The One Money Woe That's Holding You and Your Partner Back
It's a truth universally acknowledged that balance isn't about having everything perfect, it's more about keeping things in harmony. You and your partner may be compatible in every way you thought possible but have you ever considered that you may not be so 'made-for-each-other' when it comes to your finances? Considering money is often cited as a cause of divorce (with 7 out of 10 couples acknowledging it causes tension in their relationships), it's important to get these issues out on the table, right where you can see them.
Here are 5 questions you can ask your partner to find out how compatible you are financially and more importantly, start a healthy line of communication around money.
If you won $1 million, what would you spend it on?
We've all dreamt of this day and while we may know exactly what we'd buy when it arrives (hello Net-a-Porter haul!), you may not know where your partner would put their dough.
In your shared life together, you'll go through the three financial stages of scrimping, saving and spending all as a duo, but if you have no idea what you'll spend those hard-earned savings on together, how do you know you're headed in the right direction? It may well be that you both have different interests or different online stores bookmarked for the day the lotto drops you a life-changer but considering you're pooling you life and finances together for an extended period of time, it's important to know what dreams they hold for their (NB: your) future dollars, even if you don't share in them.
How do you feel about the 50/50 rule?
Ok, this is a big one. If you don't think it is, consider the very first date with your now partner: bill-splitting had to have come up in conversation. Even though you just met, money was already a factor in your relationship.
In this day and age, most couples prefer to split things right down the middle, making sure that everything is equal as it theoretically should be. The problem is, while you may be contributing equally, you may not be earning equally and therein lies a potential problem. Is your partner happy for you to put both of your all your earnings in the same place and have you dip in for a new pair of shoes? Would you be at all peeved if they pocketed some shared funds to live it up on a spontaneous buck's party in Vegas?
If you need to, make rules: 'we'll discuss any big purchases' is a good one. 'We'll have separate accounts to our shared one' is another. The important thing isn't what split-system you choose, it's that you both agree it's the best option for you, provided the circumstances. Also, don't forget to reserve the right to change or revisit these at any time: who knows what's around the corner at work? You may be fine with the right-down-the-middle now but you may be less keen with 50% of a bill when you only bring in 10% of the household income.
What's your idea of a good budget?
While you may err on the side of 'whatever's leftover', they may err on the side of 'if we walk, we don't have to pay for an Uber!' In short, your understanding of 'budget' may be wildly different to theirs: while you're thinking you'll just get the cheap champagne, their wondering whether they should take their empty water bottle back to recycling centre to cash in.
The important thing is to establish where each other is at and try to come to a comfortable middle. If they're keen on sacrificing everything for the sake of your savings, try to cut back on your indulgences. Similarly, they should let up once in while to meet your needs.
What do you think is the best way to handle a career break?
The thing about money conversations is they're linked to so many deeper issues. In the six degrees of separation of the relationship world, money is the Kevin Bacon of issues. It's almost impossible to talk about money without talking about goals, children, the Christmas present they gave you last year... the point is, you've got to get real about it. If you had kids, who would take the financial burden of working? Or, if both you worked, how would you juggle the commitments? You don't want to be asking these questions with a babe already in arms.
What's the most important thing you think money can buy?
A shared future (in finances and otherwise) is the reason you and your partner and doing the long-term thing. You've got a shared commitment to a life with each other and all your future plans—including ones that can be bought—depend on one another. What you're really asking here is what their financial goals are: do they want to continue renting? Do they want to buy a sprawling rural farm? Do they want to buy a sports car and take your across Europe for a year? By asking them the pinnacle of their financial dreams, you'll start to get a sense of what they (and ultimately you) are working towards when you're putting your hard-earned dollars away each month.