Money, love and happiness: The best time to start the money conversation is right now

By Thami Cele, Head of Savings and Investments at Absa Retail and Business Banking.

When it comes to matters of the heart, people often say that “opposites attract.”  If this is indeed the case, it may also hold true that two individuals in a romantic relationship deal with money matters in very different ways. 

The nature and magnitude of the differences may vary based upon each partner’s relationship with money as well as their respective value systems. While couples might believe they hold similar values around major issues such as lifestyle, religion, and raising kids, values around finances could hold surprises for both.

Financial stress is often singled out as main contributor to a break-up or divorce, surpassing other reasons such as cheating, and annoying habits. Security and stability in our household and relationship are what we all seek, and if our partner’s overall wellbeing is such an important factor, why do we often avoid discussing our finances?

Avoiding the money conversation

Money is a sensitive topic of conversation, which is often avoided. People frequently take their financial expectations for granted, and don’t always see the need to discuss their money matters as clashes in this area often lead to arguments and resentment.

Various other factors may also play a role: whether we view this person as our potential life partner; and whether they are mature enough to grasp the magnitude and importance of such discussions.

One of the partners must however be bold enough to take the lead when it comes to initiating the money conversation and agreeing on a financial management journey that both parties are comfortable with.

There are a number of questions you need to ask yourself before initiating this very important discussion with your partner:

  1. How ready are you to talk about your finances? Many people use money discussions to interrogate the other partner while they are not prepared to share the details of their finances if the tables are turned.  Each party should show a willingness to openly discuss the state of their finances.
  2. Do you save and invest? According to a SunTrust study, people who save or invest are generally trustworthy people. This equally applies to people who have good credit scores, as this is a great indication of how good they are at managing their debt.
  3. Are you planning any significant long-term financial obligation, like buying a house or a car? Are you saving for a deposit for this? Its okay to bluntly ask: “So how are you planning to pay for this?” Your own experience may help to guide your partner in finance options.
  4. How healthy is your credit score? There is a growing school of thought who believe that the healthier the credit score, the more trustworthy a person. So besides the need to understand how good your partner is at managing their debt, you could benefit from further understanding the nature of the person you are committing to.
  5. Are there any non-credit-related but equally long-term commitments? Obligations like garnishee orders, black tax and child support are longer term commitments. As a partner you need to understand these dynamics, especially if you intend to have children of your own one day.
  6. Can you ask the Lobola question? This is possible once the question of marriage has already been raised. How is this going to be paid for? Are you comfortable with credit-led Lobola or would you rather be patient enough for your partner to save to pay his dues?

Building a future together

 Ask yourself: can you work with your partner to build a better future, one that is savings, investing and wealth creation-led, where financially prudent decisions will be made jointly?

This will enable you to build a financial legacy for yourselves and your family. I call this the #WealthLegacyProject. This all starts with planting small and manageable financial seeds, which need to be nurtured to avoid financial mistakes being deferred to the next generation.

This Valentine’s month might be the right time to raise this topic with your partner. The money conversation may test the resilience of your relationship, but as long as the result is a concrete plan on how to save to spend, save to invest, and create wealth together, you are on the right path.

These are not meant to be emotional discussions, but rather open-minded conversations between two mature people who are in it for the long haul.

 

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