When you start dating someone, there’s a lot to find out about them — their interests, their values, and how you two overlap (or don’t) on certain things, to name a few.
But what about finances?
When you meet them for dinner, do you ask, “How was your day — and do you contribute to a 401(k) or have any debt?”
“For a lot of people, talking about money may not come naturally,” Heather Winston, a financial planner and an assistant director at Principal Financial Group, told Business Insider. “It’s also not likely to come up on your first date either — if you want a second one.”
She said that while it’s not something to focus on too early, it’s also not a conversation you want to table until after you walk down the aisle, or worse, when all the bills show up.
“When your relationship is getting more serious, it’s time to have a more frank talk about money,” Winston said. “It won’t always be easy, but addressing the difficult conversation will be critical to establishing a strong foundation for your future together.”
But talking about money does not always come easily. So we asked financial experts to weigh in on the best ways to talk to your partner about money — especially when you just started dating.
Here’s their best advice.
Addressing money conversations early on in a relationship is critical, Anuj Nayar, financial health officer at LendingClub, told Business Insider.
“Waiting until you have a money-related issue means it’s too late, emotions are high, and rash decisions will likely be made,” he said. “Talking openly about your financial expectations helps set the stage for a healthy relationship.”
Although money is a tough subject to bring up, it may be easier if you take baby steps, Nayar said.
“Start with just letting your significant other know your credit score and work up to the big stuff, like planning for retirement,” he said. “Not only will this strengthen your relationship early on, but it will also strengthen your financial, physical, and mental health.”
Nayar said that in a recent survey conducted at LendingClub, they found that people who discuss their debt and tackle finances head-on were less likely to feel isolated and prioritize other aspects of their health and well-being.
When bringing up money, there is a way to be inquisitive, yet not too overt.
“Frame questions as ‘What if … ‘” Allison Kade, a millennial money expert with Fabric, told Business Insider. “This way, you can start understanding their underlying psychology by asking broader questions.”
Some of her favorite examples include “If you won the lotto, what would you do with the money?” and “If you had to choose between working 90-hour weeks for the rest of your career but making a ton of money and working 20-hour weeks but scrimping, which would you choose, and why?”
A subtle way to bring up finances is by bringing up a money goalyou’re working on.
“It’s easier to approach the conversation of money with someone you’re dating by giving them an idea of what’s happening in your life, including a money goal you’re working towards,” Nayar said.
He said this can be anything from saying you’re saving for a vacation, starting a new job, or working to pay down debt.
“These are great segues to open up a candid conversation about money,” Nayar said.
Another way to keep the money conversation going is by creating money goals together.
“This creates a support system to hold you each accountable,” Nayar said.
When he first started dating his wife, they talked about her credit and started making steps together to improve it.
“This saved us tens of thousands of dollars when we bought a house, due to her improved credit score,” Nayar said. “It’s never too late to start.”
When you find out how someone was raised, financially speaking, it can tell you a lot about how they view money today.
“A great deal of our opinions and attitudes about money come from our family,” Kade said. “So a great way to start understanding where your significant other is coming from is to understand his or her upbringing — and you can start with conversations about your childhoods.”
She said you can ask things like “Were your parents particularly strict?” and “Did your parents fight a lot about money?” Kade said that if you start by sharing, you can open up a two-way conversation.
While one person may want to know how much debt their new partner has, another may prioritize the other’s day-to-day spending habits.
“If you’re at the point where it makes sense to start understanding each other’s finances, have a list of topics in mind when you initiate the conversation,” Kade said. “Suggestions include: any debts, including a sense of when they hope to pay it off; credit health (ideally, you’d each talk about your credit scores); and emergency funds, if any.”
If you need a prompt to help you bring up finances, you can always cite an article you read, Kade said.
“Admittedly, it’s a little awkward to say, ‘Let’s have a money conversation — bring your credit score and bank statements,'” she said. “But if you do want to understand where your partner stands financially, you can take some of the heat off yourself by foisting the attention on someone else and say, ‘I read this online article about having a money talk with your partner. Why don’t we just play along and try it out?'”
Originally Published on Business Insider.
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