I am sometimes truly astounded at the things people think and say. Here’s one of my favourites: “I wouldn’t sacrifice a good relationship over money issues.” Sorry to break it to you but if you have money issues, you don’t have a good relationship.
You may have loads of fun together but if you can’t talk about money, don’t try to turn your mate into a life partner.
A long-term commitment is serious business and there will be rough spots. One of you might get sick. One of you might lose your job. If you plan to have a family you’re going to come under all kinds of pressures you can’t yet imagine. If you can’t talk about money now while it’s still a relatively easy discussion—no huge decisions weigh in the balance—you’ll implode as a couple when times get tough.
Why, as a reasonable thinking person, would you want to buy a pig in a poke? You have absolutely no idea what you’re getting into if you don’t have the money chat. You’ve assumed that you’re going in as somewhat equal partners. But supposed there’s debt lurking in the dark and your buddy says, “I don’t think I can make my rent this month.” What do you do then? Will you cover his costs and add a notch on your resentment belt? Wouldn’t you rather go into your life commitment knowing what you have to deal with?
If you’re ready for the discussion, start by doing a financial inventory: what do you own, what do you owe, what are your benefits at work. From there move on to how you like to spend you money. One of you might be a drizzle spender: a cup of coffee here, a magazine there, while the other likes to spend big on vacations or expensive toys. Either way you should talk about it. Think about what you want to achieve together and how you’ll have to adapt (or not) as you move though a shared life.
Next, create a “yours, mine, ours budget.” How much will you each pitch in for joint expenses like rent and groceries? I suggest making those payments proportionate to your respective incomes because that is, in fact, fairer than splitting costs 50-50. You’ll each then deduct the “ours” amounts from your “mine” pile, and build individual budgets for yourself with what you’ve got left.
What if your partner doesn’t co-operate with a full-blown financial chat? Start paying attention to how your mate handles money. Does she shove bills in a drawer? Is he always picking up the tab for everyone at the table? Does she consistently ask for small loans to “see her through” to her next pay? Does he buy impulsively on credit or does he carefully research and save first?
If you don’t like what you see you have a decision to make. You can stick your head in the sand and hope for the best. Or you can grow up and ask your mate to take the union you’re planning as seriously as you do. Anyone who is unwilling to plan the money part of the relationship is a ticking time-bomb. Consider yourself warned.