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I was bursting with energy to share what I had learnt when I saw her. I was hopping from foot to foot to tell her, but knew I had to wait until we connected. I listened to what she had been up to in the day and then told her about Financial Independence and what I had learnt.
The reaction I got back was not the one I was expecting. I was expecting a big "YES! Let's go!" What I got was a unenthusiastic nod and silence. The energy drained from my body and my head drooped to the ground as I started to see my dream slip away.
If you have a partner, if you have a boyfriend, girlfriend or other, it can be a make or break piece of the puzzle of FI getting them on board with your vision to be financially independent.
It doesn't have to be about Financial Independence. Talking to your partner about money and having a comfortable retirement and being on the same page is SO important!
How do you talk to your partner about money?
Working as a team
Imagine two people in a boat rowing in opposite directions. How far would they go? If one is a little stronger they would pull the other one their direction but it would be exhausting as they fought against each other.
The sad thing is that I think this is a lot of people's relationships. They have never taken the time to create a joint vision of where they are going and they head out with force in their own direction which is sometimes the opposite of their partner.
Katie and I have done this many times over the years and it is painful. I get excited about something and drag Katie along, she doesn't want to kill my energy but she isn't really into it so she comes along but dragging her heels. Neither of us win in this situation as Katie doesn't get to do what she actually wants and I feel like I am forcing the person I love the most to do the thing I want to do against her will!
How did we get on the same page about money, finances and financial independence? Actually it was all thanks to a man named Pete and my persistence.
I uncovered Katie's starting objections to financial independence. I stayed calm and I asked questions. "Why would you not want to do this?" "What do you think will happen if we get to financial independence?" "What are you afraid of?"
It turns out what it came down to was "Why should I get to retire early if no one else does?" Katie didn't think she deserved it and no matter how many times I explained my point of view we didn't get anywhere.
Eventually a friend called Matt sent us Mr Money Mustache's blog. That moment changed our lives and we wouldn't be here with out Pete or his blog. Katie started to read his blog from the very beginning on the train into work every day.
She would read the articles and come back and talk to me about what she had learnt. By the end of reading his articles she had changed position 180 degrees and told me we would be idiots if we didn't go for it!
This was game changing for us. To be working together with a common goal, enthused with energy, rowing in the same direction was awesome. We took massive strides on a weekly basis towards FI.
Then came phase 2 which taught us so much about communicating about money
The preachy phase
If you want to know how to turn someone off financial independence or looking after their money let me tell you.
Become preachy and judgey.
After we heard about financial independence we wanted to tell everyone how to manage their money and how to retire early. We wanted all of our friends and family to do it with us. We could all retire early, play boardgames, hang out and have fun.
From a place of good intentions we tried to get them on board with the ideas. We just did it in the wrong way. We got preachy and judgey.
We would judge people for their purchases. "Why are you buying that new car? Don't you know if you bought second hand you might be able to retire five years early?" "Why are you eating out so much? If you saved that money you could invest more!" Why are you moving house and upgrading? Don't you want your freedom rather than a bigger liability?"
We got preachy about investments and index funds. We tried to tell everyone we knew about the power of compounding, investing and buying assets not liabilities. We would talk about index funds, we would force our friends to play the cashflow boardgame with us filling out personal balance sheets on a Friday night. We were the life and soul of the party!
It is a testament to how amazing our friends are that they still talk to us! Well most of them still talk to us!
It took us a long time to learn that this approach doesn't work. You might be coming from a good place and trying to help but you just turn off everyone around you.
Unfortunately this happens to so many couples.
One of you finds out about financial independence or gets excited about personal finances and starts reading the blogs. You get so excited and every waking hour is spent consuming the blogs, listening to the podcasts or watching the Donegans on YouTube.
You are so excited that you tell your partner about what you have learnt every single night. You quote the Donegans so much they think you have a third party in your relationship!
All your partner wants to do is sit down after a long day's work with a glass of wine and watch an episode of Eastenders. They nod and stare at the television not really listening to you talking about tracking spending and investing in index funds.
The excited approach doesn't work so you start to tell them what they need to do. You need to stop spending, no new car for you, no new drone, no new clothes. We need to track our spending (Alan and Katie told us to) and you need to control your spending.
Pretty soon your partner tells you to stop talking to them about money, They start to do the opposite to what you ask them and they are rowing in the opposite direction to you!
