5 Categories of Money Questions to Ask While Dating (& even if you're Married!)
I absolutely love talking about money and I'm incredibly money conscious. Sometimes for good, sometimes well, for not so good. I probably know how much is in my bank account at every given time. I over analyse before making purchases - and if I didn't analyse way too much before swiping my card, I definitely analyse after, wondering if the new shoes were such a good deal or if i really had to eat at that resturant. I like to account for every single penny. I've been known to cry in the past, when I couldn't account for how I spent N200 say out of N10,000 or when I forgot to take my £10 note out of the cash machine.
But much more than talking about personal money, I love talking about money with Tee. How much do we have? Can we afford that? Do you have to buy that? How can we make more money? (Answers and tips welcome!). Our different approach to money obviously has a lot of impact in our relationship. If I'm more pro savings and he's more pro investment then we have to reach a compromise, being as open and as transparent as possible.
Honestly, it therefore baffles me when couples or people in serious relationships don't talk money. And it appears to be more common than you'd think. Money is a huge cause of rift and conflict amongst couples and when such money conflicts rear their ugly head, love and all the sweet words you often proclaim quickly fly out of the window!
You've probably seen this advice before "Don't marry for money, but go to where money is and marry for love". My friend once asked me what I thought about that phrase. When you try to analyse it, it gets a whole lot confusing and not clear cut black and white.
So money is key. But there's too many stories of couples not wanting to discuss money, of partners lying about their jobs and earnings, about their huge debts! I've heard of marriages been called off at the last minute due to truths about money being revealed. And you've probably seen the true story about the bride who ran out of the altar on the day of the wedding when she discovered her husband was not an oil company employee as he had claimed.
So let's just attempt to break this down into 5 categories of money discussions you should have in a relationship. It's arguably more important while still in the dating and courting stage, but still absolutely relevant even when married.
1. Income and Earnings
Dating someone seriously means that you should at the very least know how much they earn. Down to the penny. If they are in a 9-5, you should have seen company ID cards, employment letters possibly and perhaps pay slips, and bank accounts. And if you're pretty serious in the relationship and you haven't seen some of this, You should be asking! It does not make you a goal digger. It's arguably trickier for entrepreneurs who don't have a basic salary at the end of the month. But this doesn't mean we can't talk about it. I've been known to wear a blank or confused face when some people used to say to me "I do business", or "I do contracts". What exactly do you do? Where's your office and employees (if any), how much average have you made in the past few years. Who are your clients? Invoices for services you've rendered? If you haven't seen these things, from your partner, alarm bells should be going off in your head.
Related to current earnings, we should also be discussing prospects for income growth - will our current income be sufficient if we get married and decide to start a family? What plans to we have to make more money and increase income? Will your preference always be to be a salaried worker or you have plans to become an entrepreneur in the future?
Traditionally in many societies, men were regarded as the primary bread winner, with women playing a support role. Today, many men are happy for both to contribute 50-50 to purchase this bread. But while being open to this in principle, many men still shiver at the thought of their wives earning twice or triple their salary. So this question must also be discussed "what if the woman earns incredibly more than the man" The response to this, should also be analysed in line with the other categories below.
2. Debt and Borrowings!
Some people regard debt and borrowings as part of life, while some like me are so anti-debt that I detest even a slightly overdrawn bank account and I regard credit cards as somewhat evil. I like to spend money I know I own. Others are happy to borrow for their child's naming ceremony and for their weddings. In the assurance that they serve a living God who never fails to provide for his people. And by no fault of theirs, some others are forced to borrow for important reasons such as health care and education. But irrespective of the reason, it's best to know matters such as how much debt is your partner in currently. When you get married, will this become 'our debt' - to be paid off by both of us or just 'their debt' to be paid off by them only.
In addition, what's their approach to borrowing and matters such as hire purchase: While I may understand buying a car on hire purchase or a lease and paying off monthly, I'm quite sceptical of buying a couch or a dinning set or a handbag and having to pay for it monthly for six years - long after the design of that particular item may have become obsolete.
And while we're on borrowings - it's important to know who the first point of call is when your partner need to borrow. Will they tell you? Or will they run off to friends and family first?
3. Budget and Spending
It's also quite crucial to know what kind of spender your partner is. Penny pincher? - in which case even if they earned millions and had zero debt, it'll take a lot of talk to get them to spend a penny. Or a YOLO spender? Constantly choosing to see an empty glass (or in this case an empty bank account) as half full? Or an emotional spender? A little argument and they swipe up all their money? Including the ones ear-marked for more important items?
As a team also, how would our budget work? Are we inclined to have a monthly budget for food, bills, travel & entertainment and attempt to stick to it? Also consider spending obligations you both may have in relation to third parties. An example is an obligation to send money or gift items for in-laws during birthdays or festive seasons, or for family donations to charity or religious purposes. How will this be managed?
4. Savings and Investment
The obvious one that jumps out here is a savings account. Joint? Joint and separate? Separates only? Approach to savings as well. Some people absolutely don't believe in savings while others are extremely finicky about it - and feel slightly incomplete when they are unable to save. Someone might believe in an emergency account for the rainy day such as a job loss, while their partner harbours secret annoyance over this in their hearts, thinking that such money should be used for present needs or enjoyment.
You should also understand what you both view as investments and consider important. A lady who considers a Chanel handbag an investment or a man who insists on buying the flashiest car might find themselves at locker heads with a partner who doesn't (especially if there are no clear money conversations). On the other hand, some people would prefer to send their children to the most expensive schools while everything else is done to the minimal, while their partner may opine that basic education is sufficient.
And when both parties agree on certain tangible investments, just like savings, will this be bought jointly or separately. Will the title deeds to a house bear both names? See this post on taking your husband's surname after marriage and the reasons a lady gave for insisting that her first name be on the title documents to the joint land. And in relation to investments such as stocks and bonds, is your partner more of a high yield high reward kind of person? Such that they're willing to invest a huge chunk into risky ventures and perhaps ponzi schemes like MMM?
5. Wills and Inheritance
Many people don't like to talk about death. And really though, does it matter what happens to your money when you're gone? Maybe not. But if it matters to you, then you should have these conversations. Are you more inclined to give all of your assets to your children, or do you think they should make their own money. What if you're in favour of the former totally, but your partner will rather give everything they own to the animal shelter charity? You gonna be okay with that?
In this case even if such property is owned jointly an alternative may be to buy it as tenants-in-common as opposed to a joint tenancy. That's a bit of technical law, but basically in a joint tenancy the property is owned by both parties but if one party passes away it automatically belongs wholly to the surviving party. But before any deaths (and say in the case of a separation) this can be severed. In a tenancy- in-common however, even in death the shares are distinct such that A might choose to will his share to the animal charity, while B wills her share to her kids. Slightly technical but hopefully you get the picture!
These questions seem like a lot and of course there aren't always clear cut answers. And even if there are at some point, things could always change in the future. What's most important is that couples are open to discussing these matters and being as honest as can be about money!
So what do you think? How do you handle money in your relationship or marriage? Are there any matters which are off limits? What is sensitive and what is not? What areas did I miss out? Really love to hear from you on this one (including any third party stories you've heard)
pS: I almost feel like this piece came across in a very serious tone! But I've heard too many sad stories lately, that may just have affected the writing. Hope it was useful nonetheless. If yes, please share on your favourite social media!
ppS: Did you read my 2016 Blog Recap & Thank You' message to You? You should.