The Not-So Romantic Conversation You Need to Have With Your Partner

by

How's your financial compatibility lookin'?

It’s the one day of the year that’s specifically set aside for romance, so breathe in the scent of a dozen red roses and enjoy a loved-up evening with your significant other.

Valentine’s Day also lends itself to thinking about the kind of future you imagine with your partner. The problem is that these kinds of thoughts and conversations usually take on a dreamy, anything-is-possible kind of quality.

“City, beach or country home?”

“Two kids or three?”

The questions will differ, but I’m sure you get the drift.

Because money can be a bit of a sticky topic, most couples fail to work out the nuts and bolts of how they will actually achieve their future financial goals, or by when. Most of us limit ourselves to discussing day-to-day concerns about money, such as whether spending $18 on a Mai Tai or $50 on an Uber was worth it.

Most people don’t realise that when you’ve worked out how you’ll achieve your long-term financial goals, arguments over money are less likely to happen because you’re both on the same page.

It’s something that’s only just dawned on me. A couple of days ago, my husband and I went to see a goals coach called Tanner Tupou at AMP’s Goals Experience Centre in Sydney. At the moment, AMP is offering complimentary goal exploration sessions for couples and singles.

While Sherpa and I agree that we’d like to own our own home sooner rather than later, we’d never actually put a timeline on when we hope to stop renting.

The first thing that surprised me was that it’s a very tactile experience. Our first task was to pick up large cards off a rack that reflected our goals, either as a couple or individually. I know it’s just a mental thing, but it made the chosen goals seem more real.

Until then I hadn’t realised that my husband is still keen to travel, whereas I’m happily in nesting mode after my ‘gap decade’ overseas. He also wants to do further study, whereas my formal education was done and dusted a long time ago and I’m more focused on goals like fixing my cash-flow for my freelancing business.

And while Sherpa and I agree that we’d like to own our own home sooner rather than later, we’d never actually put a timeline on when we hope to stop renting. We’d also never put an actual dollar figure on the value of a potential mortgage, or how much we want to save before starting a family.

Tanner said he meets a lot of couples who arrive with the assumption that their goals are aligned, only to realise there is some discrepancy when it comes to chalking out a plan (he said most often it’s around how many kids to have and what age to retire by). This isn’t at all a bad thing (well, not unless you’re completely and utterly financially incompatible), and talking to an independent third party can help you find a middle ground that’s also realistic and achievable.

Using the biggest touch-screen on a table I’ve ever seen, we dragged and dropped our goals into different categories: high, medium or low, and then fixed a date for when we hope to achieve each one. This was the most overwhelming part (so much to do, so little time!), and we found that we parked some goals in order to prioritise others that are more immediate and important – first things first, as they say.

The next step for us is to see a financial planner, who will help us stress-test our goals and identify any possible trade-offs we may need to make. In other words, we’ll find out if we’ve been living in la la land…

Tanner [Tupou] said he meets a lot of couples who arrive with the assumption that their goals are aligned, only to realise there is some discrepancy when it comes to chalking out a plan.

Tanner explained that once firm goals are established, FOMO becomes less of a danger because you know where you want to be in five or 10 years’ time and what you need to do to get there. The same logic applies if you’re single: when you have a firm plan, you can basically automate a lot of decisions so that temptations are kept to a minimum.

Since Monday’s session, my husband and I have sent a flurry of emails to one another about actual things we are going to do to enjoy an amazing future together. Even if life doesn’t work out exactly as we plan it, we’ll inevitably be in a much better position simply by having a plan. The experience reminded me of a study planner I had on my desk at home when I was in high school, which was filled with motivational sayings. Some were dumb and corny, but this one I never forgot: ‘Failures don’t plan to fail – they simply fail to plan.’

Getting in sync with my husband about our shared financial goals and having a plan that gets us closer to achieving them with every passing day is way more romantic than I realised. I highly recommend it.

The AMP Goals 360 experience is available through participating AMP Advice practices.

We would love to hear your thoughts