Virginia couldn't believe what was happening. Shortly after her marriage to Wayne, the phone calls began. Not from another woman -- from collectors! Virginia was stunned. When she first met Wayne, she thought she had won the love lottery. Wayne was thoughtful, attentive, and always surprising her with small treats. While she fell in love with him, it certainly didn't hurt that he drove a nice car, lived in a beautiful home with a pool, and proposed with one heck of a sparkly ring. Only after she got married did she learn that Wayne was living way beyond his means, thanks to the liberal use of credit card.
Virginia's experience is all too common. When we are lucky enough to meet that someone special, more often than not it feels awkward to talk about money. So we don't. Unfortunately, financial compatibility is every bit as important to the long-term lasting success of a relationship as emotional or physical compatibility. What's the best way to bring up money with your honey?We suggest that when you feel like your relationship is getting ready to move to the next step, it's time to sit down and get "financially naked" with each other. By this we mean that you literally exchange a list of what you own, what you owe, and your credit scores. We also suggest you talk about how money was (or wasn't!) discussed as you were growing up and your attitudes towards budgeting. If you need help bringing up the subject, tell your honey that you read an article on Military.com that suggested doing this. Let us be your "wing-(wo)man" in this exercise.
Even if you are already coupled up, it's not too late to start this dialogue. For already committed couples there is another set of important "housekeeping" issues that need to be discussed. Make sure that you are both comfortable with having joint or separate bank accounts. If you decide to keep a joint account, we suggest you set a dollar amount above which you each agree to consult each other before spending that money. Often when fights arise over money it's simply because of the shock of one partner not being consulted beforehand. If you opt for the "three-way" (i.e. mine, your, ours), you?ll want to be very clear with each other about what constitutes joint versus separate expenses, again to avoid arguments.
Committed couples also need to be very clear about who handles what financial chores. When it comes to the division of routine bill paying and the handling of investments, the real key is communication. By that we mean whomever handles those chores also needs to keep the other person informed (so yes, you really do need to talk about that late fee or the investment that went south!). Even if you are not in charge of daily finances, you want to stay involved and know what's going on with your money.
The point of these discussions is to establish in your relationship a foundation for what will be a very important second step -- annual check ups. Once a year, we recommend that you sit down with your honey to talk about your finances. This is a good time for you to discuss whether you are meeting your savings goals, how well your budget is working, any changes you want to make to your investing plan, and so forth.
We realize that this advice does not sound romantic. However, there's a reason why study after study cites money as one of the top causes of fights in marriages and of divorces. If left unaddressed, issues surrounding money can escalate into a landmine that blows apart your entire relationship. You owe it to you yourself and to your honey to bring up the subject of money.