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Sep 08

Money & Relationships: Finding the Right, “Money Partner”

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Have you ever thought about how you picked your partner? Was it her pretty eyes or his perfect smile?

I picked my boyfriend because he’s a financial stud. Just kidding (sort of). Once we got past the initial, “getting to know you” stage, I was very impressed with his diligence in paying off his student loan debt and saving for the future. Don’t get me wrong there were a few financial things that we didn’t see eye-to-eye on, but overall we were basically on the same page when it came to money.

Let’s be honest, you can date a guy or gal who is really attractive, really smart and a ton of fun to hang out with, but if he/she is financially irresponsible, it’s probably not going to work in the long run. I know I wouldn’t have continued dating Eric if he was a financial mess and vice versa! In fact, our dedication to pay off our individual student debts before buying our condo actually brought us closer together.

Why you should be on the same, “money page” with your partner

Arguments about money often start out small. They are like a smoldering fire waiting for a stiff breeze. Maybe you can overlook your partner’s financial indiscretions for a short while, but if you’re committed to spending a lifetime together you need a partner who shares at least some of the same, “money values”.

When I was looking for a boyfriend, I definitely wanted a partner who was, “responsible” with his money. But “fiscal responsibility” means different things to different people. The way your parents spent money, your values about money, your current socio-economic status etc. etc. all influence the way you think about money.

When I talk about money and relationships with friends (girls and guys), the following “money qualities” seem to be desirable:

“I want to find a guy/gal who…”

  • Is financially stable. Umm OK… please define “financially stable.” What you consider, “stable” might not feel stable to me. Being honest about what you need/want to feel stable is really important. When you’re 22 financially stable might mean having a job and no longer relying on your parents for financial help. When you’re 32, it might mean being debt-free, or owning a home, or saving for retirement. Or it could mean something completely different.
  • Works hard. Works hard how? Is, “works hard” synonymous with, “makes a lot of money?” What if your significant other puts in 70 hour weeks at a non-profit that pays $30k a year? Be clear about what you mean when you say, “works hard”. There’s nothing wrong with working hard at a job you’re passionate about and not making a lot of money (in my opinion, but not everyone feels the same way). if you work hard and don’t make a lot of money (or your partner doesn’t) how will that make you feel?
  • Is a “Saver.” Saves how much? $100 a week, $1000 a month? 50% of her take-home pay? If I save every extra penny I make and refuse to spend a dime on the people around me, would you want to date me? Maybe you would? Maybe you wouldn’t. What your partner is saving for (or want you want them to save for) is also important. What if your partner saves $5000 a year to spend on vacations but doesn’t save anything for retirement? What if she saves $100,000 a year in retirement but refuses to go on vacation? (and you love to travel).
  • Spends in the, “right ways”. Spending money isn’t a bad thing (or is it)? How do you feel about your partner spending his money on his family and friends? What about a new car or a trip? What if he goes to the casino to gamble once a month?
  • Is a “giver.” How much giving is good? What about charity giving? How much is, “enough?” How much is, “too much?” What if your partner wants to give 10% of your income to the church or temple and you’re not religious? What if she wants to give to a charity you don’t like/support?
  • Is generous. Generous to who? To you? To your family? To his/her family? If your partner gives half of his paycheck to his family would you be pissed? If you send $100 a month to your elderly grandparents will he be pissed?
  • Is debt-free. Good, great, wonderful! But be careful of setting the bar too high. I’m not saying you shouldn’t shoot for the stars, but try to be realistic as well. Life happens and we all start off our adult lives in different financial places. if Mr. Right comes along and he’s aggressively paying off his student loans (Eric was when I met him), give him a shot! If Eric said he’d never date a girl with student loan debt, I would have been SOL.

The bottom-line, in my mind, is you have to know what you want from your significant other. If certain attributes and saving and spending patterns are important to you, it’s best to talk about those things early and often. Lack of communication about money (and everything else) is what makes relationships fail.

So if you find Ms. or Mr. Right and he/she doesn’t think about money the same way you do, talk to him/her. People can change their money behaviors if they have motivation to do so and you may be able to come to a compromise that will meet both of your needs. If not? I’d carefully consider whether the relationship is going to work in the future.

Have you found the right money partner? If you have, what were your non-negotiables. If you haven’t, what are you looking for?

