Do you know the financial picture of the person you are dating? Money should never be a divider in relationships, and yet the majority of all divorces are due to disagreements over financial matters. Why is this? Chances are, it’s not due to the financial irresponsibility itself, because many of us have made financial mistakes. It’s more likely the surprise of that additional bank account loaded with money that was kept secret, that unknown poor credit score, or that irresponsible shopping addiction that causes financial turmoil and arguments in a relationship.
How do we solve this?
First, let’s demonstrate one critical point by telling a story. There once was a young boy who saw an elderly man sitting on a bench with a dog. The boy walked up to the man and said, “Hey old man, does your dog bite?”
The old man said, “No, my dog don’t bite.”
“Are you sure?” said the little boy.
“Yep, I’m sure,” said the old man.
So the boy went up to the dog and tried to pet him. Immediately the dog growled, jumped up, and bit him on the hand.
“Ouch! Hey old man! I thought you said your dog don’t bite!” said the little boy.
The old man said, “This ain’t my dog.”
The moral? We must ask the right questions!
So again, how do we solve these financial surprises? We must communicate and ask the right questions of our loved ones. Here are a few possible questions you might ask your mate to get that crucial conversation started. Be mindful of the answers; the wrong responses could be a crucial determinant of whether or not you should take that marriage plunge.
1. Do you know your FICO score?
If the answer is no, the next question is, “Why not?”
After you hear the reason, the next action to propose is to find out, so you can both prepare your credit statements as you move towards working together to achieve common goals. Even if your credit score is 800, you should propose this joint exercise, because you don’t want him/her to feel as if they’re doing it alone.
2. If we were to get married, would you want a joint account, separate accounts, or to maintain both?
There is really no right or wrong answer to this question, but both of you should know what you are getting into before you get married.
3. What is the next major financial purchase you plan to make in the next five years, and how do you plan on saving for it?
If they’re talking about a new fancy car and they are currently unemployed, this could be a red flag! Again, there’s really no right or wrong answer. But the answer will give you additional insights into your mate’s financial goals and how realistically they approach life.
4. How do you feel about casinos and gambling? When you shop, do you know how much of your budget you can spend before you shop?
If they gamble every weekend, I would suggest taking the exit stage left! Excessive, impulsive shopping can also be a red flag.
5. How many children are you planning to have, and when would be an ideal time for you to start a family?
This is a very critical financial decision; ask any parent. The financial responsibility of children will change any household. A word to wise from the late, great Michael Jackson: “If you can’t feed your baby, then don’t have a baby!”
To reiterate, don’t be alarmed if you see some signs of fiscal irresponsibility. Only be alarmed if your partner isn’t willing to work on those bad financial habits for the sake of the relationship. There is nothing wrong with being ignorant; there is only something wrong with choosing to remain ignorant. And the only way to avoid a financial ignorant partner is to ask the right questions!