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Dating and Financial compatibility: When (and how) to talk about Money

You’re dating and wondering if he or she could be the “one.” You may be compatible in many areas, but what about financial compatibility? How do you know when (and how) to talk about money?

How someone treats money and deals with financial issues has lifelong effects. While it doesn't make sense to discuss money on a first date—unless it's about who is going to pay the check—there are certain points in a relationship when the time is right to have financial conversations.

Dig Deeper Into Money Matters Gradually

Talking about money doesn’t have to be awkward. Rather than jumping in and asking your partner's credit score and debt situation, start by talking about minor financial topics, such as how various date ideas or events fit into the person's budget. From there, find opportunities to naturally discuss in conversations, such as when you’re talking about dream vacations or life goals. Ask open-ended questions and keep the conversation casual in the beginning.

As things get more serious, discuss financial issues that can affect you as a couple in the long-term. These include credit scores, debt, savings, long-range financial hopes and plans—including retirement—and large purchases, like buying a home.

Questions to Determine Your Financial Compatibility:

Here are five questions you could ask to help figure out your financial compatibility. Not all of these questions will apply to you, but it’s a good guide to help you think about your priorities when it comes to love and finances - and could help you uncover any financial red flags.

1. Are you a spender or a saver?

If one of you is into saving and keeping to a budget and the other likes to splurge, you'll soon be at an impasse regarding finances. Savers and spenders may have different approaches to money, but having this conversation can help you identify activities you enjoy together and both feel comfortable.

2. Do you use a budgeting or saving tool?

When one person is good about tracking expenses and budgeting, and the other person has a loose system, it can be challenging to come to an agreement about how to monitor expenses. A budgeting system that seems workable to one person can seem insufficient or too complex to another.

3. Do you have debt and do you plan to pay it off?

Even if you’re not ready to ask a direct question about the amount, talking generally about debt can provide early insight into what your combined financial life might look like down the road. Some people don’t have issues with having debt, while you may believe in living debt-free. If you both have strong views, this could be a dating deal breaker.

4. Do you pay off your credit card balance every month?

If you pay off your credit card every month, it can be unsettling when your partner doesn't. On the other hand, those who carry a balance may find it financially restrictive to pay off the balance every month. This topic offers the opportunity to consider each other's tolerance for debt and how your views might mesh or conflict.

5. How much money do you make?

Sharing salaries may be one of the toughest financial questions to ask, but for many people, it's an important one. When there are big differences in personal income levels and the relationship is moving forward, talking about how you both feel about combining money can avoid disputes later on and a “yours vs. mine” mentality. Remember, everyone moves at a different pace, so timing of this conversation is crucial to building trust.

Financial Red Flags

Some of the answers to the prior questions may raise some financial red flags for you. Here are potential warning signs you might want to consider carefully before committing to a shared financial life.

  • Low credit score
  • Tendency to overspend
  • Regular gambling
  • Failure to budget and track expenses
  • Secrecy surrounding finances and unwillingness to talk about the subject or reveal significant information, such as credit score

Positive Financial Signs

  • High credit score
  • Prudent spending habits
  • Regular saving
  • Focus on financial planning
  • Transparency regarding earnings, spending, and debt

Overcoming Financial Obstacles

Like other facets of your relationship, it all comes down to your priorities and what feels right for you. The key is to have conversations early and often, to make sure you’re both on the same page. If you’re both willing to work together to achieve greater financial compatibility, the results can build a stronger relationship and healthier finances.

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