When courting a perspective partner, the pressure’s on to make the right choice. Does he come from
a good family? Has he pursued the right type of education? Does he have a stable job? And,perhaps most importantly, is he a good person? The essential questions to ask are endless; yet, when it comes to a prospect’s financial situation, navigating the waters can be tricky. The last thing any woman would want is to be seen as is an opportunist—or worse yet, a “gold digger”. In a world where women are encouraged find their own financial success, why is the desire to learn more about your partner’s finances dismissed by courtship etiquette as taboo?
Nina has been in a relationship with Asad for almost two years.They’re in their late twenties, lead complementary social lives and are enjoying fulfilling careers. Nina is a financial analyst for a large multinational and Asad a venture capitalist in the tech industry.Because of Nina’s career path, she has always been good with money (i.e. never living beyond her means and saving for a rainy day on top of retirement). Although business has been booming for Asad’s investments in recent years, 2015 was hard on his portfolio. As a result, he’s had to make sacrifices including cutting back on lavish vacations, Michelin-starred dinners and luxury purchases he and Nina have enjoyed during their time together. Although she has never considered herself shallow, Nina is concerned that she and Asad may not be on the same page after all.
“Most couples spend a great deal of time and effort getting to know each other emotionally and romantically, but don’t bother to discuss financial compatibility such as goals, budgets, spending,and saving,” says Ginger Dean, author of popular financial blog Girls Just Wanna Have Funds. Banks, credit card companies and even broadband providers are quick to ask all the important questions when it comes to one’s financial history. So then why do women—those that could potentially make up one half of a relationship—blush when it comes to their own partner’s situation? In the early,heady days of courtship there’s nothing less romantic than talking about your pension(or lack thereof), but once the dust settles it’s time to take financial inventory.
This is in no way to say every smart girl must to marry rich.Wealth has very little to do with long-term financial chemistry.In fact, vast wealth can even be a curse resulting in financial abuse—the act of keeping one’s non-working partner on a short monetary leash. Determining your financial chemistry with your partner comes down to aligning your financial goals,long and short term. A couple like Nina and Asad should take stock of their current situation by looking at the bigger picture.
It sounds like Asad has had found success in the past with his work. He enjoyed this success and shared it with his partner. This shows generosity and security with the career and relationship he is in. Nina should take his long-term business plans, everyday spending habits and even his friends’ habits into consideration as well. If his friends decide to take off to Bora Bora on a private charter, would Asad be financially responsible enough to say no?
Because he has tasted success,did Asad have the wherewithal to put money away regularly for his nest egg? And mostimportantly, now that he’s in this situation, would be willing to take a cue from Nina and her meticulous book keeping? That said, the fact that he’s scaled his lifestyle back is already an indication of his commitment to stay on track.
Now comes the hard part.While Nina and Asad appear to have a rock solid relationship in regards to emotional compatibility, there seems to be breakdown in communication when it comes to their future plans especially of the financial variety. If they were to marry, what would their financial responsibilities be to one another? How many children would they have and would she stop working to raise them (or vice versa)? What about a mortgage? If they own property in the future and he runs into tough times while she’s on sabbatical raising their children, will there be a safety net in place to ensure they can keep their home?
Being able to communicate about finances is key to the success of any relationship. According to Forbes, a whopping 60% of divorces are caused by conflicting financial expectations. In the early days of marriage, looking at potential family homes is much more enticing than credit ratings. But jumping the gun on a major purchase like a property and finding you and your partner drowning in debt can only end in disaster. Fortunately Nina and Asad have been given the opportunity to work through a mini-financial crisis in their relationship before making a long-term commitment (legal or financial).
“It may not sound romantic,” Dean says, “but a successful marriage (and family) bears many similarities to a successful business.”
A popular exercise given to newlyweds and engaged couples to financially prepare for their lives together is the “Numbers Game”. Take two sheets of paper, give one to your partner and hold onto one yourself. Ask him: “If you were to spend a sum of money on impulse, not including on special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries, how much would it be without consulting me?” Let him write down his answer; you write down yours. Once you’ve both thought about it, reveal your answers to one another. The closer the figures, the more financial compatible you are.
Although this seems like a silly little exercise, it speaks volumes about who you are as a spender and the implications it would have on a joint bank account. One engaged couple that did this exercise came up with the following figures: $50,000 (him) and $50 (her). Needless to say, they didn’t go through with their marriage.