For Love or Money: How to Have 'The Talk'

February 10, 2021

You’ve met someone, gone out a few times and things are looking good. But the way your potential future partner splashes money about on dates is unnerving. You can’t just ask if this fits in their budget, if they have money to throw around, or if they are a careless spender - can you?

The money talk. Awkward but so necessary. Money is the cause of over 70% of divorces. You’re probably thinking, ‘Pump the brakes here! We’re only dating!’ True, but you don’t exactly want to wait until the wedding day to find out you’re committing the next decade of your life to paying off thousands of dollars of debt.

So when is the right time to talk about money? What do you need to know?

When To Have the Money Talk

Bringing up the money talk shows that you are thinking about a possible future together - so time it wisely and start gradually. We like how Dave Ramsey puts it: “the level of relationship equals the level of money talk.”

Let’s break it down.

In the beginning

You’re getting to know each other and putting your best self forward. Not exactly the time to question each other’s financial status. Start with being honest about whether going out to eat tonight fits in your budget. Talk about splitting the bill or ways you can save money on future dates. Maybe bring up the fact that you are so close to paying off your car loan that you’re being especially careful with spending for the next six months until you kiss that debt goodbye. Keep it general - save the details for later. You’re testing the waters before you get caught up in keeping up with someone else’s lifestyle at the expense of your own financial security.

When it starts getting more serious

Bring up future-oriented topics. Ask their advice about budgeting to gauge where they stand. Bring up KiwiSaver, or the stock market. You’re likely going to have different viewpoints - it is not a deal-breaker! You want to be able to talk about finances with respect for each other’s opinion with the goal of understanding each other’s situation. Is this someone you can see yourself being able to work out compromises with? The way you view money reflects your values, and part of building a relationship is finding shared values. Being honest about money now builds trust for the future.

You’re in deep

Because you’ve gradually progressed your money talks on the way, you’re comfortable discussing a bit more detailed topics. (On the other hand, your money talks may have raised some red flags and allowed you to sidestep a potentially disastrous relationship). The important thing to remember is that at this stage the discussion can get emotional - people can feel vulnerable, clueless, or ashamed when it comes to finances. Approach these talks as a means of setting goals together.

A study shows that 78% of couples who talk about money every week say they are happy, compared to 60% who talk about it every few months and 50% even less frequently. So what should you talk about?

What to Include in Your Money Talk

To help you and your partner get on the same page, we’ve broken down the money talk into three areas with topics to start the discussion.

Spending vs Saving

Everyone has a unique spending personality - find out what type you and your partner are and how you can work together. (If you love a good personality quiz, try this one.)

Then come the tough questions. How much of your income will you save? What will you contribute to KiwiSaver? Will you have ‘his and hers’ spending accounts? What style of budgeting will work best for you both? How much will you allocate to spend on things like dates and vacations?

Current Status

Fear ‘fessing up the balance of your student loans or just how much credit card debt you built up during lockdown? Time to get it all out in the open. Plan how you can pay down your debts together and what the future will hold regarding credit cards and loans as a couple.

House? Kids? Retirement?

Do you have the same ideas when it comes to home ownership? Some see it as a wise investment while others may prefer not to be locked in to a mortgage. If you have children, will you both continue to work? Will you start college funds? What will your retirement look like, and how will you ensure you live the lifestyle you want when you get there?

Planning for the Future

It can be intimidating to discuss finances with a partner but part of a growing relationship is planning how to have a successful future together. When each person is aware of their own attitudes towards money and has identified personal goals, you’ll have the confidence to approach a discussion where you can meet in the middle. A trusted financial advisor can be especially helpful if you have trouble agreeing on what is best for your combined financial future.

BetterSaver is here to guide you. While we can’t have the money talk for you, we can point you in the right direction with sound advice. When it comes to KiwiSaver we have all the information on how couples can use their funds together for a home or retirement, or both. We’ll help you take into account your personal situation and set achievable financial goals that align with your values and lifestyle.

So if your potential partner appears to be a big spender, take note, proceed with caution and ask the right questions at the right time. If you’re in a relationship, don’t wait to have the money talk. Now is always the best time to get started managing your money.