It might be awkward, but you should start talking about money
In Friends, there’s an episode where Joey, Rachel and Phoebe start to talk about how Monica, Ross and Chandler never seem to understand that the they don’t make as much money as the others do. Everything comes to a climax when the group has to evenly pay for a dinner they had to celebrate Monica’s promotion at work.
Things got awkward, to say the least. And that was just among friends, sharing one bill for one night. What more for couples that have to share expenses for the rest of their life?
So, because I have no personal experience, I talked to a few people to gather some insights on how couples handle this financial juggle. Are expenses split 50/50? Are you 100% honest with what you earn and what you spend? And—maybe the most important question—why do you choose to operate the way you do?
It’s his personality
Married 10 years and with two kids. The wife makes more than the husband, but she never disclosed her full salary amount. Her reason for doing so was that she had more expenses than him; and he didn’t know about these expenses because she knows how difficult it is to sit down and talk to him about finances.
What was she supposed to do, stop helping out her parents? Understandable.
It’s my lifestyle
They aren’t married yet, but the church bells will soon be ringing. But before the two of them walk down the aisle, there were some things to settle. She’s moving to a different country, leaving her friends, family, home, income and giving up an upcoming retirement payoff for him. So she was completely honest in telling her fiancé what she would be giving up. And they talked it through and her honesty is going to literally pay off.
It’s their debt
Talked with other singletons and we all agreed that any debt incurred coming into a relationship and/or marriage should stay separate. Why would we want to help pay off any credit debt before we even started dating?
Seems logical but, as someone married pointed out, we’ve never had to see a significant other stress over bank calls and red-lettered notices. What are you supposed to do when you have the capacity to ease some of the burden?
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But if you want honesty
Here’s what the experts say: All couples should be honest with their finances and it should start early on in the relationships. Talking about money should happen when things start to get serious and thoughts are still within a logical space. If you wait until a bill shows up on your coffee table, emotions might be at a height and thinking clearly might be unattainable anymore.
But how does one talk about finances without seeming greedy, gold digger-y and selfish? Studies show that the best way to bring things up is to throw in a general “what if.” Ask what they would do if they won the lottery, what if they were strapped for cash and had to choose between being late on a bill or taking part in a reunion, what if they had to put in extra hours at work to make ends meet?
Another route to take is to start a money goal together, whether that’s saving up a certain amount, being able to afford a new apartment together or going on a trip. And it’s from there that you can talk about what you want specifically: what level of financial freedom you're hoping for, what your goals are and what you won’t settle for.
Say it: Talking about money is an important and must-have conversation
The root of the problem when couples aren’t able to talk about money is that expectations aren’t met and, when assets are shared, things might seem unfair. But when there are open and respectful discussions on money, things tend to go smoother as accountability is clear and (ideally) carried out.
Don’t let the frustrations get to you—especially if it can be avoided with a few conversations (no matter how awkward they are at the beginning).
Art Alexandra Lara