Last updated on Sep 5th, 2020 by Chris Muller
There’s nothing quite like the rush of a new romantic relationship. But how early in your relationship should you talk about money?
New relationships are wonderful and exciting. They’re full of possibility and hope for the future. They’re a time of great discovery about a person who makes your heart beat a little faster.
You get to ask one another fun questions and see inside their soul.
Where are you from? Do you have any brothers or sisters? Do you like sports?
…what’s your credit score?
Okay, maybe you’re not asking for a full financial report on your first or second date. That’s more of a fifth-date topic of conversation.
All joking aside, how early in a relationship should you talk about money?
While you’re reveling in the thrills of new love, you don’t want to talk about money too early in the relationship. But imagine only learning about your spouse’s financial situation on your wedding day.
“Do you take his $50,000 of credit card bills?”
“Do you take her $42,000 of student loan debt?”
That’s probably a little late for a serious money discussion. So, when is the perfect time to discuss financial issues?
Unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast answer. Maybe it’s the fourth date. Perhaps it’s on your six-month anniversary or after you get engaged.
Rather than a set number or timeframe, experts say you should have the money talk before your relationship turns serious.
Serious means different things for different people. It could be when you DTR, short for “Define the Relationship,” according to The Complete Dating Terms Guide. However, you need to evaluate where you are in life. Are you moving in together? Are you getting engaged? Those are both serious.
If you’re making any joint financial decisions, you definitely should talk about money. So, it’s probably wise to discuss your goals and debt before you sign your first lease together or plan the engagement party.
We’re not serious-serious, but we’re serious
Maybe you’re not ready to pick out a sofa for a place together or choose a ring, but you have that feeling. In your heart, you know this relationship is going to go the distance.
Is it too early in the relationship to talk about money? After all, you don’t want to fall head-over-heels only to have your new love ghosting you because of your hefty credit card debt courtesy of a closet full of Louboutins.
It’s certainly not too early if both of you feel this relationship is moving into long-term territory. After all, issues related to finance are one of the main reasons couples fight.
Sure, talking about money can be awkward. Money is tied to a whole host of feelings, as well as ideas about success and independence.
If either you or your significant other grew up in a house with money issues, those issues could carry over into adulthood. Someone could deal with money by rebelling in the opposite direction and being careless because they were raised in such a budget-centric household.
Not ready to talk about money yet?
Maybe you’re not ready to have the BIG MONEY TALK (all caps because this is serious). You’ll have to do it someday or risk a potential relationship disaster. However, there are still some ways you can get an inkling about how compatible you and your loved one is when it comes to cash.
First of all, honesty is key. Though these money issues are vital, snooping is not recommended. Don’t go steaming open credit card statements (do people still get paper bills in the mail?) or hacking into your partner’s online account. It will be a significant challenge, if not impossible, to regain trust if you spy on your loved one.
But you can pay extra attention to some things that are right out in the open:
- On a regular night out, does your partner choose a tasty pizza joint or gourmet restaurants?
- Do you save high-end spots for special occasions or whatever weird holiday social media is touting that day?
- For happy hour, do you hit the corner bar for a few beers or go to your city’s hottest club for fancy cocktails?
- Is your partner’s wardrobe made up of trendy, designer duds or nice, practical classics?
- If you’re planning a getaway, are you Mellencamp-ing or jetting off to an island paradise?
- Does your partner drive a safe, average, reliable vehicle or a sporty, high-end model with all the bells and whistles?
- Are you putting money away in your savings account or living paycheck to almost paycheck?
None of these situations are inherently good or bad, and we’re not attaching any moral judgment. But taking a look at these spending habits can help you figure out your financial compatibility.
Say one of you plans special dinners at home so you can pay off your student loans, but the other wants to try a new hot spot every weekend and never misses Sunday brunch.
That’s a pretty big hint that money will become a huge issue as your relationship progresses, especially if the two of you can’t seem to meet in the middle.
It’s time for The Talk
If you’ve decided to move in together or get engaged, you’ve probably thought about how early in a relationship should you talk about money. You’re committed to each other, so you need to be committed to an open and honest chat.
Even if it’s awkward or difficult, you have to sit down and discuss your feelings about finances in detail. After all, it’s better now than in bankruptcy proceedings or divorce court. Plus finding a trustworthy and cheap bankruptcy attorney or divorce lawyer isn’t easy.
Here are some specific items to address.
1) The amount of debt you have
This shouldn’t be a topic of conversation when you match up on your dating app, but you definitely need to share this information when your relationship gets serious.
2) One bank account or two
Even if you’re ready to move in together, you might not be ready to combine your bank accounts. No one plans to split up, but it happens. Take note that the laws that cover assets for married couples are not the same for couples who haven’t tied the knot.
3) Your financial plans for the future
Current finances are vital conversation points, but so are your future goals. Are you planning to advance your education? Do you want to buy a house? What about saving for retirement?
4) Meet you in the middle
If you and your partner approach money differently, where can you compromise? Turn a ten-day trip into a weekend getaway? Get takeout instead of going out for a night on the town? Make date night a movie double-feature on the couch?
5) Deal or no deal
Do either of you have any financial deal-breakers? If your partner comes to the relationship with a certain amount of debt, will you walk away? Are secret shopping trips the last straw?
These are not light and fun conversations. As tough as they might be earlier on in the relationship, they’ll be much harder after you move in together, get married, or get engaged.
A little advice
Once you and your partner have decided that you’re serious and ready for the talk, you can do a few things to make your chat about your financial status go as smoothly as possible.
1) Find a good time to talk
If one of you is putting in extra hours for a huge project at work, it’s probably not the best time for a serious money talk. Coming to a potentially stressful discussion when you’re already frazzled is a recipe for disaster. Still, this talk is important. Schedule a day off to hash it out if you need to.
2) Put your cards on the table
It’s not that you hate the collection of movie memorabilia. It’s just that you can’t believe there’s another prop on the bookshelf when you’re trying to save for a down-payment on a house someday.
3) Be honest
Lying now will cause stress and arguments in the future. Your partner will likely find out about your actual income or the late credit card payments. Fess up and work together to solve any issues.
4) Tune in
If you’ve made the time to talk about money, be all in; no Netflix nor texting. You’re committed to each other. Commit to the conversation.
5) Be open to your partner’s feelings
You think it’s a splurge, but your partner thinks it’s a great deal. You might think that a designer bag at 75% off is a bargain. Disagreeing on things is okay as long as you’re still working toward the same future financial goals.
So, how early in a relationship should you talk about money?
Your first date at a coffee shop is likely a little too early to talk about finances. You’ll come off as a gold-digger or creepy stalker. “Please pass the sugar. By the way, do you have a large life insurance policy?”
This goes for the entire period when you’re learning about each other’s guilty-pleasure movies and favorite restaurants. Any serious conversation may complicate things too early.
Before things get serious, though, sit down and be open about your finances, especially if you are planning any major life events together. This conversation is vital to the success of your relationship.
This article was written by Chris Muller, a professional personal finance writer who has written for some of the largest financial publications in the world.
Chris brings a BBA and MBA in Finance, along with a decade of experience in the field, to help break down complex financial topics into easily digestible pieces through his written content in an effort to assist others in better managing their finances.
Chris is currently in pursuit of FI/RE, is an aspiring minimalist, loves craft beer, and is a dad two to kids.