Image: Giuliano Maiolini

38 comments

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  1. Pauline

    I want a person who spends less than he earns and is able to splurge once in a while in what is important to him and us. If he can’t enjoy life because of too much debt and bad spending then we have a problem.

    1. KK

      That sounds pretty fair to me. I feel the same way about being able to splurge a little and enjoy life without feeling guilty.

  2. Ciel Belle

    Great post! I think my BF and I are on the same level when it comes to money… somewhat, he is on a saving stage while I am on a debt payoff stage. We see eye to eye on budgeting and not spending money… even though we can.

  3. Emily @ evolvingPF

    My husband and I were only 20 and both dependent on our parents when we started dating, so neither of us had even enough of a financial philosophy for ourselves yet to determine if the other was a right fit! But thankfully as we grew up financially alongside one another we developed very similar philosophies, so we became the right partner for each other. So I think I’m on the side of giving each other a chance to change for the better while dating, but making for sure you are 90% on the same page before marriage.

    1. KK

      I definitely think that meeting your partner when you’re younger can have it’s benefits (like you said, being able to develop a money philosophy together) before you both develop “bad habits” that are difficult to change. When you’re older I think it can be harder to change the way you think about money.

  4. Kali @ Common Sense Millennial

    You’re spot on! You need to be on the same financial page as your partner. It makes working together toward important goals SO much easier — and more fun. I’m thrilled that I’ve found the right partner in every regard, including with money :)

    1. KK

      Agreed about the “more fun” part. When Eric and I started working together to save for our condo it was a lot of fun. Ditto for paying down our respective student loan debts :-)

  5. Morgaine

    T and I are mostly on the same page when it comes to our finances, we have the odd argument over priorities when it comes to spending/saving but otherwise we’re in a good place. We both had debt and little savings when we met but knew that we took paying off our debt and start saving for the future were priorities.

    You make great points about how a lot of those terms we like to use to decribe “good” money behaviours are vague and can mean very different things to different people.

    1. KK

      I think everybody has little money arguments here and there, but as long as you can agree about the important stuff, that’s what counts. It’s when you start having big money blowouts and fighting about money all that time that you probably have a problem. I know I’ve been in relationships in the past that never would have worked because we never would have been able to agree about how to spend money. Thank goodness for the bf!

  6. Erin @ Journey to Saving

    It is so important to find the right “money partner.” My ex was a spender, and while he wanted to change his ways and made an effort to do so, I could tell it probably wasn’t going to last forever. Having to babysit his finances wasn’t fun, either. I was super happy to find that my boyfriend was in the same situation as I was, and had the same mentality on debt and saving. It makes things so much easier, and we’ve never had a problem communicating about money.

    1. KK

      I hear you about the ex. I had an ex who was also a spender. When I found out how much credit card debt he had it made me sick to my stomach. He wasn’t a bad guy, but I never could have convinced him to save and spend in ways that I’m comfortable with, so it never would have worked. Yay for men who are good with their money!

  7. Kassandra @ More Than Just Money

    I would say that I’ve found a solid financial partner and we share the same outlook on money. We have our differences as I’m a mega saver while he focuses more on the present day but we have found ways to have a meeting minds.

    1. KK

      Sometimes those money differences can actually be a good thing (in moderation). If it were up to me I’d save every penny and never go out, never vacation and never enjoy myself. Eric has taught me to loosen up a little bit and enjoy life (within reason). I balance him out because I’ve taught him how to be more diligent with his saving.

  8. Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore

    These are some good points to consider when you are looking for a SO, something for me to keep in mind in the future for sure 😉

    1. KK

      Money isn’t the most important thing, but it’s definitely a big part of the equation (for me at least). I’ve dated people in the past who were a disaster with their money. I don’t mind helping someone learn and “clean up their mess” so to speak, but if they never learn and continue with the bad money habits that would make me nuts.

  9. Debt and the Girl

    Finances should not be the only reason you are with someone but it def. helps to have someone who is on the same page. I for one could not be with someone who treated money like it was never going to run out. I think that can only spell disaster in the future.

    1. KK

      Disaster and huge credit card debt, ugg 😉 If only there was a money tree that never ran out!

  10. Brad @ How To Save Money

    Money gets in the way of so many relationships. It is smart t try to find out your financial compatibility before you get too far into a relationship. Find out if you have long term potential right off/

    1. KK

      exactly. no sense to get a year in and find out that you butt heads financially.

