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