If you and your partner clearly communicate with each other about your finances and are always on the same page, feel free to stop reading now. Pat yourselves on the back, because you’ve succeeded where many of the rest of us are challenged.

Whether it’s due to gender, cultural differences, spending habits, or paycheck inequality, couples who speak different languages when it comes to money can be headed for trouble.  In fact, it’s one of the top three causes for divorce in the United States.  I know this because I am a divorce Mediator in Nevada, which is a community property state.  By the time they hire me, it’s too late for me to serve as their money-language interpreter.  I’ve tried in vain to help spouses understand that the bonus they received for outstanding sales performance doesn’t belong solely to the salesperson (“but I’m the one who made the sales”), and the credit card charges for dental implants aren’t the sole obligation of the person in whose mouth those new teeth landed.  

So, before you make an appointment for me to mediate your divorce, I sincerely urge you to take some time to both speak and listen to each other about your finances.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out, or whether you’ve been together for decades, if your money-talk is as scrambled as the letters in this picture, you are not hopeless.  You absolutely have the power to improve the situation.

First:  CREATE A BUDGET.  See where the money comes from and where it goes.  This isn’t about judgments, it’s about transparency.  And it’s about making a list.  

Second:  DON’T HIDE YOUR SPENDING HABITS:  I used to keep a scissors in my closet to cut off the price tags before my ex-husband got home.  If you’re a spender and your partner is a saver, eventually you’re going to get caught, and that $500 purse is going to cost you thousands of dollars in divorce court.  

Third:  DISCUSS FINANCES TOGETHER.  Your relationship is also a business, so schedule a monthly staff meeting to go over profit and loss.  Make a plan for the future to capitalize on what’s been working, and to minimize what’s not.

Fourth:  CHECK YOUR EGO.  If your partner is simply better at managing money, let her pay the bills.  This isn’t about control, or power.  It’s about finances.

Fifth:  HAVE SOME FUN.  You both work hard, so reward yourselves.  Just make sure that they’re commensurate with each other; if your partner wants a new golf club, rewarding yourself with a week in Paris is probably not going to be okay.  Try getting a new pair of shoes instead.

The point I’m trying to make is that money issues should be discussed openly, frequently, clearly, and without judgment.  Obviously, financial decisions in a relationship work better if they’re made together.  So, take the time to unscramble each other’s money-talk with the goal of arriving somewhere in the middle. 

I wish I knew this stuff years ago.