Financial compatibility–it’s not something you can filter for on dating websites or identify after a few dates. In fact, many people don’t find out if they’re financially in sync until after they’ve promised to stay together “for richer or poorer.” And that can be a real problem.
It’s no surprise that money problems are right up there with infidelity and general incompatibility when it comes to the reasons behind divorce today. However, Jacquette Timmons, author of “Financial Intimacy: How to Create a Healthy Relationship with Your Money and Your Mate,” and a financial behaviorist, suggests finding your same financial archetype shouldn’t be your goal. If you marry someone who approaches finances exactly as you do, one of you will “scale back,” and you’ll still be in conflict.
That being said, there are still things you can do to determine your financial compatibility before you take the mature dating plunge.
Identify your own financial habits and goals.
A little self-awareness goes a long way toward ultimate financial compatibility. What are your money priorities? What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to money? Figure out how you spend your money and why before you attempt to assess your potential partner’s financial behavior.
Pay attention to financial patterns.
You can learn a lot just by watching and listening and making mental notes. Does he tend to use his credit card or debit card more often? Does his Single and Mature lifestyle seem extravagant for a person in his profession? Is he lavish or tight-fisted when it comes to tipping? Did he mention he follows the stock market to track his 401k investments?
lifestyle seem extravagant for a person in his profession? Is he lavish or tight-fisted when it comes to tipping? Did he mention he follows the stock market to track his 401k investments?
It’s OK to ask open-ended questions, too. If he says he’s still paying off student loans, say, “That’s unusual…tell me more about that.” When you avoid asking ‘why,’ you don’t sound judgmental, and it opens the door to a more intimate conversation about money.
Make finances part of your conversation.
Even if it seems uncomfortable, getting to know someone’s financial history is no different from learning about his family, friends, education, hobbies–all the usual things new couples talk about. Engage out of curiosity: “I noticed that even though we’ve been going out for six months, you always pick up the tab. Why is that?”
If you’re even thinking about making a long-term commitment, be sure you discuss his income and earning potential, debt load, and philosophy about personal savings and retirement goals. And remember to be perfectly honest about yours.
Watch out for warning signs.
Everyone has different triggers, but you should proceed with caution if your mate-to-be trips one. In her book, “The Courage to be Rich,” Suze Orman has a quiz that helps you spot dangerous financial traits.
Keep in mind, some behaviors should never be tolerated. Keeping secrets, for example, or lying about money should be deal-breakers, as should financial bullying. Credit Karma, a credit monitoring company, found that one in five women ages 18 to 35 are victimized by financial bullying tactics such as being given a monthly allowance or spending limit or having to show receipts for all their purchases.
Talking about finances can seem more intimate than sex for some couples, says Manisha Thakor of MoneyZen, but it shouldn’t ruin your romantic bliss. And if your relationship is meant to last a lifetime, a foundation of financial honesty and shared goals will only strengthen it.