This February, consider a new approach to intimacy with your loved one. As a female financial advisor focused on female clients, I’ve become very clear-eyed about how important the role of money — and the ritual of talking about money — can be in relationships.
While divorce rates are declining, money’s influence on divorce is growing ever larger. Research suggests that as our level of consumer debt has risen, so has our squabbling about money. Some research cites money fights as the top cause of divorce.
So this Valentine’s month, keep Cupid’s aim true and invest in your relationship by exploring these five financial facts; then pop the champagne!
Your credit score. This three-digit number won’t tell you everything about your honey — life’s upheavals can force a credit misstep from even the most financially responsible people — but it’s a logical starting place. ‘700-plus credit’ may not sound sexy, but it does indicate your sweetie places a premium on making timely payments and low overall debt ceilings. (The average FICO score for approved mortgage borrowers was 734 in August 2013.)
Demands on your cash (present and future). While it takes just two to tango, the party can grow larger pretty darn fast! From children to dependent elderly parents to charitable giving and clothing/entertainment budgets, expect many demands on your income, and his. Illustrating your respective priorities can help stave off future disagreements and disappointments. (Oh, and those kids? A USDA study projects they’ll cost just north of $300,000, each, adjusted for inflation.)
Your income. Yes, some folks get married without ever knowing how much their spouse earns. It’s not to say that you can’t keep your money separate—many happy couples do—but if you are going to live together, a full disclosure of earnings, retirement accounts, and other assets is in order. This clearly isn’t a first (or a fifth) date topic. However, if you think you’ve found ‘the one’, this is data you absolutely need before committing to a lifetime together. (Take bonus points for calculating the earning potential in your chosen fields.)
Your financial personality. Are you a saver or a spender? Turns out financial opposites often attract and, sadly, often experience unhappy marriages. But it’s not a fait accompli. When you’re willing to talk about—and perhaps compromise—your spending goals, you can balance your respective financial needs. Be aware, though, that men and women can see basic facts differently. One wealth management study found that 73 percent of women said they were jointly responsible for finances with their partners. Men? Only 45 percent said money was an equal concern.
The age at which you plan to retire. If you have no idea how long you expect to work, it’s time to grapple with this question; it will have tremendous impact on your savings rates, major purchases, where you send your children to school and decide to live. If you’re determined to stop working early, you’re probably willing to bypass most extravagances along the way. But how will that sit with your beloved?
You may believe these topics will ruin the bliss of romance, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Money talks may not be romantic, but honesty and agreement build trust—and THAT preserves Cupid’s promise.