The medical residency life is stressful. The hours are long. Every moment spent outside of work is precious. The pay is limited, and there are still student loans to deal with.

With all these pressures, almost every medical resident and their supporting spouse worries about money. Of course, it’s not just medical residents that find money stressful.

In a 2010 American Express survey, about one third of all couples report that finances are the most stressful part of their relationship.

With so much at stake, talking about money with your spouse can be tough. But it’s important. With regular communication, you can turn your money talks from a source of contention into a step towards creating the future you dream about.

Let’s walk through six step steps to having the money talk with your spouse.

1. Find the Right Time and Place

When time is tight and your spouse is constantly tired (or you’re tired, if you’re the one in residency), it can be hard to talk about tough topics. Wait for a time when your spouse is in the right mental place to bring up the idea of talking about money.

Introduce the idea gently by saying something like, “I’d like to talk about some money stuff with you. When’s the right time?”

Set the stage for a productive conversation by letting your spouse be a part of the decision making about where and when you both want to talk. Wait for the right time, because without the right mindset, the money talk won’t be productive.

2. Talk About Hopes, Dreams, and Goals

The best place to start talking about money is to talk about what you want your money to do for you. What life do the two of you want to create together? What do you want to do individually?

Ask questions like:

  • “What would you like life to be like in five years?”
  • “What do you want retirement to be like?”
  • “When do you want to retire?”
  • “What does money mean to you?”

These hopes and dreams are your guiding light as you review your financial picture and create your financial plan.

3. Take an Honest Look at Your Situation

If you’ve lost some clarity about your money situation in the midst of school and residency demands, that’s understandable. In order to get your finances under control and build wealth, you’ll both need to take an honest look at your financial situation.

Start by creating a net worth statement. Write down your bank account balances, credit card balances, student loan amounts, any investments, and other possessions like houses and cars.

Even though it might be tough to see the total amount, clarity is necessary to move forward.

Sometimes, it’s easy to feel like we have something to hide about money. In a 2011 survey about couples and money, 29 percent of Americans surveyed admit that they’ve withheld information from their spouse or partner about spending, even though 40 percent of those surveyed agree that honesty about finances is more important than honesty about fidelity.

Now’s the time to open up to your spouse about any of your money mistakes. By being forthright and honest, you’ll create a safe space for your spouse to also be honest and open.

As the full picture comes together, don’t judge yourself or your partner. It’s just money, and we all start somewhere.

4. Create a Plan to Meet Your Goals

If you’re having this conversation, it’s probably because there’s a money issue on your mind.

Maybe the student loans feel overwhelming and money’s tight. Maybe the credit card bill is on the rise. Maybe you want to start a family, and you don’t know how you can afford it.

Whatever your goal is, use this issue as your guiding light to create a financial plan.

If you feel overwhelmed, now’s a great time to find or check in with a financial advisor. As a busy resident or a supporting spouse, time is limited. Learning the ins and outs of personal finance might feel like too large of an undertaking.

A fee-only financial advisor can help you create a custom financial plan to help you implement your goals.

5. Create a Plan to Talk Regularly

Getting control of your money doesn’t happen overnight. Create a plan to check in together regularly so you can continue to make progress towards your goals.

Even if money talks initially feel tough, remember why you wanted to do this in the first place.

You wanted to worry less. You wanted to feel on the same page about creating your future together.

As you experiment, you’ll find a way to communicate effectively. The money talk will get easier and easier over time.

6. Nurture Each Other

Money talks can be emotionally draining. After the conversation, take the time to do something special together. You make your relationship stronger by using your money effectively. Now just remind each other why you love each other by doing something fun together.

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