How soon into the relationship do you want to know if you’re financially compatible with your partner?
According to Marriage.com, financial conflicts is the second highest reason for breakups and divorce, after infidelity.
It’s the leading cause of stress in a relationship, which leads to "dishonest behaviour". One survey conducted by creditcards.com found that 7.2 million Americans are hiding money from their spouses, either by spending in secret or keeping a secret account. It isn't just in the US, its an International symptom.
Talking about money can create anxiety and discomfort, in fact, a recent survey done by women's health found 69% of all women have stress and anxiety related health problems routed in financial insecurity.
Fears around finances underpin why many women feel trapped in unhappy relationships, and less likely to file for divorce compared to men.
Having financial confidence, savvy and healthy boundaries around money also eliminates your vulnerability to romance scams, such as the story of Sacha Barker, 42 in the UK, who was scammed out of almost half a million pounds. It's one of the thousands.
According to the FBI, romance scams and similar confidence scams cost consumers more money than any other kind of Internet fraud. In 2016, consumers lost more than $230 million this way. (The FBI says it may be embarrassing for victims to report this type of fraud scheme because of the personal relationships that are developed, so the real numbers are probably higher.)
They are avoidable and easy to mitigate with a few smart, assertive moves.
The conversation shouldn’t be awkward, it’s an essential component of creating a happy, balanced, life with your partner.
Unfortunately merely “trusting” a person, without an honest conversation isn’t enough to maintain your financial security, safety and peace of mind.
I discussed this topic with Millen Livis, a Financial Empowerment Mentor and Wealth Architect. She supports women to achieve financial freedom, security and teaches them how to invest their money to create lasting wealth.
During our conversation she shared 6 principals she has applied in her own life, and that she teaches her clients.
1) Understand your Money Habits, Values and Goals.
You need to do a regular audit, be honest with yourself and have clarity about your spending style, values and goals around money, and what having financial freedom means to you.
“Become Intentional about your Money. You have a choice, be strategic or Spontaneous.
Rather than feel its something you have to deal with, understand its a vital resource to achieve what you want in life.
If you want to become financially independent and wealthy, it's essential to practice the discipline of saving.
If you can create a habit of saving 10% a month regardless of your situation, its ideal. If you can only manage less, it's still a good habit to cultivate, even if you are repaying loans or debts. It's like you're paying yourself a small amount.
Start now, and develop a lasting habit, to become the cause of what you want to achieve. You are in control, and your financial habits should be disciplined to support your vision for life.
What's your money Blueprint?
2) Learn your Partners Money Habits, and Values
Within the first few months or year of dating, it's easy to observe and have an understanding about your partners spending style, and habits by how you spend your time together and learning about him and his life.
In the case of Sasha Barker, in the UK. She was lavished with expensive holidays, and luxurious gifts early on in the relationship, before he disclosed his own financial constraints, and because she was emotionally invested, trusted him enough to invest 400,000 pounds in their life together before he disappeared, and lost her money, home and dignity.
Stay objective, and avoid being blindsided by grand gestures, declarations of love, a future together, and lavish gifts before you have known your partner for at least a year and experience a number of different situations together i.e. travelling, holidays, meeting friends, family, and work colleagues. All of these interactions and experiences give you a deeper understanding about someone.
"You have to experience the "real" version of each after the honeymoon phase, not just the "best" version presented at the beginning".
Conversely, if your date is a more conservative spender, and doesn’t take you to the most expensive restaurants, or buy you gifts, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a generous spirit, and won’t make a compatible life partner. Tune in to learn about his life story, his values, and aspirations.
It takes time to discover the person, so avoid making assumptions, or jumping to conclusions. He may just be cautious because he's been through a bad experience and wants to know and trust you first, which is the healthiest approach.
We know there are many women (and men) who have an extreme sense of entitlement to be "treated" a certain way from the first date, so it's understandable that smart, emotionally mature men are careful until there are substance and trust in the relationship.
You’ll be able to gauge his spending habits, by his lifestyle, his interests, and how he spends his time without talking about actual amounts, which isn't anyone’s business unless you’re about to make a serious commitment.
Again you need to marry the external "appearance" of success, his words and his actual financial position and money values. Is he presenting an image of wealth and security, yet is steeped in debt?
Lifestyle and how much somebody earns may not be important to you, but what might be is how responsible he is with his money, and if he has a spirit of sharing generosity and reciprocation when it matters.
3) Discover if your Money Habits are Compatible
The time to discuss if you’re financially compatible is before the relationship gets serious, and planning to move in together, get engaged or married.
It should be a transparent, honest, helpful conversation without judgement, including debts, loans, financial responsibilities that may impact you as a couple.
Be open with your intentions, desires and aspirations, and how you would like to live your lives together.
