Lately I’ve been getting asked a lot of questions about dating and money. More specifically, I’ve been getting asked how to talk about money when you’re dating.
I’ve shied away from this topic because I try to keep my private life private (shocker, I know). But if it keeps coming up then it must be for a reason, so I’m talking about it.
While I am certainly no expert in the arena of romance, I am a single girl in the city who does go out on dates. I’ve also heard enough horror stories about how marrying the wrong person can ruin your finances thanks to my career. On the bright side, I’ve also heard amazing stories about reconciliation after huge financial mistakes, like Lauren Greutman who racked up $50,000 of debt and had to tell her husband.
Why you need to talk about money when dating
Money affects every area of our lives, including our romance. Money can also be a really thorny issue for some people, at least according to statistics.
Each person comes into a relationship with their own financial baggage. This may include what they learned from their parents, whether or not they grew up with money, what their culture taught them about money, gender roles and what society as a whole has taught them about finance.
It’s also not uncommon for financial opposites to pair up together. I personally don’t think this is a bad thing since balance is good. I for one know I occasionally need someone to tell me I’m being too cheap. I’ve also dated men who gladly asked me to keep them in check if I thought they were spending too much.
Not to mention, if you do end up committing to each other for the long-term, you’ll be making financial decisions together. It’s easy when you’re just taking care of you, but it’s another thing entirely when there are other people involved.
How soon should you talk about money while dating?
In my opinion? As soon as freakin’ possible.
According to research, apparently millennials would rather talk about STDs than their debt. I guess I’m not a typical millennial because every guy I’ve dated in the last year has very openly discussed their finances – including debt – very early on.
I get that this is probably because of what I do for a living. People also feel oddly comfortable around me to share their financial dirty laundry and I don’t really get why, but I’m not bothered by it.
That being said, not everyone is a personal finance blogger. I get that. But there are still ways to start the dating and money conversation early on. One of my favorite love and money bloggers, Elle Martinez, once told me that the best way to start talking about money early on in a relationship is to ask about your potential partner’s life goals.
The reason this works so well is because goals usually require a conversation about money. Want to buy a house? That costs money. Want to travel the world? That costs money too. Want to run your own business? Oh, then you definitely need to talk money.
- Is love dragging down your finances?
- How I Messed Up With Money (And How I Turned It Around)
- What My Immigrant Parents Taught Me About Money
- How Lauren Greutman Paid Off $50,000 of Consumer Debt
- How Melanie Lockert Paid Off $81,000 In Student Loans
What if they have financial baggage?
I’ve had men tell me everything from how a divorce cleaned them out to how they have credit cards that have gone into collections.
Again, because of what I do for a living, it would take a lot for me to think that someone’s financial baggage is a deal breaker. Someone could tell me they owe $5,000 on credit cards and I’d be like, “Oh! That’s nothing! You can knock that right out!” because I regularly come into contact with people who at some point owed six figures or more.
That being said, not everyone is desensitized to this stuff like I am, so I’ve decided to put together some pointers to help you out in case a potential partner has financial baggage.
- Try not to judge them. First, everyone has baggage and life happens. Second, if they are sharing it’s because they feel comfortable enough with you to do so. You should also be happy that they are being transparent. It would be far worse if they were shying away from the conversation.
- Pay attention to their character. There is a difference between someone who is doing something about their financial situation and someone who isn’t. Often times its not the baggage itself that’s the problem, it’s how they react to it. For example, if they have credit card debt or are in between jobs but are hustling their tails off with a side business, then their character is fine. If they are blaming other people and failing to take responsibility, then you have a problem.
- Know your deal breakers. And by deal breakers, I mean real shit, not the superficial stuff. Salaries and what kind of car they drive fall into superficial. Gambling away savings or not being able to hold down a job because of their own actions would be some real shit.
- Don’t shove your opinion down their throat. I never assume that anyone in my personal life wants to hear my opinion about what they should do with their money, especially if I just started dating someone. If they ask then it’s a different story and you can use it as an opportunity to work together (which is also not a bad thing).
Bottom line: Dating and money can go hand in hand. Money is important, but it isn’t everything in love.
I could go on about how marriage has historically always been about money, but I’m far too much of a romantic for that. Additionally, you could marry a rich guy and be miserable, which is one of the reasons I always encourage women to earn their own money – preferably with a location independent business.
The truth is we’re living in different times. Women don’t need to stay with men for money anymore. We have same sex couples. We have blended families. We have higher divorce rates. Two incomes are required to support families. Etc, etc, etc.
Relationships have drastically changed and the role of money in said relationships has changed as well. The best we can do is have open conversations about money with potential partners and see what we’re working with, while also remembering that character and action trump the actual issue.
If anything, depending on the situation, I believe that discussing finances early on can help you a) nip the issue in the bud faster and b) in doing so, probably bring you closer together. How do you handle dating and money?