Financial compatibility is a top indicator of relationship success and satisfaction. It came as no surprise to most that “arguing about money” was found to be the top predictor of divorce in a 2012 study of over 4,500 couples. Earlier this year, a study conducted by SunTrust Bank found that 35 percent of all respondents with relationship stress blamed money as the source of friction, and among the 44 to 54 year old age group, that percentage jumped to 44 percent.
While financial disagreements are inevitable between any two people, addressing your personal financial habits and expectations with your significant other earlier rather than later can help you either confirm your compatibility or identify red flags that might be a deal breaker.
We all know that love and relationships shouldn’t be calculative, yet money plays a huge role in the way we live, the choices we make, and our futures. Because we attach so much meaning to both money and love, the combination becomes a very difficult topic to approach. It’s hard to talk about money in relationships, but ignoring possible financial issues only makes matters worse in the long run. Here are 3 financial questions to discuss to ensure your relationship is headed in the right direction.
1. How Much Debt Do You Owe?
It will never be romantic or polite to ask someone about their credit card debt or student loan debt. But if you’re in a serious relationship with someone and even remotely considering sharing finances at some point in the future (aka getting married to them), asking about their debt is absolutely essential. Understanding just how much debt your potential partner-for-life has helps you develop realistic financial goals for yourself and your potential future family.
Having debt isn’t always a negative reflection of someone’s financial health, character, or abilities. After all, almost everyone has had debt whether it’s been on a credit card, home mortgage, car, or student loan. For example, a $70,000 student loan might sound like a lot, but if your girlfriend is paying it back on time every month and keeping to a monthly budget, then her debt actually demonstrates strong financial responsibility. On the other hand, if she admits to $20,000 in credit card debt, lives a lavish lifestyle, and is still struggling to pay the minimum on the card every month, you might think twice about sharing finances or start to expect some financial disagreements in the future.
2. How Much Do You Have In Savings?
Discussing your savings account with your significant other is necessary, because a person’s attitude towards saving can reveal how someone feels about his or her future with you. Let’s say that your boyfriend has $200 in his savings account, and he shows little interest in increasing its balance, while you’re working hard to put as much as possible away in savings for your emergency fund that is nearing $2,000. If you’re hoping for a marriage proposal and family soon, then you know that your boyfriend’s $200 savings account and apathy toward saving is going to be a problem. At this point, your relationship can strengthen through an open dialogue about saving for your future together, or this could be a breaking point. If your boyfriend shows complete disregard for your concerns and his saving habits, then your relationship might not be moving in the direction that you had hoped.
Saving habits can also help you understand a person’s character and how they deal with emergencies. Even if someone doesn’t have a very large savings balance, if they have consistent saving habits (like allocating a certain percentage per month of their salary to a savings account), they demonstrate consideration for the future and plans for any unforeseen expenses from emergencies. It’s not the end of the world if neither of you have strong saving habits or accounts; just bringing up the question of saving can help you both begin to save more and build a solid foundation for your future together.
3. What Are Your Financial Goals?
Asking about financial goals is a broad question that gets to the heart of how a person envisions their career, family life, and standard of living. If all you want in life is to be debt-free, have a nice house, modest car, and retire at 65, then you should make sure your partner is on the same page and has similar plans. Getting on the same financial page with your partner can relieve major relationship stress and increase your chances of sticking together. If your significant other has expectations of a mansion, multiple luxury cars, and international vacations every month, then they probably won’t be satisfied with your financial goals.
Financial goals are very personal since they are often linked directly to specific career goals and a person’s current standard of living. It’s important to be realistic about your financial goals, and be open minded about other people’s plans for the future. Only through an open and honest conversation about your individual financial goals will you be able to work toward your goals together.
If you and your significant other would like to review your finances with a certified credit counselor, please contact us.