Your heart is racing. You start to sweat a little. You nervously wonder if your breath is okay or if you should’ve brushed your teeth one more time. Goosebumps start to run up your arms, even though it is a hot summer’s night. It’s the moment you’ve been feeling sick with anticipation over. You’re finally going to get naked with your partner – financially naked.
It’s a monumental step that occurs at some point in adult relationships. You share your financial goals, your debt burdens, whether you’re a saver or a spender and ultimately determine if that person sitting across from you is truly compatible with your desires.
It Always Comes Out
Even if you don’t have an official talk to get financially naked – it always comes out.
It can be obvious when you move in together. Or when you talk about the type of wedding you’d have. Whether you’d send children to private or public schools. The type of hotels you want to stay in while on vacation. Do you buy a car in cash, lease it or take out a loan? Is eating out a priority in your relationship? Who pays for dates? What are the expectations for gift giving? There are hundreds of little ways to flag to your partner what your financial priorities are without even opening up your mouth to discuss the taboo topic.
Couples seeking to create a strong foundation upon which to build a long-lasting relationships must actually sit down and get financially naked.
“And then I found out he/she had debt…”
Too many times that line is written or spoken during stories about couples repaying debt. It’s amazing how many couples get married without ever disclosing debt burdens. It’s selfish and it’s the wrong way to go about starting a life together.
It’s important to know: it is your business.
Once you’ve reached a point where you plan to commit your life to another person, you need to have a frank conversation about money. It is your business whether or not your partner has debt. It is your business how that debt is going to be repaid. As soon as you’re legally bound to one another, that debt will affect your life too.
When Do You Start Taking Off Layers?
Each couple will approach getting financially naked in a different way. Some may want to expose themselves early on, while others are more modest and need time to become comfortable and feel safe.
It’s your prerogative to share as much or as little as you want in the early stages of a love affair. But once the relationship turns from casual dating to “I could live with this person” it’s probably time to take off a layer.
At the very least, you need to be talking about how you budget and how you’re going to split the bills. Plus, you should be prepared for the other person to see your bank statements or savings when you’re talking numbers with a relator or potential landlord.
When Is It Time for Full Frontal?
Once you begin to cohabitate, it’s extremely hard to hide your financial quirks.
If you don’t plan to live together before marriage, then you should go full frontal with your finances around the same time you start searching Google for the perfect engagement ring.
Entering into a life-long commitment with someone should involve being completely transparent about your finances and your expectations for your financial future.
As a couple you’ll need to discuss how you plan to budget, how much of your salaries should be saved, when you’d want to retire, how much it would take to retire, do you have any debts and how you plan to pay them down, will one partner stay home with kids or will both work and you need to factor in childcare, do you want to rent or own property?
It may feel overwhelming, but starting the conversation early prevents debt and financial resentment being transmitted in the relationship.
How Do You Start the Conversation?
Both partners need to feel heard and comfortable enough to be vulnerable about getting financially naked. Don’t get judgmental about your partner’s past mistakes and expect the same respect in return.
Sit down in a neutral territory and start to have an open dialogue about money. All the topics don’t need to be covered at once, but big topics like debt and savings goals should be discussed early.
Once you’re married, remember you are a team. Whether you decide to bank separately or jointly, you still need to think about money in terms of a “we” instead of a “me”. Help each other through difficult times – like paying off student loans – and support each other by creating incentives to reach savings goals.
An open dialogue about money will help negate a lot of issues in your future, so the sooner you get financially naked, the better.