Are you and your love shopping for a puppy? Relocating to a new city, so you can finally be together? Apartment hunting for two? Expecting some permanent bling on your left hand soon? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then grab your dude and two Venti lattes and get comfy on the nearest park bench. You two need to spend some time discussing the “m-word.” But tell him not to sweat it — we’re not talking marriage. First, it’s all about money.
Experts say that money or, more precisely, money-related issues like work ethic, lifestyle choices, values, spending and saving are among the top reasons for conflict in a relationship. We consulted Toni Coleman, a dating and relationship expert, for her advice on money questions you need to ask your partner before you take the next step in your relationship.
“If a couple moves forward into cohabitation, joint purchase of a home or marriage without having a serious discussion about money, they are playing Russian roulette with the health of their relationship,” says Coleman. With that warning in mind, talk through Coleman’s questions below before you make a decision you might regret.
1. How much debt is your partner presently carrying?
Coleman says to include college loans, credit cards, money owed to IRS, alimony or child support. “This is critical because it not only tells a partner what they are walking into, but it is a window into how your significant other has handled money or financial responsibilities before you met — which is an indicator of what is to come.”
2. What are your expectations regarding spending versus saving?
How much does your partner value security for your future family versus personal pleasures and pursuits? Do you both want to own a home in a year or two, or do you prefer to avoid that responsibility and instead use that money for vacations, hobbies and toys? In other words, Coleman asks, do your lifestyle goals line up?
3. Who will be financially responsible for what portion of your daily life together?
According to Coleman, this breakdown should remain fluid, not as a fixed arrangement. It will change based on each partner’s income and other changes throughout your relationship.
4. When times are tough, how will we manage?
What luxuries would you eliminate first? Your 401k contribution or your weekly manicure? Your annual girls’ beach trip or his new Harley?
5. Are we being perfectly honest about money?
Does your honey have a secret bank account in the Cayman Islands? An income stream you weren’t aware of? A hidden bonus check? A major previous financial blunder? A gambling problem?
While many money-related differences can be resolved through discussion and negotiation, Coleman says there are certain warning signs that should tell you to run, not walk, from the relationship.
“Look out for significant evasiveness, or any major inconsistencies in what he says,” says Coleman. “Any anger that is not appropriate for the situation, such as a significant overreaction or defensiveness is not a good sign. Also watch for complete dismissal of the importance of sharing information about finances with each other.”
The Money section and all articles within it are sponsored by Free Credit Report; however, the articles are all independently produced by The Frisky and the opinions and views expressed by the writers and experts are their own.