You’ve finally met your dream partner. They’re intelligent, fun. Engaging and drop-dead gorgeous. Your friends and family adore them. You talk about everything…..well perhaps there is one thing you haven’t yet got round to talking about: money matters. The truth is, if you haven’t got round to talking about your financial future, you really don’t know each other.
“The money conversation is often a difficult one.”
No one wants to talk about money—could there be a less romantic discussion? But money touches every part of your life. It influences where you live, what you drive, what you do with your time, what you eat, how you communicate, and just about everything else. That means it plays a huge role in relationships—for good and bad. In fact, nearly 70% of divorced couples state that money problems were one of the main causes of their divorce. If you and your partner haven’t talked about how you think about and deal with financial issues; you are setting yourselves up for a world of conflict and heartache down the road.
If you are considering a future together, here are the money questions you and your partner need to address:
What is your money personality?
We’ve identified five basic money personalities: the Spender, the Saver, the Security Seeker, the Risk Taker, and the Flyer. Each one has strengths and challenges. Spenders tend to be generous and lavish gifts on the people they love, but they can also run themselves—and their partners—into debt, fast. Savers rarely have debt problems, but they can come across as cheap. Risk Takers are always up for an adventure and often become very wealthy, but they usually end up broke—or even bankrupt—at least once along the way.
Security Seekers are great planners and know how to use money to build a solid financial future. But, they can be short sighted, putting off living life today while they prepare for tomorrow. Flyers simply don’t think about money. They don’t stress about it, and they don’t worry about it. They are passionate about life and relationships. But they can also end up in huge financial trouble because they don’t pay attention to things like bills and overdraft notices. Once you and your partner know your money personalities, you can start talking about ways they can complement each other—and consider some of the challenges you’ll need to watch out for.
What is your current financial situation?
Know that no one wants to have this conversation, but we have seen countless relationships fall apart because one person has a huge debt-load or a history of credit problems that they never mentioned. It’s important to talk about any debt, savings, retirement, or other long-term investments you have. There is no need to worry now about how you’ll deal with the debt or combine investments. Just get everything on the table so you can move forward with a clear sense of where each of you are financially.
What are your financial goals?
This is your chance to dream together. Do you want to travel? Own a home? Move to another city? Have kids? Stay home with those kids? Be able to care for your parents one day? Help fund an important cause? Then consider how your goals might flow together. Again, you don’t have to sort out the details right now, just dream together. These are the kinds of conversations that lay the foundation of healthy financial communication down the road. When you remember the dreams and goals you have, you can get through whatever money conflicts come along.
How do you feel about combining your finances in the future?
We know a lot of couples who prefer to keep separate credit cards, separate checking accounts, and separate investments. In theory, that seems like a good idea, but we always wonder, ‘why don’t they trust each other?’. There are some legitimate reasons for having “his”, “hers”, and “ours” accounts — easier bookkeeping, clear household and business records, etc.—and as long as there is open communication about these accounts, they are probably okay.
However, more often than not, we find that couples keep their money separate because they don’t want to relinquish control to the other person. They don’t want anyone else to have access to all of their money. And too often, we see separate accounts turn into secret accounts. And whenever there are secrets in a relationship, trouble is sure to follow. It really does boil down to a trust issue. If you or the person you’re dating feel like you can’t trust the other with your finances, you should think twice about trusting that person with your future.
How do you handle conflict?
No matter how great you get along, no matter how compatible your goals are, you will argue about money. Because money touches every part of life, conflicts about money pop up in every part of life. We know couples who argue about their breakfast cereal. He thinks they should stick with the generic brand (he’s a Saver), she wants the organic granola from the co-op (she’s a Spender).
They aren’t arguing about cereal, they are arguing about money. So think about the way the two of you handle conflict in general. Are you able to calm down, brainstorm solutions, put the relationship first? Can you stay respectful no matter how angry or frustrated you are? Are you both able to compromise to solve the problem? Money is a hot button in relationships, and it’s essential that you know how to work through potential problems.
Healthy communication is the key to a solid financial relationship. Start talking about money now. It might not be sexy, but it can make the difference between a relationship that thrives and one that falls apart.
Happy Valentine’s day!
About the writer
Nimi Akinkugbe is a personal finance and wealth management expert who transitioned from a successful banking career in the corporate world to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams by . The current phase of her journey is public service as she serves as the Nigerian Ambassador to Greece.