the questions we get are from the partner doing better with their money. Studies show that, despite social taboos, those who talk about money tend to do better with money. Some people believe in talking about money so strongly that they recommend avoiding people who won’t speak about money. Since couples often get together because of hormones and pheromones, not credit scores and debt-to-income ratios, ending a relationship because the other partner won’t talk about money is often not an option and not our recommendation.
The challenge is broaching a practical conversation on an emotional topic. How can queer couples talk about money? Here are our four recommendations.
The most common question we get is, "how do I get my partner to talk about money?" Because money is such an emotional topic, many people avoid it like the plague. In most circumstances, the partner who doesn’t want to talk about money has a lot of credit card debt, student loan debt or a poor credit score. Therefore, talking about money may be embarrassing.
To make this conversation less embarrassing and less confrontational, we ask our audience to blame us. Blame the Debt Free Guys. Blame PolicyGenius. Say you heard it on Queer Money. Make one or all of us responsible for you bringing up the money conversation.
Say to your partner, "I read on PolicyGenius that couples who talk about their money and goals do better financially." Or, "I heard on Queer Money that LGBT couples who talk about money, have more money." Blaming us takes the responsibility off of you and puts it on a third party who’s happy to take the blame.
Talk about your hopes and dreams
After you blame us for bringing up the taboo money topic, start the conversation from a fun angle. Talk about what you both want in life. People love daydreaming, and it’s more fun daydreaming with your partner.
For example, my husband and I rarely play the lottery. The only time we do is when the winnings are huge, and our chances are slim because everyone else in the country is also playing. However, it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about our hopes and dreams.
Therefore, talk about what you want to achieve individually and together. There are no wrong answers. Whether it’s to travel more, buy a second home, take care of family members, or start your own business, no answer is wrong. This part of the money talk is often fun and engaging, and it’s where the emotions stir that provide hope.
After my husband and I had committed to turning our lives around and paying off our $51,000 in credit card debt, this was our first exercise. We narrowed down our goals to three things, and it was those three goals that fueled our fire. They inspired us when times were tough and, even today they guide us to make better financial decisions.
Talk about your financial blockers
This step is when the conversation gets a little sober. After you discuss your hopes and dreams, talk about what might prevent you from achieving those desires. For us, it was our financial blocker was our credit card debt. Until we paid off that debt, we knew we couldn’t achieve anything we wanted.
Talk with your partner about what would prohibit you from achieving the hopes and dreams from the previous exercise. For you, it may also be debt in some form. It could be a bad credit score, a low-paying job or simply not having a budget and spending unconsciously.
When you acknowledge what you must overcome in your relationship to achieve your goals, you start to create a plan. Not until you identify your hurdles do you know what you must overcome. When you express what you must overcome together, in a non-confrontational way, you create a partnership dynamic to address them together.
Talk about what you’re willing to do
Once you identify what hurdles are keeping you from your hopes and dreams, talk about what you’re both willing to do to overcome them and achieve your goals. In this step, you and your same-sex partner or spouse create objectives that put the plan you started above into place.
Identify how uncomfortable you’re willing to get to realize the life you both want. Will one of you get an additional job or a new job? How will you manage your money differently? Will you use a budget? Cut up your credit cards? How will you overcome financial mistakes? How will you appropriately reward success?
When you create a list of what you’re willing to do, or strategies you’ll use to break through your financial blockers together, you create a dialogue for financial communication and not a lecture. If you focus on your hopes and dreams, a potentially confrontational topic is more amicable. It’s this friendly conversation that creates a successful financial plan and financial success.
If you’re in a serious relationship or married to your partner and wonder, "What’s next?" The answer is talking about your money. Align your hopes and dreams and create a plan to achieve all your dreams with the person of your dreams.