Forget the flowers, candy, and teddy bears. What you and your love should share this Valentine’s Day is a heart-to-heart conversation about money. Wow—what a buzzkill! Maybe, maybe not. Did you know financial discord is the leading cause of divorce, destroying relationships even worse than infidelity? To keep this from happening to you, here are a few tips.
- Start talking about finances as soon as you realize the relationship is becoming serious. I’m not suggesting you should ask for someone’s net worth on a first date! Still, you should know each other’s financial condition before you live together. This will help you create a lifestyle without making inaccurate assumptions. Money isn’t everything, and both people don’t need to provide equally. However, these decisions should be made together to avoid frustration and resentment.
- Be honest about your financial condition. If you have credit card debt or student loans, share this information. Together, you can create a plan to pay things off without issue. However, if you represent yourself as being more financially stable than you are, you’re inviting confrontation. Plus, it’s just not cool to lie when you are in a relationship.
- On the other hand, hiding financial assets from your partner is equally unhealthy. I have worked with clients who do not know how much money their spouse earns. Not only does the secrecy lead to distrust, but it also creates an absolutely nightmarish estate situation.
- Talk about money concerns when you have enough time and are not tired. Keep the conversation focused on money, avoiding personal attacks beginning with phrases like “You always…” or “Why can’t you…”. If your partner has made the same financial mistake multiple times, look for ways to solve the problem without making him or her feel worse. In the same way that it’s important to be truthful with each other in a relationship, you also need to be a person with whom someone can be honest.
- Talk to each other about your dreams. If one of you wants to retire early and travel, while the other enjoys work and never plans to leave, try to create a compromise. Sometimes, financial stress in a relationship isn’t the result of limited resources; it’s the outcome of different life goals.
- Realize that beliefs often originate in childhood or young adult life. Financial opinions are part of most families, and these ideas are accepted or rejected by listeners in almost unconscious ways. The joke about “cleaning your plate because there are starving children” resonates because most of us have had a similar experience as we were growing up. Additionally, our families may have suggested that hard work leads to wealth, or rich people earned it on the backs of the poor. These statements impact how we interact with money.
- If the situation is dire, you might consider counseling or working with a financial therapist. Financial therapy is a relatively new field, and you may have trouble finding someone in your area, but it’s worth exploring. As in every professional relationship, interview anyone you are considering.
Flowers die, candy just goes to your hips, and teddy bears eventually move to the closet. However, the ability to talk to your partner about financial issues will last for years. This Valentine’s Day, celebrate in the way that makes you happy. Then, sit down together, and start your financial plan.