When And How To Have The Money Talk With Your Boyfriend
Did you know that arguments over finances are one of the biggest contributing factors to divorce? Clearly, money is something couples should talk about before marriage. But how soon is too soon?
Talking about money can be uncomfortable, especially when you’re broaching the topic for the first time with someone you’re dating. You want to keep things fun and upbeat in the early stages, and having the money talk too soon could be a turn-off, so it’s probably not something you want to bring up on the first date. In the beginning, just focus on whether or not the two of you are compatible – not whether this is someone you might want to open a joint bank account with.
As you start to get more serious with someone, however, finances will naturally begin to play a larger role in your relationship. There’s no universal right or wrong answer to the question of exactly when you should start talking about money. Some couples might be comfortable doing it a few weeks in, and for others, it might take longer. Every relationship develops at a different pace, so that’s something you need to decide for yourself.
Since arguments over money are a leading cause of divorce, it’s not wise to get serious with someone before at least broaching the topic of finances. You don’t want to end up a year in with a guy you adore, only to realize he’s $100k in debt with zero plans or motivation to pay it off. When you get married, that person’s debt becomes your debt, so make sure you know what kind of financial situation you’re getting into before you get serious with someone.
Maybe you’ve decided that you and your man are getting to the point where you want to start bringing up the topic of money, but you’re not sure how to go about it. It might seem scary (and a little rude) to jump right in and ask something as invasive as: “So, how much money do you make?” Don’t dive straight into the deep end of finance talk, just dip your toes in first.
When you marry someone, their debt becomes your debt. So choose wisely.
How To Start the Conversation
You can get a good idea about what someone’s relationship with money is like without asking explicitly. The more serious you get, the more explicit your questions should become since your financial lives will naturally become more intertwined the longer you’re together. In the early stages, however, you’ll want to tread a bit lighter. Instead of asking overt questions, focus on getting context clues by asking more conversational questions like:
Are you saving up for any fun trips or vacations this year?
I’m trying to get better at setting up a monthly budget for myself. Do you use one?
What’s the last big purchase you splurged on?
I haven’t paid off my student loans yet, but I’m working hard on it and I’m really close! What about you?
My family struggled with money when I was a kid, so financial health is something that’s really important to me. What was growing up like for you?
In addition to asking questions like these, you should also be observant. Do this guy’s lifestyle choices lean towards bougie, frugal, or somewhere in between? Does he talk openly about how much money he either has or doesn’t have? The answers to these questions won’t tell you anything independently. Just because someone drives a BMW doesn’t mean they're rich, nor does it mean they’re financially irresponsible. But as you gather these data points, you’ll get a more well-rounded view of what your boyfriend’s relationship with money looks like and whether or not it’s compatible with yours.
Red Flags To Look For
As you begin to get a clearer understanding of how healthy (or unhealthy) your boyfriend’s financial life is, you should be aware of some red flags. Some of them are obvious: If he openly talks about how much debt he has or seems to splurge on excessive purchases when you know he doesn’t have the funds to back them up, then that’s a problem. Not all red flags are as clear as day, however. Here are some less-obvious red flags you should be on the lookout for:
He Refuses To Talk About Money
If this guy is dodging all of your questions – even the subtle ones – and refuses to broach the topic of money, then that’s an issue. He likely has some deep insecurities there. I’m not saying you should break up with him simply because he’s being cagey, but you’ll likely need to sit him down and ask more blunt financial questions to get a straight answer. Knowing your partner’s financial situation is important, so don’t let him keep dodging your questions especially as things become more serious between you two.
He Has Zero Money Goals
Maybe the guy you’re seeing isn’t in massive debt and doesn’t live above his means, but he doesn’t have any financial goals either. Saving money is important. We all have big purchases we’d like to make in life, whether it’s a house, a wedding, a vacation, or something else. If this guy has zero money saved and doesn’t see saving as a priority, then that could be an issue. If you’re looking for a serious relationship, you want someone who can be a stable partner for you and who you can build a life with. That means you need someone who has financial goals and a roadmap for how he’s going to achieve them.
You want to learn about your man’s relationship with money, not simply how much money he has.
He’s Controlling with His Money
Just because a guy has a lot of money doesn’t mean he gets a big green light. It’s about his relationship with money, not simply about how much money he has. I’d rather be with a guy who makes less money but has a healthy relationship with it, than with a guy who has more money but spends it irresponsibly and uses it to control people. There’s always going to be a dance on the first date about who should pay, and while most women (and men) typically prefer for the guy to pay, eventually, the financial burden of dating should even out a bit more.
If this guy uses money and paying for dates as a way to control you, like pressuring you to have sex before you’re ready or making you feel guilty about not spending time with him because he bought you an expensive gift, then that's a massive red flag. It’s also a sign that this guy has way more issues going on than simply his unhealthy relationship with money.
You Are Not Financially Aligned
Let’s say you really like this guy, and while there are no glaring red flags, things just don’t feel like a financial fit. Maybe you tend to be overly frugal, but saving money isn’t very important to him, and he’s fine with splurging on things, even if it means taking money out of his savings account or foregoing paying off his debts. No matter how much chemistry you have, it’s likely not going to work.
When you eventually get serious with this guy, the two of you need to become completely transparent about your finances. Financially naked, if you will. You both need to know exactly what kind of financial situation you’re getting into well before you say “I do.” In the early stages, however, focus more on context and the overall picture to figure out if this guy is the right financial match.
Money plays such a large role in our relationships. When you marry someone, their financial situation becomes your financial situation, so it’s a bad idea to get into a relationship with a guy who doesn’t have the same money mindset as you or isn’t willing to compromise or negotiate at all. Figuring all of this out before you get serious will help you avoid future arguments and potential heartbreak.
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