You’ve found your soulmate, and you’re desperately in love. One of the most difficult challenges for a couple in a serious romantic relationship is having the conversation about one of the most important topics they may ever face: money. How do you bring such a delicate subject up without seeming like a big blowhard, a cold-hearted miser or worse, a gold-digger?
Money is society’s last taboo. For many, the topic is fraught with secrecy and shame. In life, money issues are one of the greatest causes of stress. Unfortunately, speaking openly about money is a skill few have mastered. As a result, poor money communication often leads to relational money disorders. Here are five ways to communicate and begin a financially healthy dialogue that can result in a financially healthy family.
1. Understand your own money beliefs; think about what you want financially from a partner. Does it matter if someone’s net worth is much higher or lower than your own? Is debt a deal-breaker? What is your “financial comfort zone”?
2. Share your truth. Begin with appropriate self-disclosure, gradually, about your earnings, your financial goals and your beliefs about debt or spending. If they won’t share their truth, proceed with caution.
3. Observe. Watch how money is handled. Is there a pattern of purchasing or credit card usage that could indicate either overspending or excessive frugality? Is their lifestyle more lavish than the earnings in their career field would seem to support?
4. Listen. Despite the taboo, we indirectly reveal our money beliefs by what we say. Notice how a date refers to finances. Do they seem worried about money or reluctant to spend? Are they resentful of successful people? Do they boast of financial successes or express an interest in get-rich-quick schemes?
5. Finally, use real numbers. Stop talking politely around money and using phrases such as “a bargain,” “enough,” “cheap,” or “too much.” Honest money conversations must use dollars and cents. Step outside your comfort zone, ask the money questions and expect both qualitative and quantitative answers.
Being the one to initiate a difficult money conversation does not mean you’re cold, greedy or mistrustful. It means you recognize that money is too important a topic to ignore. When you have found your soulmate, it may be tempting to believe that love means not having to talk about money. In truth, it means having the courage.
Founder of Klein Financial Advisors Incorporated, Lauren Klein is a Certified Financial Planner, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and a NAPFA Registered Financial Advisor. Currently, she serves on the Executive Board of the Jewish Federation and Family Services of Orange County, the American Jewish Committee, and on the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of the JFOC. Lauren lives in Irvine, California.