How do you define financial security?

Define Financial Security

You want to know the #1 rule of personal finance for couples?

Spouses almost never agree on the definition of “financial security.”

Even the simple act of talking about what to do with extra money can cause conflict in relationships.

Why? Because at the core of these discussions are deeply-held values about what security (or the lack thereof) looks like.

Smiling Couple With Piggybank Sitting On SofaIf you and your significant other are not on the same page when it comes to this subject, consider the following word of caution before you begin to talk about it: Stop.

Do. Not. Have. This. Conversation.

At least, not until you are ready to really listen to what your spouse is saying.

When you hear, “I want to pay down the mortgage,” or “I want to invest more,” DO NOT respond with reason X, Y, and Z that you disagree. Instead, take a minute to follow up with, “help me understand why that is important to you.”

These conversations are not easy.

Very few of us were taught how to talk about money, let alone listen in a way that makes our partner feel comfortable.

Of course, it would be simpler if all our financial decisions fit into a spreadsheet or calculator. 


But they don’t! So we need to get better at having these tough conversations.

Here’s my advice for how to do this.

1- Set aside a specific time.
2- Turn off all phones. In fact, get them out of sight.
3- Ask your partner how they define security.
4- Listen!
5- Ask follow up questions.
6- Listen!
7- Switch. Now it’s your partner’s turn to listen.

If this isn’t a conversation you already had with your partner, now would be a good time to instigate it.


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Carl Richards is a Certified Financial Planner and a columnist for the New York Times, Morningstar magazine and Yahoo Finance. He is author of 2 books, The Behavior Gap & The One-Page Financial Plan. Carl lives with his family in Park City, Utah. You can find his work and sign up for his newsletter (which has an international audience) at

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