One of the most important things you can do for your finances is to talk to a potential partner about their situation. If you are going to combine households and finances, you need to know what you’re getting into. But how much should you know? And when should you know it?
Here are some things to consider as you start to delve into your partner’s finances:
How Serious is the Relationship?
According to a recent COUNTRY Financial report, 29 percent of Americans think it’s ok to start talking about money at the outset of the relationship, while 31 percent say that you should wait until you’ve been dating for at least three months.
For about 60 percent of Americans, it appears that talking about money should take place early on in the relationship. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you immediate begin revealing credit scores and going into minute details. But it is a good idea to get an idea of how a potential partner views money, and start getting a general idea of how his or her financial situation stands.
You can get into more details as the relationship progresses. By the time you are engaged, however, you should probably have a pretty good idea of exactly what issues, if any, plague your potential partner’s finances — and they should know about yours. I really can’t speak in great detail to the progression, though. I met my husband at the end of September 2001 and we were married by the end of December 2001. Our entire pre-marriage relationship encompassed the three months the most Americans say you should start discussing money. But we were honest about things before tying the knot.
As your relationship progresses in seriousness, it’s important that you share more detail about your financial situations.
What Should You Talk About?
While it might not be necessary to go into everything early on, it is probably a good idea to gradually introduce increasingly thorny topics. By the time you’re engaged, you should have a good handle on each other’s finances. Many Americans feel as though they are well-versed in their partners’ debts. Indeed, 72 percent of Americans in relationships say they know how much debt their significant other has, according to the COUNTRY Financial survey.
However, things get a little less definite depending on the level of the relationship. Eighty-one percent of married couples say they know about the other person’s debt. However, it drops off to 54 percent for engaged couples. This is a problem if you are considering marriage. It would be good for engaged couples to be at least on par with married couples — unless there is a plan to keep finances completely separate.
It’s a good idea to talk about everything, from your philosophy on money to what you want to save up for to how much debt you have (and what kind it is) to how much you make before you decide to combine finances.
Keeping it Separate
If you plan to keep your finances completely separate, though, it might not matter if you disclose information about your money. While you should still have a general idea of what’s happening with your partner’s finances, and you should share what’s happening with yours, the details — such as exactly how much debt is involved — might not be as important. As long as you know that your partner can hold up his or her end of the deal by paying his or her allotment of the household expenses, it’s probably not important to know, to the dollar, how much debt is involved, or where all the money is going.
Combining finances, though, requires much more disclosure. If you decide to combine finances, then you should be prepared to share everything, and get ready to compromise on the way you spend and save.
What do you think? When should you talk about money with a potential partner? How much do you and your partner know about each other’s finances?
Photo Credit: Just Ard