Love and Money
Whether you are in a serious relationship, engaged, married, or remarried, money is one topic that will keep coming up. Do you ever talk about it? At that point in a relationship when it is clear that things are getting serious, and that your decisions or plans are beginning to affect your significant other, it is time to talk about money.
Money conversations don’t have to be awkward, but don’t bring it up too early. If you talk about money on the 1st or 2nd date, you will seem like a gold digger! One of you might think it’s all right to bring up specifics and data just a month into the relationship; to the other, that’s a warning sign to run for your life, and money!
Focus on the marriage, not the wedding.
Many couples find themselves going into serious debt due to the expenses of their wedding and honeymoon. Although everyone wants a fairy-tale wedding, carefully weigh up your options. You can have a lovely wedding without going broke or getting into debt.
What is your partner’s money personality?
Look out for tell tale signs. Without talking specifically about money, you can deduce a lot about a persons’ money personality, by their values, conversation, lifestyle; this is often shaped by childhood experiences and role models, usually parents. Different personality types handle money differently.
Is your significant other living way above their means? Does she insist on travelling business class even when she is in debt? Does he live in an awful slum, but is paying a hefty lease payment for a flashy car? Is your partner an extravagant spendthrift or a saver? Are you risk-averse and have carefully built your emergency fund, whilst your partner risk their life savings in a crypto currency scheme?
When two people get married, it can be a shock and surprise to discover how your spouse views and handles money, especially if it is quite different from the way you do. Try not to be judgmental even if you don’t agree.
Talk about your aspirations
Knowing your partners aspirations and dreams for the future can be an indication of how much they expect to earn in future or at least it gives you some indication of where they see themselves. Where they expect to live, the kind of education they plan for children, are all fairly strong indicators of aspirations. Remember though that aspirations remain not more than dreams, if the dreamer has no clear goals and a detailed plan to achieve them. Be careful about potential; it isn’t always realized!
Avoid keeping money secrets
Nothing breaks trust in a serious relationship or a marriage as quickly as finding out that your partner lied to you, or deliberately hid some important information from you. Naturally, this is tough, and many couples have difficulty being open and transparent about money matters.
Money secrets might include secret debt that your partner knows nothing about. It could also be about having some money or property hidden away. When these secrets are uncovered it leads to very deep-seated hurt and resentment that has damaged or broken relationships.
However one must be realistic; every situation is unique. There are situations where one spouse may need to secure family assets where there is financial abuse, or where a families’ financial security is in jeopardy from vices including alcohol or drug abuse, gambling which can ruin a family’s prospects.
Talk about your financial obligations.
Are either or both of you in debt? It is useful to know how much is owed and the status of those loans. Usually, a person is responsible only for his or her own debts, so if you did not sign the contract or loan agreements for your spouse’s debt, you usually should not be liable for that debt.
In reality however, debt collectors have been known to arrive at the family home to cart away personal effects including the car and furniture or even seal up the house! Even if they don’t, debt directly affects quality and standards of living so don’t ignore it.
What are your responsibilities towards the extended family including siblings and aging parents? Will they live with you? Is there regular child support and alimony to be paid from any previous relationship?
Talk about your financial roles
Decide how you are going to share financial responsibilities. Will you operate joint accounts, separate accounts or a combination of the two? Will you create a budget together or will it be “everyman for himself?” How will you split household costs? Fifty-fifty or pro-rata based on income? Will it bother either of you if the woman is the primary earner?
Avoid using money to manipulate, punish or control your spouse in any way. This is called financial abuse. It is more common if one spouse is the breadwinner whilst the other is unemployed or stays home to mind the children. Often the victims must account for every penny spent and must beg for money to purchase even the most basic necessities in life. Financial abuse is rarely discussed as it is often hidden away behind the confines of what appears to be a “normal’ relationship.
Money matters are a leading cause of friction, separation and divorce. Outward appearances can be very deceptive; ideally try to find out what you can before you tie the knot. However, people do change, and there will still be surprises.
The key is to keep talking. The more you talk, the more you learn. There is no right or wrong way; look at your own relationship and decide what works for you. If one method fails, simply change to another.
Happy Valentines Day!
Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private wealth management. She seeks to empower people regarding their finances and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance.