Can't agree on savings goals? Let Ike help

By Georgie Miller

While you may not agree with all of your significant other's money priorities, taking the time to discuss the issue may reveal that you share many of the same financial goals. After all, you're a financial love match, right?

But how can you best determine your top priorities for saving as a couple? An approach favored by a former U.S. president may help.

Using an urgent/important matrix

One way to identify your top priorities is to use an urgent/important matrix, a method credited to Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th commander in chief of the U.S.

For these purposes, the process begins by making a list of all your financial goals. Have your significant other make a list too, but don't compare them yet. Next, make a chart with four squares. The horizontal axis represents the importance of the task, and the vertical axis represents the urgency of the task. Your four squares then become:

  1. Not Important, Not Urgent. Example: The latest tablet.
  2. Not Important, Urgent. Example: Traveling back to your hometown for your 10th high school reunion.
  3. Important, Not Urgent. Example: A gym membership or workout equipment.
  4. Important, Urgent. Example: A new roof, if yours is leaking.

Importance/urgency matrix

Take your list of goals and place them in the appropriate boxes. Now you're ready to combine your lists. Because you've got your goals marked in terms of urgency and importance, and because everything is categorized before you sit down with your significant other, it should be pretty clear which goals rise to the top. Together you can build a master matrix that factors in both of your goals.

If something isn't important to you but is vital to your partner, you may agree to put it higher on the priority list than you'd otherwise place it. That's compromise. But what goal of yours can get moved up in return?

Following through on your priorities

Once you know what goals you're saving for, the question becomes how you'll save for them. One of the easiest ways to save is to start an online savings account and contribute to it each month via direct deposit or automatic transfer. Online bank interest rates are often higher than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, but it is always wise to compare available rates to make sure that you're getting the best deal. The higher the interest rate, the less you have to contribute before reaching your goal.

Many online banks may also allow you to create targeted savings accounts. This makes it easy to review progress against savings goals. You and your partner can also decide whether to open a checking account at the same institution. While checking accounts make it easier to access your money, that can also be a drawback. If you or your partner are impulsive, it might be best to forgo the checking account so that you the funds set aside as savings stay out of easy reach until you have achieved your goals.