A long-talk about the history of your credit score isn’t exactly first date material…
But that doesn’t mean you should avoid talking about money in your relationship until you’re using that credit score to get approved for a lease together.
Much like you don’t need to come out and tell your date every detail of the 3 kids, 2 dogs and pet fish you’d like to have someday the first time you meet up for drinks… you don’t need to reveal the details of your long-term investment strategy (or lack thereof) during those early dating days to start assessing your compatibility.
Whether it’s your potential partner’s outlook on marriage or money, the first few dates are all about feeling out their value system – getting a grasp on where they stand on the things that matter to and have the potential to affect you – money included.
You don’t have to come right out and ask a bunch of deeply personal financial questions, but you should be on the lookout for cues and comments that might offer insights into your potential partners’ relationship with money, and think about how those views and behavior may or may not fit with your own.
These clues can pop up in conversations ranging from upcoming vacation plans to how to split the check.
For a comprehensive list of top money conversations to have in those early dating days (and beyond) check out my free cheat sheet of the 25 money talks money talks every couple needs to have!
[clickToTweet tweet=”Much like you might look for a sense of humor or kindness or similar interests, (and be on the lookout for any red flags) before agreeing to a second or third date, you can do the same with money matters.” quote=”Much like you might look for a sense of humor or kindness or similar interests (and be on the lookout for any red flags) before agreeing to a second or third date, you can do the same with money matters.”]
[clickToTweet tweet=” According to a 2016 survey, less than half of Americans are comfortable talking about money with their partner.” quote=” According to a 2016 survey, less than half of Americans are comfortable talking about money with their partner.”]
I get that diving into real money talk as your relationship progresses can be a little bit uncomfortable…
But is it really any more awkward than getting naked in front of each other for the first time? Or initiating the dreaded, ‘Where is this going?’ talk?
You don’t have to reveal your net worth by the third date in order talk about your financial values some time before things get serious.
Big-picture talks about goals and dreams are the perfect way to initiate a meaningful financial dialogue. You can naturally shift these conversations from aspirational dream-discussions to tactical how-to talks.
For example, a conversation about a future dream home while watching an episode of Fixer Upper on HGTV can shift into a practical dialogue about projected timelines and savings for a down payment.
You may find it’s easier to start the conversation by sharing your own dreams and financial goals than it is to come right out and ask your partner about theirs.
Keep in mind these initial money talks don’t have to take the form of a formal sit down, they can just be a part of your every day life discussions.
For example, when my bf asked me out for the first time, my response was, ‘Sure, but can we go somewhere cheap? I’m on a budget.’
Being upfront about your financial outlook and sharing your big picture money goals can help make the topic less taboo when it comes time to talk about your finances more directly.
So when do you need to start talking money in your relationshipnmore openly?
I say it’s when you decide to committed.
‘Commitment’ means different things to different people. For some, that point may come after a month of dating. For others it might be 6 months in. And for some, it might be when you move in together.
At its heart though, the commitment point is the moment you decide you want to have a serious future with your partner and they feel the same way.
And it’s in that moment that you need to start digging into the financial details and start talking numbers with each other.
As you start digging in, be on the lookout for any financial details that might require a discussion.
For example, vastly different incomes, debt loads or bad credit can all point to broader conversations around money that need to had.
Essentially, any financial detail that has the potential to affect both of you needs to be discussed.
Not only will disclosing your financials help the two of you figure out what kinds of things you can afford to do together – vacations you can take, apartments you can afford to live in, etc. – it can also help you align your financial values and expectations for the future.
I know the idea of baring your full financial picture can feel totally overwhelming, and maybe even a little embarrassing.
You might think your finances aren’t any of your partner’s business.
But the reality is, when you enter into a long-term commitment with someone, you’re also tying that person into your financial life, even if just in part – so it’s important to put it all out on the table.
This is especially true if you decide to move in together or make a major purchase together, as banks and lenders may pull financial information from both of you.
I recommend going through the process full financial disclosure at the earliest point of commitment so that when you do decide to take these next level steps together, you’ve already had an opportunity to work through any financial disparities and potential issues as a team.
It’s important to remember that the process of full financial disclosure isn’t about judging or criticizing your partner, it’s about figuring out ways you can help each other and your relationship grow.
If your partner fears judgment or shame around their money habits, you can help them open up by sharing your own financial fears and mistakes.
Use this process as a launch pad to initiate important discussions around your finances.
For example, if your partner has debt, are you willing to take it on and vice versa?
If they have bad credit, how did it happen?
If you have vastly different incomes, how will you share money and expenses as your relationship progresses (even if you’re not sharing costs right now)?
If your partner has no retirement savings, is it because they had to cash it out to fund a serious emergency or because they haven’t made saving for retirement a priority yet?
If your partner has significant debt, what caused them to go into debt, what are they doing to pay it off and what are their feelings about it?
The process of full financial disclosure can be a valuable way to make sure your values, priorities and expectations align, especially as you move forward in your relationship. And if they don’t align, this is an opportunity to start the process of getting on the same page.
While you can and should look out for patterns of potential harmful financial behavior – for example, consistent use of cash advances or payday loans or calls from collection agencies – what ultimately matters is your partner’s commitment to improving their financial future and how they’ll do it in partnership with you.
The only true deal breakers are refusals to share financial information, a complete lack of willingness to change bad financial habits, shaming or blaming around money decisions, and flat out dismissiveness of requests to talk money.
While it may be uncomfortable and vulnerable when you start talking money in your relationship, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
By sharing your numbers, you’re building a foundation upon which you can create hypotheticals about how you would handle money if you were to take things to the next level – whether it’s moving in, getting married, buying a house or having children together.
For a full list of money conversations you should be having at every stage of your relationship, check out my free cheat sheet of the 25 money talks money talks every couple needs to have!