What Is a Money Date—and How Can It Help Your Financial Future?
It’s not really something we get excited to talk about.
Money is a stressful, convoluted, fraught topic we often avoid with ourselves and our partners. Of course, we know that evasion isn’t the healthiest path. Not considering our Roth contributions or college funds for our kids won’t make the issues go away. (And it won’t swell our accounts.) But still, avoidance is just easier when it comes to our personal finances, right?
Not true, says Kathy Entwistle, a senior vice president of wealth management at UBS and the founder of Entwistle Partners, a team of financial specialists. For nearly three decades, Entwistle has been educating people—primarily women—about their finances, helping them understand and gain control of their financial picture so they can understand their money, realize their dreams and life goals, and, she says, “own their power.” The first step? Being vulnerable and actually talking about finances, says Entwistle.
It sounds incredible—but where do you begin? How do you start getting to a comfortable place with your money if your default is to look away? Enter money dates. Entwistle posits that by scheduling time to discuss your finances with your partner you can open the door to better understanding, greater compassion, and more success around money. Having simple conversations can unlock a well of potential and demystify the topic. “Once you start taking those little steps, it gets easier and easier,” she says.
“You feel much more in control and able to move forward,” she says. “And closer to where you want to be in your relationship with money and your significant other.”
A Q&A with Kathy Entwistle
A money date is a way for you and your significant other to come together and talk about money and the things that matter most in a way that makes you comfortable and makes finances more understandable. It’s a scheduled conversation—a date—around your money, as well as your goals, your values, your priorities, and what you want to accomplish in life. It’s important to schedule the time so that you can both prepare and not get overwhelmed.
Money is power. Money gives you choices. It gives you options. And it helps you to reach your goals. You don’t want to give away your power. You don’t want to give away your options. And you don’t want to give away your control. By getting on the same page as your significant other, you’re leveling the playing field, getting a seat at the table, and having a voice in what your financial picture looks like.
Bring up the idea with your partner, perhaps by saying, “I think it would be great to spend a little time talking about what’s important to us, what we’re doing with our money, and how that’s going to affect our future together.” Then set a time and a place. Choose a comfortable, private area where you’re not going to feel intimidated or worry about people listening to your conversation. (In this case, I do not recommend a lively social setting, like a restaurant.) If you have other people who live in your home—say, young children—it’s a great time to have someone else take them out. That will give you and your partner a safe space to have the conversation freely. It can often be uncomfortable when you first start having this conversation, but as with anything, the more you start talking about it, the more comfortable you will become.
A money date can look different with every couple. It could happen over a cup of coffee or over a glass of wine. It could be sitting in front of the fire or sitting at the kitchen table. Ideally, somewhere neutral is best. It’s about where your comfort zone is and where you can have that conversation and not get distracted.
The conversation is really about understanding your priorities. What is your priority and your partner’s priority when it comes to your goals and values? You want to untangle and uncomplicate all the industry jargon and go back to the fact that this is about you, the resources you have, the life you want to live, and how you will get to that place.
It’s important to begin with the bigger picture. Identify your goals and what’s important to you. Some questions that I give my clients to start these conversations include: What are our priorities? What’s important to you about money? You’re trying to understand what’s important to you in life and the role that money plays in that. Is it security? Is it knowing that you have enough? Is it that you can raise a family and put children through college? Is it taking care of your parents?
It’s also beneficial to talk about the emotional side of it, to understand how we think about money and what our backgrounds around it are. You can start with questions like: What was money like in your household growing up? Did your parents fight about money? Or you may share a story from your childhood, such as: When I was in third grade, my friend got this beautiful new winter coat. I wanted to get a winter coat, too, but my mom told me that we didn’t have the money for it—and that felt bad. So now I don’t ever want to worry about not being able to get a winter coat or being able to afford that for my children. When we approach the emotions around money and learn what our backgrounds around it are, we start to understand better.
Start with these conversations and you’ll quickly find where your pain points and your differences are. You may be a couple where one person tends to overspend and the other counts every little bit. So you’ll find what those pain points are and then you can address them by looking at the reality and finding solutions to start implementing: Do we have enough money to go out for dinner once a week? Are we willing to give up something else so that we can enjoy that time together?
What’s really interesting is that this is where the connection happens: When you start sharing.
I do not advise talking about budgets or how much money you have during the first money date. Anytime you use the word “budget,” people get very stressed out and uncomfortable.
After identifying your goals and what’s important to you, then it’s best to talk about the aspects of money that add stress for you. What makes you feel overwhelmed? Is it thinking about your college debt and how you’ll pay that off? Once you know an area is stressful for you, from both a financial and an emotional perspective, then that’s something that you can start to dig into deeper. And that’s where I—a financial expert—can come into play. We can work with clients on those areas that they feel they don’t understand well enough and where they feel they need to tackle.
The first time that you have a money date, it should be a bigger, broader conversation about goals and values and priorities. The big picture. The next time, you can look at more specific things that are causing you stress or confusion. For instance, you may want to look at a bank statement and discuss how you’re bringing in $10,000 a month but are spending $12,000 a month. Or one of you may have a 401(k) from work and you don’t know what to do with it. Or you’re concerned about your college funds for your children. You can start to take a closer look. And from there, you can get more specific and talk about cash flow, why certain things are happening, and what you need to do differently.
Having money dates on a regular—i.e., weekly—basis will continue to help demystify the subject and dispel the fear and anxiety that are often pulled into it. Money ties into your whole life.
The best time to start is when you are beginning to discuss building a future together. But lots of people don’t start then—and that’s okay. If it’s past that time and you’re in the relationship and you’re already building a future together, then the best time to start is absolutely right now. Just start. Things do not have to be perfect. And if you’re unsure about what your place at the table is or you feel overwhelmed just thinking about having a money date or about any aspect of money, it’s even more important to get that conversation going.
They have very good conversations together. They seem more relaxed, and they’re making really good decisions. My goal is always to help clients make really good decisions about their money so that they can reach their goals and just do the things they want to do—grow their money, invest it, retire, pay for college, whatever their goals are. I find that when my clients have these money dates, they’re less stressed about the topic of money in general. They feel more comfortable, they communicate better, and they implement their plans. They’re actually doing it—and that’s amazing.
Kathy Entwistle is a private wealth advisor, wealth manager, and speaker who has been working as a financial expert and educator for nearly three decades. She is the senior vice president of wealth management at UBS and the founder of Entwistle Partners, a team of financial specialists that provide multigenerational wealth advice to families, women in transition, business founders, and corporate executives.