  11. Myles Money

    I was talking about this just last night. Money is one of the main causes for arguments in a relationship, so if one of you is careful with money and the other has racked up massive debts (and maybe doesn’t care), that’s going to have huge implications on how you fit together as a couple.

    1. KK

      It’s hard not to think about it because money impacts our lives in so many ways. I’d had to think I was dating someone who racked up a ton of debt and had no plan to pay it off.

  12. Mrs. Frugalwoods

    Such a good post! I totally agree with you. One of the things that brought Mr. FW and I so close when we started dating is the fact that we’re both mega frugal. We immediately bonded over this and, thankfully, we’ve never had arguments over money in our 10 years together (6 years married). I think it’s absolutely one of the most important attributes to look for in a partner. After all, disagreements over finances are the #1 cause of divorce!

    1. KK

      When you’re both working towards the same goals I think it makes your relationship that much stronger. It’s so easy to fight about money when you’re not on the same page. I know a lot of people who have broken up and/or gotten divorced because they couldn’t agree about how to spend and save (sad!). But the folks who agree and work together when it comes to money (like you and Mr. FW) are really financial powerhouses. Once you’re working together you can make almost anything happen.

  13. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    Rick has been frugal from the get-go: I was not. Luckily he married me anyway, and now we’re both on the same page. I think so much of it comes down to attitude: even if you meet someone who’s not on the same page with you, it can work IF both parties are open to and willing to working it out and finding a balance. But if one is insisting on their own way all the time, that spells trouble.

    1. KK

      So true about marriage and life in general. You have to be willing to make sacrifices, including admitting that your way might not always be the best (which is hard).

  14. Connie @ Savvy With Saving

    I think my boyfriend and I balance each other out very well. If anything, he was the super frugal one and I was the spender when we started dating. I’ve taught him to live a little and he’s showed me how to save more.

    1. KK

      You need that balance sometimes to make a relationship work. I’m definitely the saver in our relationship. I’m thankful Eric has helped me loosen up a little and enjoy my money :-)

  15. Kate @ Money Propeller

    I agree, that you and your partner should have the same plans when reaching your financial goals. It’s so hard if you’re the saver type of person while your partner is a spender type and not worrying about your financial situations.

    1. KK

      I think it’s almost impossible to make a relationship work when you can’t agree about how to spend and save money. It’s such a violation of trust if your partner is out spending money when you’re trying to save for something that the family needs.

  16. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank

    Lucky you met Eric. I wish I were like Eric who is financially responsible earlier. I am meeting somone special. I think I would present myself to be a bit like Eric and talk about finances, that would be a good topic to talk about. Thanks for idea

    1. KK

      We all come to our “money senses” at different times, I know I didn’t always make the best money decisions (thus $30k in student debt). I’m very grateful to have found Eric.

      1. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank

        Yea, I agree with. I think I am not feeling the “money senses” as I am now in the marrying age. You’re lucky, KK!

  17. Alexis

    I know when I get married, I need to be with someone who is financially stable and not in a ton of debt. (Student debt isn’t factored into that of course.) I could never be with someone who spends a ridiculous amount of money on clothes and other unnecessary things.

    1. KK

      finding the right person is hard, but finding the right person who also happens to be really responsible with their money is super hard. Maybe there needs to be a personal finance blogger dating site 😉

  18. Amanda @ My Life, I Guess

    One of the first few things that attracted me to my now finance is the fact that we could talk openly about money from the very start. I’ve never once felt like I couldn’t mention money issues or that I had to keep money things from him. :)

  19. Melanie @ Dear Debt

    These things are so important! My partner is pretty frugal, but also has a lot of student loan debt like me ;( I make more money, but he is getting there. I think we are a good fit, although I wish he liked talking about money as much as I do :)

  20. Holly@ClubThrifty

    I would definitely say that my husband is the right money partner for me. He wasn’t doing *that* great with money when we met, but he had potential and wasn’t too set in his ways.

  21. Don @ How You Can Find Love

    I did!! I made sure that the woman I married was on the same financial page with me. Since most fights are about money, I wanted to make sure we were on the same page for most of the money issues – savings, debt, paying for our kids college, etc. Granted as we grow, our viewpoints might change, but knowing that we have common values/interests when it comes to money is big.

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