It's important to understand each others spending and saving styles, where you need to compromise, be flexible, and your financial goals, aspirations and priorities as a team. You can then make an informed decision about whether that works for you both.
"Love isn't enough to have a healthy, happy, relationship".
Spenders and savers can support and compliment each others spending styles when you have discussed and agreed how you’re going to manage it together. There shouldn't be secrecy around it.
4) Have Integrity and Respect for yourself and your Partner
It may sound pessimistic to think about returning gifts, splitting assets at the start of a loving relationship, in case it ends, but it’s a smart and responsible way to maintain trust, security, and respect for each other and to avoid acrimonious cases like Marcus Antebi who is suing his ex-fiancé for the return of her $30,000 engagement ring.
"It's important to be in integrity regardless of your financial position.
When you live in integrity in all areas of your life, you don't pick and chose which areas you're going to honest and fair - if you apply this across all areas of your life, with your intentions and decisions it creates better trust and honest, and safety.
In the case of Marcus suing for the return of the engagement ring, why has it come to such a bitter situation?
In my opinion, she should return the ring already and move on with her life.
5. Maintain your Financial Independence
Whether you're married or living together Millen also advises having at least two bank accounts within relationships, which you are transparent about.
How you chose to do it has to work for you, for example, shared accounts for utilities, vacations, recreation and shared goals.
But always maintain your own personal account, to keep your financial independence.
When you have your own money you feel more responsible for managing it, and don't need to ask permission for something that's important to you, and isn't for the other.
She says, "In my first marriage, we shared a bank account, and even though I worked on Wall Street and earned a good salary, I felt I needed to ask “permission” to go on my yoga retreat, which didn’t make me feel good. Having your own gives you a level of independence within the union".
"You shouldn't feel that you lose your identity within the relationship"
Agree what contribution you will each make to the joint account and individual accounts which depends on your lifestyle and salaries.
Many couples keep completely separate accounts. You have to find the right way for you. What do you do?
6) Get a Prenup or Cohabiting Agreement
Whether you’re cohabiting, or married, Millen advocates getting a simple prenuptial agreement to avoid disagreements and conflicts about assets, loans, childcare, and pets.
“Everything should be transparent, honest, and open. This is irrespective of who earns more money, which is being in integrity with your actions, attitude and intentions.
When you tolerate something, you worry about it, and assuming that a person should pay you back, will lead to contempt, which you want to avoid.
"When someone loves you, they will be willing to find a solution that works for both of you".
Money shouldn’t be the reason you’re trapped in an unhappy relationship because you have no means to support yourself financially
A relationship shouldn't be more restrictive than being alone.
Should you loan your partner money or invest in his business?
In my opinion, if your partner starts talking about money troubles, early on in the relationship stay alert to "how" he talks about it. Don’t assume the worse. It could be he's being upfront and honest with you and is taking care of his responsibilities.
I encourage you not to turn into a counselor, care taker and offer advice or a loan out of love or kindness. You may chose to do this later when your relationship has matured, but I believe the principals apply in both cases.
If he does talk about his financial woes in the early stages of the relationship and you sense he is hinting and leaning towards asking for your financial assistance, its a red flag to be mindful of. Avoid wanting to help and fix it. He's an adult, and you should approach it with the mindset, that you trust he's going to work it out, and share this with him.
If you decide to help your partner with money, don't rely on a verbal agreement. Even if he’s given you an engagement ring, you’re about to move in together or are living together. You must keep in mind, that unfortunately nothing is guaranteed, and is the money you're giving an amount you can afford to lose if it isn't repaid? This eliminates the build-up of resentment, distrust and expensive lawyers fees later.
While there are exceptions, the number of romance scams involving money is enough of a warning not to give money to a man you've just met.
If you want to take the risk, ensure you do proper background checks, get verification and official documents from him, get them second checked by your independent advisors and organise a formal agreement for repayment.
I also recommend not doing this in isolation without asking for advice from trusted friends and professionals. If you are doing this secretly, and your intuition is niggling away with a sense that something feels off, ask yourself why?
Remember that if it's legitimate there will be nothing to hide and details can be explained without vagueness.
A good indicator is to understand how he has handled these situations in the past, has he followed through and repaid and honoured his agreements? Also, understand the types of loans he's asked for before, do they all seem understandable, or are they random investments?
Stay safe, savvy, maintain your healthy boundaries and always maintain a healthy dose of objectivity by balancing your head, heart and intuition when it comes to financial agreements with your loved one.
I hope this inspires you to create a plan about how you will approach financial management as a Single professional Woman, and in your Relationship, so that you feel secure, safe and prepared each step of the way.
What's your experience been with Love and Money? Let me know in the comments below.
To learn more about Millen Livis visit Dare to Change Life and download her free financial planner to start your financial audit.
P.S. For more support to Date with Confidence and Savvy, check the Free Guides available here.