26 April

People Pose, Context Changes, Stories Shift… But Numbers Don’t Lie

Hardcover of Talk Money to Me

Adapted from Jason Tartick’s Talk Money to Me: The 8 Essential Financial Questions to Discuss with Your Partner

I had the opportunity to interview former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss. We’ll dive into his expertise and recommendations for avoiding abusive leverage in relationships later, but here’s a little taste of our conversation. From Voss, I learned the smallest tactics, from rephrasing a question to recognizing the speed at which someone talks, that can help you identify someone trying to deceive you. And when someone is trying to deceive you, the context of the narrative changes and the person’s story can shift. Chris Voss even has gone as far to explain it as such: “Pay attention to your delivery. If you find yourself arguing or explaining, you’re losing. If you find yourself complaining, you’re losing. Conversely, if you don’t make it about yourself—if you demonstrate understanding, you’re winning.” While words can take on many different meanings depending on the delivery, there’s one thing that’s consistent. You can’t change the tone, context, or story of a number. Because credible numbers don’t lie.

But here’s the thing—we’re not talking about our numbers! Only 56 percent of married and cohabitating Americans feel very comfortable talking to their partner about finances. So where does this leave the other 44 percent? Are they just ignoring the topic and wishing on a star that the financial side of their relationship works itself out? Or does every conversation about money turn into some blow-up fight? Either way, this group struggles to communicate about money. And when we lack healthy communication, our relationship suffers, particularly as it relates to finances.

Why is talking about money so damn hard? It can feel like you’re parading across a stage, ass out, au naturel in some humiliating fiscal fashion show. Every pore and wasted penny exposed to the masses to be shamed, blamed, and judged. I get it. You’re not alone. As children, we’re taught to never talk about money, for fear we might come across as rude, and our society has largely obeyed this taboo. As a result, we’ve developed this toxic relationship with cash. One that revolves around shame, embarrassment, or sometimes, an overinflated ego. It’s no wonder that we act like a deer in the headlights when the topic comes up!

Finances trip up relationships more than almost any other factor. Nearly 73 percent of married or cohabitating Americans say monetary decisions are a source of tension in their relationship. Of this group, half admit this tension has affected their intimacy with their partner. That stress can simultaneously ruin your relationship and your bank account. So why risk it? If you take time to discuss your money compatibility and goals with your partner, you’ll be paying yourself dividends in the future. (And if you don’t know the meaning of dividends . . . flip to the glossary in the back of the book for a no-BS definition! I’ll do this for any finance-heavy terms you see in bold throughout the book.) Your relationship will be stronger, and likely, your joint financial status will be healthier. But as of now, the majority of couples are ignoring the problem.

The reality is, seven in ten Americans living with a partner or spouse have had a disagreement about finances in the past year. Here is a breakdown of the top five arguments:

  • 36 percent argue over needs versus wants.
  • 28 percent argue over spending priorities.
  • 22 percent argue over large purchases without discussing them first.
  • 21 percent argue over paying off debt.
  • 19 percent argue over saving.

Have you ever been in a disagreement like this with a significant other of yours? Or have you experienced your parents having disagreements like this? Do you want to prevent these arguments in the future? If so, the solution boils down to one key factor—communication. You might be thinking to yourself, Duh, Jason, that’s obvious! You’re right! The answer is simple, but through my research, I’ve found couples struggle with the execution. Many people don’t know how to get the conversation started or what questions to ask. In this book I’ll give you the tools to achieve both. Let me show you how to break the ice and get the convo rolling.

On my season of The Bachelorette, there were thirty jacked, GQ model-looking dudes vying for the attention of our bachelorette, Becca Kufrin. Dating is tough enough already, but being filmed on a tight schedule with a room full of overly chiseled guys who also are dating your girlfriend is like putting your relationship in a pressure cooker. The whole courting process is accelerated to the nth degree. There are group dates, producer interviews, cocktail hours, international travel, hometown dates. Personalities are twisted and stretched like saltwater taffy while you stand there in whatever shirt best accentuates your biceps as you’re poked and prodded day in and day out in search of the soft spots, the raw nerves, the unhealed wounds all on the altar of ratings. If you’re lucky, a few minutes might slip by where you forget your every move is being dragged through the wasteland of public scrutiny; but those moments, blissful as they may be, are about as rare as a cat’s bark.

Jason Tartick, author of Talk Money to Me

Because my one-on-one time with Becca was so finite, before each date, I would prepare by writing out questions and topics I wanted to discuss. I poured all my energy into preparing for the date. In the short period we were together, I wanted us to gather all the knowledge we could about each other because the relationship was under such a time constraint. And it was a good thing we did, because we didn’t end up being each other’s person, and that’s okay! It’s better to find out sooner rather than later.

And this wasn’t just a strategy I employed when preparing for dates that would be broadcasted to millions. No, this tried-and-true tactic and I went way back. I remember being in seventh grade and having my first real girlfriend, Amie. A time when phones were still leashed to walls (I know, I’m old AF). I’d squirrel up in my dad’s office, where no one could hear me, close the door, and take a blank sheet of paper from his printer. I’d jot down ideas for all the riveting conversations two twelve-year-olds could possibly have and give Amie a call. By no means was I the town Casanova, but writing out my questions helped me stay focused, preventing me from rambling on about NFL Blitz, Super Smash Bros, or the Buffalo Sabres. It always gave me a better idea of what I wanted to make sure I learned or shared. Weirdly enough, I still do the same thing for podcast interviews and most meetings.

You can judge my way of preparing for meaningful conversations. I get it! But I can say with confidence it’s likely you will need to prepare for the money talk with your partner, and writing down your thoughts and questions will help you crystallize your intentions, fears, and expectations. I know it did for me. If the idea of talking about money is foreign to you, don’t worry. I’m going to help you get warmed up to the idea. These are some fun, light questions that you can ask your partner tonight at dinner, when you’re grabbing coffee, or at happy hour. Think of these questions as the appetizer. They’re getting you prepped for the more serious, entrée-style conversations about money, the deeper, harder conversations that will come in later chapters. And before you ask these questions to your significant other, first reflect on your answers. How would you respond? Most importantly, these are the easy questions that will allow you to start Talking Money, while being able to identify more about you and your loved one’s relationship with money.


  1. What is one thing you spend too much money on but wouldn’t be willing to give up unless you were completely broke?
  2. If you had to describe your relationship to finances using three words, what would they be?
  3. What is your number one strength when it comes to managing your money?
  4. What is your biggest weakness when it comes to managing money?
  5. If you won a million dollars today (after taxes) and had to spend it all, what would you buy and why?
  6. What is one thing money related, good or bad, that you learned from your parents growing up?
  7. What’s the most outrageous purchase you’ve ever made?
  8. Based on that purchase, what are your feelings about it today?
  9. How much do you want to earn annually? In five years? In ten years? In twenty years?
  10. If you had to define when enough money is enough, how would you define that today?

Not too painful, right? They’re lighthearted, could lead to some fun anecdotes, and most importantly, they’ll help you dip your toes in the money conversation. No one’s asking you to come in swinging hot with a heavy hitter like “How much do you make monthly?” All you need is an icebreaker to start the conversation and get the wheels turning. These are the questions that will allow you to create space so you can have discussions about money. But before diving headfirst into the topic, it’s important to establish a certain level of trust and safety.

Hardcover and audiobook of Talk Money to Me

In Talk Money to Me, Jason Tartick shares how to be open about your finances and come up with a plan of action together—the best way to ensure a healthy, lasting relationship.