In your excitement to create a brighter future for you both you have actually turned them off looking after your finances together, turned them off even thinking about money and you've created the problem you now lament.
If you want to turn someone off sorting out their money get preachy and judgey!
How do you talk to your partner about money?
"Alright Alan, I know I have made mistakes, how do I actually talk to my partner about money?" I hear you scream.
Don't worry about it. We have all made mistakes. I have made a huge amount of mistakes with Katie and we got there in the end. It took us a while to work through all of our shit around money, our baggage from the past and to get on the same page about money.
But when we did, when we were rowing in the same direction it was incredible what we could achieve together. Here are the Donegans' top tips for talking to your partner about money
1. Understand first
You first job is not to tell your partner about financial independence. It is to understand their beliefs, thoughts and ideas about money. Your partner is not going to come on a journey with you until they fell like they have been heard, understood and listened to.
This all starts with you asking them questions, getting to understand them and connecting with them.
Maybe you take them for a coffee or dinner and ask them a few questions. Maybe you watch a documentary about money on date night (there are some really good ones!) and then ask them some questions. The key is the questions.
Ask and listen. Don't be tempted to jump in and tell them your stories, the key is to ask and listen. Give them space and understand them.
Here are some of our favourite questions to get the conversation started about money:
The more you can understand your partner and their money history, the more you will understand where they are coming from and the more likely you are to be able to make a plan together.
Which brings us onto part 2. The vision.
Just a little warning... please be gentle.
If you haven't asked your partner these type of questions before then take it easy. Don't force them into a chair, push them back, swing the light into their face and start grilling them!
Take it easy and ask them one question tonight and see where it goes. Try a second one tomorrow and see what it brings up.
Gently create conversation and if they ask "Why are you asking me these questions?" tell them you want to get to know them better, you want to understand them and learn about them.
Be gentle to both of you. A solid relationship with open communication about money wasn't built in a day!
2. Start with the vision
So many people start by telling their partner that we MUST track our expenses and spend less to get our finances in order or to get to financial independence! If you were told that you had to cut spending and do lots of spreadsheet work and you didn't even know why; how would you feel?!
So many people we have met start with the mechanics of how to sort our their money rather than the vision of what they want life to be like. And then secondly if they are wise enough to know not to start with the mechanics but to start with the "why" they quite often pitch their own "why" rather than uncovering their partner's "why".
Your job in the second part is to try and uncover your partners "why" or vision of the future. If you can find out a dream of theirs, a vision of retirement and you can show them that taking control of your finances might help them achieve their dream, how motivated do you think they are going to be?
This is a HUGE difference to pitching your "why" and selling to them. This is a HUGE difference to telling them to track the numbers for you and spend less without a big reason.
How do you go about doing this?
Questions are your friends! Here are some of my favourite questions to get people thinking about the future and dreaming!
Get to know them and understand them first. Only after you have understood their vision do you have the right to start sharing your vision.
3. Gently introduce the numbers
The biggest mistake people make about finances is going straight to the numbers. I hear you cry "But Alan, what else is there? Finance is numbers!"
Well the numbers are there to support a life, a mission, a project or some kind of thing you are working towards. Above we spoke about the vision of life if you didn't have to work anymore. To not work any more we need some numbers and we can talk about the maths to make that happen.
The numbers help you understand where you are, if you are making progress and when you have hit your target. They don't help set the target, the vision, the direction.
When you are talking about finances, understand the other person, get excited about the vision of life you want and then start to break it down.
Start to ask them questions about the joint finances. If you have never discussed money then start gently.
If you go too quickly and your partner has a fear of numbers you will lose them very quickly. Ask them to do the maths on their calculator, on their phone as a way of keeping them engaged! Don't just tell them the answer, work it out together and come up with a plan.
People support what they co-create.
Once you have started at the headline numbers you can come down to more and more detail. If you go too deep too quickly you will scare the other person off!
4. Be vulnerable - tell them what you fear
My biggest fear was that, what happened to my parents would repeat itself for Katie and me. I watched my Dad destroy the family finances, gamble away the family home and then try and sell us out down the river.
My Mum left the finances to my dad. She was not involved. My dad chose the investments and managed all the money and my Mum managed the house. She was given housekeeping money each month to look after the food and the place and then Dad managed everything else.
