Your typical Valentine’s Day conjures up images of flowers, candy and a candlelight dinner. Money – other than what you paid for the champagne and oysters – probably doesn’t come to mind.
But if you’re serious about making sure that your love story has a happy ending, you can use the romantic holiday to give each other gifts that say both “I love you” and “I want us to have a secure future together”.
Whether you’re in a serious relationship, engaged or already married, we’ve gathered ideas for 14 financial Valentines that you can gift your sweetie this year.
1. A Couple's Financial Consultation
Normally, telling your significant other that you both need professional help isn’t a great sign for the longevity of a relationship. But signing up for a couple’s consultation with a financial planner may be a gift that actually increases your relationship’s long-term staying power, says Jennifer S. Faherty, a certified financial planner and founder of Redbird Partners.
That’s because fighting about money is why most married couples split up, according to a study by Kansas State University researcher Sonya Britt. She found that couples who argue over money early on in their relationships were at a greater risk of divorce – regardless of their income, debt or net worth levels.
By meeting with an adviser, you’re making sure that both of you are involved in financial decision-making, and that you are on the same page when it comes to your bigger goals and how you’ll reach them.
2. A Life Insurance Policy
Ensuring that your partner is taken care of in the event that something happens to you – and vice versa – offers the gift of peace of mind.
“You never know where the road of life will take you, and planning ahead for illness or death as well as having life insurance can help couples be ready,” says Mitchell Adel, a certified elder law attorney and managing partner at Cooper, Adel & Associates, a law firm specialising in estate planning and elder law.
Life insurance is especially important if you think that your loved one might have difficulties meeting monthly living expenses and paying one-time costs in the event of your death, like funeral expenses, as well as such longer-term bills as a mortgage – not to mention just the general cost of raising children.
3. A Will
Death isn’t the most romantic dinner date topic, but being proactive about crafting a will can ensure that your money and belongings are distributed to the people you love, rather than leaving it up to the law. If you haven’t put your wishes down on paper yet, you’re not alone – Some 41% of Boomers and 71% of those under 34 polled by AARP said that they didn’t have a will.
Currently, intestacy laws (those related to the succession of your assets if you don’t have a will) don’t take into consideration cohabitation or domestic partners – making wills all the more valuable if you are unmarried. And even if you are married, all assets don’t automatically go to your spouse – much of it depends on state laws, says Josh Fatoullah, founder and CEO of JR Wealth Advisors LLC.
4. A "Special Occasion" Fund
One study of more than 1,200 Americans conducted by psychologists Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovich found that people derived greater happiness from investing in life experiences, like travel or a concert, rather than from purchasing material goods.
“So creating a special savings fund toward these types of experiences is a good idea,” Faherty says.
What’s more romantic than having an account labelled “Second Honeymoon” or “My Sweetheart’s 40th Birthday Bash”? Once you’ve set up a separate bank account for a short-term goal that you share, create a priority goal folder for it. After all, those shared experiences could be what gets you through the challenging times.
5. A Beneficiary Designation
Even if you’ve named your sweetie in a will, you’re not off the hook with important paperwork. You still need to name your significant other as a beneficiary to your retirement savings, financial accounts, trusts – anything with a deed or title.
It’s important to make the designation official on accounts like your IRA or pension. “Show your commitment by making sure your beneficiary understands their next steps and their options when you pass away,” Adel says.
6. A “Gift Card” Redeemable for Financial Duties
Often one partner assumes the heavy lifting when it comes to managing household finances. If your significant other is typically the one who makes sure that the bills get paid on time, Faherty suggests offering a Valentine that lets you switch roles for a period, so you can both be involved in money matters.
As an added bonus, you could pair your symbolic gift card with a real one that can be used toward an activity that replaces your partner’s bill-paying time, such as a massage or dinner with friends.
7. A College Fund
Maybe you already have small children … or maybe you just have babies on the brain. In either case, as soon as you both know that kids are part of the picture, it’s smart to start saving for their college education.
So explore the various vehicles together, and be sure to get professional advice before you pick an investment route. “Especially if children are not yet in the picture,” Adel says, “work with financial and legal professionals to ensure you’re setting up an account that takes advantage of tax incentives.”
8. A Monthly ‘Money Date’ Night
It’s not pillow talk, but it’s just as necessary. Smart financial planning between couples is all about communication, after all. And Valentine’s Day can serve as the perfect opportunity to launch a monthly financial meeting of the minds, so to speak.
It doesn’t have to be formal, either—it can be a once-a-month “date night with purpose”. “To keep the mood light, open a bottle of wine, play music and order takeout,” Faherty says.
What’s important is that you devote the time to discuss whatever financial issues are on your mind. You could plan to tackle one financial to-do each month, such as investigating how to reduce your cable bill, shopping around for cheaper car insurance or even just seeing how well you’re both sticking to your monthly budget.
9. A Joint Charitable Gift
Love begets love, and giving back can be a gift that warms both of your hearts. Have a heart-to-heart about the societal ills that concern you both, and then research charities that are working to address those problems.
10. An Investment Account for Your Future
Now, for a Valentine that represents your long-term goals. There’s nothing that says commitment more than saving up for a future home or the globetrotting you’ll do in retirement. Whatever the ultimate objective, starting an extra nest egg outside of your retirement savings helps you to both picture a future together.
As with your special-occasion fund, connect the account to a specific, future goal and determine when you want to accomplish it. This will not only remind you of the goal, says Faherty, but it will also help determine the best investment vehicle and asset allocation to fund it.
11. A Plan to Pay Off Student Loans Together
Although student loans are better debt to carry than, say, credit card debt, it’s still ideal to have a plan to steadily pay them off together, says Faherty.
“When my spouse and I got married, we had about $15,000 in combined student loans, and we put the money we received as wedding gifts toward paying them off,” she says. “We wanted to begin our lives together fresh. With this burden off our shoulders as soon as possible, we would be able to focus on and work toward other financial goals.”
12. An Emergency Savings Fund
Every couple gets hit with the unexpected at some point, whether it’s a job loss, illness or even natural-disaster-related repairs. An emergency situation can put even more stress on a relationship if there isn’t a cushion of money to get you through the ordeal.
And don’t think it can’t happen to you: In a poll conducted by Bankrate.com, only 24% of those surveyed said they had enough to cover six months of expenses. Spare yourselves the future drama, and commit to building at least six months’ worth of expenses for those “just in case” moments. Figure out how much you can sock away each month, and then contribute together.
13. A Long-Term-Care Insurance Policy
Picture yourself growing old together. Now picture yourself growing old together without stressing over home- or health-related costs. Sounds better, right? Long-term-care insurance can help cover costs associated with assisted living or nursing homes, as well as expenses tied to receiving care at home, so the greyer versions of you and your sweetie can have peace of mind.
14. A Financial Filing System
According to Faherty, much of your personal financial success depends on one major factor: organisation. Paying bills, rebalancing accounts, updating beneficiaries and locating documents for filing taxes are all less likely to fall through the cracks if you’ve nailed down a system for keeping them in one place.
Organisation lessens stress. And the less stress you have, the more you’ll be in the mood for romance.
This piece originally appeared at Learnvest.com.