Talking Money in the Dating Phase

It’s certainly no secret that money is important. And money and money issues matter a lot in any kind of relationship, especially romantic ones.

Did you know that money is often cited as a major reason for break-ups and divorces?

A 2015 survey concluded that money is the leading cause of stress in relationships; and a 2017 survey suggested that 21% of divorces result directly from friction over money. And that number climbed to 33% for people who make over $100,000 a year.

There are many ways money and stress over financial matters influence people, but one issue could be that some couples neglect to discuss financial issues prior to tying the knot. It can be awkward to talk about money, income, and financial stability (or the lack thereof) during the dating phase of a relationship, but it shouldn’t have to be and doing so could help solidify trust.

Here are three ways you can talk about money with your partner without it getting awkward or weird:

1. Tie the discussion to your activities and dates, or lead by example. No one wants to admit that something is out of their budget, but it’s important for both the health of your relationship and your bank account to be realistic and disciplined about your financial situation.

A person who is trying to impress their date with a high-end sushi dinner may splurge a couple times early on, but at a certain point your date ideas need to reflect your budget.

If we stick to a recreational budget of approximately 10% of your take-home income (meaning after taxes), a person earning $800 a week has about 80 bucks to spend on leisure activities each week.

A discussion of how much to spend on dinner can be casually addressed by comparing the price of restaurants. It may sound like a trivial distinction but being open about your income doesn’t have to be said out loud stated: it can be shown with what you choose to do.

And spending money doesn’t always mean more fun. Making dinner for your date can be just as–if not more–romantic than going out… and it’s better on the budget.

2. Scale up gradually. You probably don’t want to talk about how much you can spend on an engagement ring on the first date. It’s probably not a good idea to talk about money in the first few dates. It’s kind of tacky.
Make the depth of the conversation match the closeness of your relationship.

However, as a relationship gets more serious, most people naturally get curious about their partner’s financial situation, even if just making sure they’re not saddled with debt.

This is when the scope of the conversation can expand to naturally to address things like credit score, health care, investing, savings accounts, etc.

But you don’t have to treat it like a sit-down interview with a financial advisor. Make it an organic part of learning about your partner’s life priorities, not an interrogation.

Constantly talking, stressing and complaining about how much things cost is not an attractive feature, nor is it a productive way of addressing finances. In fact, it’s kind of a turn-off.

The mature–and attractive–method is to show a healthy interest in saving and investing for the future.

Even frugal spending inherently implies losing money, whereas investing and saving ideally means earning. And there are many, many ways to invest that reveal a lot about your personality and character.

Getting involved in the stock market could be a shared activity that brings you and your new partner closer, as could learning the in’s and out’s of cryptocurrency together.

Plus, focusing on 401k accounts, or high-interest savings accounts, shows them that you’re thinking about and planning for the future. If you want to have children someday, it’s likely a good sign if your date is responsibly learning how to invest their money.

On the other hand, impulsive spending, irresponsible loans, and risky investments are obvious red flags that may not bode well for what could be a life-long relationship.

Finally, it’s about getting on the same page. Communication is important in any relationship and given how crucial money is in all of our lives, it’s better to have these discussions earlier rather than later.

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