I have written about who should pay for the first date in the past. We have also discussed how to save money when in a longer term relationship. Today, though, I am interested in how much you share about your finances, and what you expect to know, when in a new relationship.
When Do You Spill the Beans?
For some of us, talking about money is an easy thing to do. For me, a guy who shares my bank account balances on the internet, it doesn’t bother me at all to share my financial situation with someone in my life. Of course, I am vague in some areas, but I put a fair picture out there.
For others, though, money is taboo. I once dated a girl who grew up in a family where money was never discussed openly. The parents took care of everything and the kids had no idea what was going on. If you grew up in that situation, you probably want to keep your finances close to the chest.
As a money minded person, it makes sense that you would bring up the topic first. In doing so, you should be willing to share your financial situation. Of course, that doesn’t mean bringing your statements to dinner, but you should be willing to say “I have about $XXX in debt and am working to pay it off by XXX” or “I don’t use credit cards, but my student loans cost me $XX per month.” It is easy to paint a pretty clear picture on your situation and your goals and plans for the future.
I have only rarely talked about income with a girl, but your personal balance sheet is important.
But when is the right time? When you have “the talk” and make it official? A month after? Two months? Every relationship is different, but it is important that you don’t blindside your partner far into a relationship when they don’t expect it. And it would not be fair to you if they did the same.
What Do You Expect to Know?
As I mentioned, I have rarely discussed income with a girl I was dating. When we did, we were vague and gave a range, rather than the actual number. Even when talking about credit cards and student loans, we were never specific, we used ranges to paint a picture of the situation.
I do, however, want to know if I am dating into a ton of debt. Whether it is credit card (honestly, this could be a deal breaker if it is too out of control) or student loans (would not scare me off, because it was accumulated trying to better their life), I think it is fair that your partner should know your situation.
When do you expect to know that, though? You obviously don’t sit down on your first date and interrogate your new romantic interest on their debt and savings. You don’t ask about retirement planning until well after date number two or three. But when should it come up? When do you want to know what you are really getting into? After all, money is a common reason for relationship failure.
Your Opinions and Experiences?
I know that each situation is different, but we all have our tipping points where we think it is reasonable to share and understand each other’s financial situations. When do you think it is appropriate? What have you done in the past? Please share in the comments.
14 thoughts on “How Much About Money Do You Share with Your New Honey?”
I think it’s so important to discuss money. My cousin is now in his second marriage because the first wife had a huge spending problem that was uncontrollable. Even with counseling, she would rack up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, practically crippling him and their kids for years.
How early do you think it is appropriate to have that conversation?
I tried to avoid answering the question directly, but probably somewhere between getting to know one another and thinking about the long term possibilies. Is that vague enough? 😉
Ha ha. Vague enough for the ambiguous.
We shared everything right from the beginning. Granted, we were very young when we first started dating, but everything worked out in the end.
When you say “from the beginning,” do you mean first date? Third date? A month in?
My now-husband and I had fairly organic disclosures – just as things came up we shared our thoughts with one another. We started dating a time of a lot of changes in our financial lives so we were learning alongside each other.
I don’t think you need to sit down to have a big “what’s your balance sheet” conversation at any specific point. You can find out pieces of the picture gradually by observation (what’s their lifestyle? what job do they have?) or gentle questioning. Find out if they went to public or private college, if they went to graduate school, and then slip in “Did your parents pay for most of your schooling?” Offer your answer to the question first: “My parents paid for most of it but I have some small student loans.”
That sounds like a logical approach. If you press too hard, you could scare away or upset your girlfriend/boyfriend.
Realistically, a marriage is effectively like a contract between two people. It can tie people together financially in ways that many younger folks don’t realize. If you wouldn’t go into business with someone without knowing some details, then getting involved in a serious relationship should be thought of in this light as well.
I’m not saying that marriage is a business, but it does tie people together financially. So there needs to be some practical thought given to the finances, which means that information must be shared both ways. For that to happen, it either happens organically or it has to be asked. If the latter, I think that once things start to get serious to the point of looking at the person as a potential spouse, some information should be shared. Not as a way to evaluate the person’s merits, but simply to understand whether or not you’re financial compatible with the other person, and whether or not he or she is financially responsible at an acceptable level.
As usual, you have great wisdom. I never thought about it through the business lens, but it makes a lot of sense. Many couples start a family business together, which makes even more sense thinking about the financial relationship in marriage.
I’m with Corey about not dragging it too long before the subject gets brought up. It’s especially important as the relationship develops and time passes. When marriage becomes an issue, the subject of finances becomes a huge issue because of something that not many people are aware about, particularly those that prepare their own taxes. If one partner has collections attached to debt, and the couple files jointly, the attachment will still be in effect even though only one partner was responsible.
It may not be necessary to know every single detail from the very beginning, but a general idea of what kind of financial shape each person is in would be a good so as things get more serious, a better forward-looking plan can be implemented without adversely affecting the innocent one.
Even if someone is in collections, the other partner could still apply for a loan on their own credit. I would be nervous about a big loan like a mortgage though.
I married young and didn’t have much of anything to my name, other than I had no debt and was making some money serving tables during college (In my mind this was a small fortune). If I was going through this situation today, I think I would be honest – but wouldn’t be specific until a level of trust was built. I’m not quite sure why it even matters, but there is something personal about it in my mind which is probably due to my upbringing.
Having no debt is a biggie these days. Most people I know have student loans and not much to their names. You were in a better spot.
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