As I type this it feels so draconian to me. I hate it. I always wanted a relationship where we dealt with the finances together. I wanted to make joint decisions and have open and honest communication. As Beyonce taught me "It's always 50/50 in relationships".
I opened up about my fears to Katie early on and requested that we did things together. She opened up to me about money and from that point on we have worked on everything together. We do our monthly finance meetings together, we make investment decisions together and we go on training courses together.
By me opening up about my deepest fears and being vulnerable it allowed Katie to open up to me and for us to understand each other's driving forces.
How might you open up to your partner about money or life? Are you afraid you won't have enough in retirement? Did your parents shape you view of money and you need to open up about that to your partner?
Always seek to understand first but after that open up and be vulnerable. If you can't trust your partner after all who can you trust?
5. You have time
Even now after we have reached our initial FI target we still talk regularly about the strategy and approach. We have our monthly finance meeting where we discuss expenses and income. We talk about our investments and performance. We have a great time. Want to know how to run a monthly finance meeting?
6. Ask directly for help
After you have chatted about the vision, taken time to understand your partner and started talking in a bit more detail it is time to ask directly for what you want. British people are not very good at this step; they tend to prefer a passive aggressive telling off than a direct request for help.
Don't passive aggressively attack them with snidey remarks when they spend money you don't think was appropriate. That is a sure fire way to turn people off!
The next time you are chatting about finances, the future, money and more pause at one point and say "I would love it if we can work on this together; would you help me get on top of our finances please?"
See what they say........
If you get resistance then maybe try a specific request. "I have been reading about finances and I know we both are interested in retiring in X years or being able to travel to X destination. I want to make this happen. Would you please spend an hour each month helping me work towards this? I promise to make it fun, we can do it with wine, over a nice breakfast or I'll make you curry on the first night!"
We need to get more comfortable asking for what we want.
Ask directly for what you want, make it hard for the person to say no to you and tie the request into the future you agreed was important to you and them.
If you want to come on Rebel Finance School and you want your partner to come, then make it easy for them to say yes. Tell them you are going to do a finance course and it is super easy, 90 minutes on YouTube and you will have food and drinks and watch it with friends and then ask directly for them to do it with you.
Throw a watch party for the first night of Rebel Finance School and invite a few people so you all watch it together and it takes the pressure and focus off you........
Be 20% less British and ask for what you want.
7. Movie night ideas
There are some great documentaries about money, finances and more. Maybe you and your partner chose alternate movies for date night. One week it's your choice, the next week it's their choice. Maybe for your night you could choose one of these documentaries or series to watch with them to start the conversation.
Watch a show about money, watch a film about financial independence and then ask them what they thought of it. Understand their reactions, ideas and thoughts. It can be a brilliant way to start the conversation!
Here are some of our favourites:
Learning about money doesn't have to be boring. It can be great fun! Just have Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explaining finance terms and nearly everyone will be enthralled!
Start with forgiveness
Money can be a controversial and tough subject. It can bring up all sorts of emotions and accusations over past behaviour. If you have a history with money this can be super tough to get the conversation going.
If you have made money mistakes in the past you need to forgive past you and ask for forgiveness from your partner. We all make mistakes. I lost my life savings with a bad investment decision. I had to forgive myself, I had to forgive the people that gave me that advice and I had to move forward and start again.
Sometimes it is your partner that has made the mistakes. Start the conversation and talk about what you both learnt from the situation. Tell them that you love them no matter what and that you want to move forwards.
We all make mistakes. Find a way to forgive past you or past partner and come up with a plan to move forwards together.
The game of money can be a fun one to play together. Find a way to make money fun for both of you. If you are going to work on your finances then why not have fun along the way.
Katie and I started to see money as a game we could play and not only a game we could play but one we might actually be able to win! This really got us excited and we started to have fun with it! Here are a few quick suggestions for how to make it fun:
Money can be fun
Investing can be fun
Building your dream life doesn't have to be a chore!
Love Conquers All
Love conquers all. If you truly love the other person, if they truly love you then you will find a way through this and a connection about money.
What better way to love each other than creating the life of your dreams.
Sending you all love
PS please let us know in the comments what your biggest challenge is with this stuff. We will develop the article based on your comments.
PPS please hit like on the YouTube video as well. It means a lot to us.