Money is one of those hidden awkward, murky areas of love. So, when’s the best time to discuss money in a new relationship?
Research from financial institution ING showed that one in five Australians keep financial secrets from their partner. Which isn’t surprising – I don’t know of any relationship which is completely transparent about money. It’s just a matter of degree.
The report showed that women were most likely to keep financial secrets in case the relationship doesn’t work out. While men were more likely to cover up larger purchases their partner could disapprove of.
And how about this for a stat: 40 per cent of Aussies don’t know how much their partner earns. As a nation it sounds like we’re not being entirely honest with each other.
So are these lies harmless, or are they something more sinister? And what’s the right way to handle money in a relationship anyway?
Here’s my take on the etiquette of love and money in a new relationship.
When you’re just starting out
“At the beginning of a relationship money is none of their business; you’re getting to know each other and working out whether you’re suited to each other”, she says.
“I certainly wouldn’t be bringing money up on the first date, just like I’d avoid talking about values and religion and all those sorts of things.”
So, only share what you’re comfortable with. Split restaurant bills or weekends away down the middle (or do the chivalrous thing, gents). That way you can avoid rushing into joint financial commitments.
Now things are getting serious
Okay, so you’re madly in love and officially an item. Now is the right time to talk money in your relationship. Sit down and have a proper conversation about your finances… and your spending habits.
Financial problems are one of the leading causes of relationship stress. So you need to make sure you’re financially compatible and understand each other’s values.
As Amanda says, “you’re trying to work out whether you’re suitable for each other. Just like you would talk about your feelings on kids or living overseas, talking about money is important when things start to get serious… It shouldn’t be a taboo.”
“It may be that each of you are coming in with different expectations of what’s the right way to manage money. And money is very complicated these days, with people moving in together just to see.”
Take the time to understand your partner’s financial goals, needs and wants, and make sure they know yours. And talk through how you want to handle everyday joint financial commitments, from rent to groceries.
There are no hard and fast rules on how to organise your money as a couple; the right way is one that works for both of you.
Once you’ve settled down
By this stage you should already be on the same page about money and, ideally, open about your finances. You don’t have to be joined at the hip, but you’re on the same team and should be managing money together.
Money doesn’t need to be talked about all the time, but that’s different from hiding things. Being deceitful is bad for any relationship.
To make sure we are both on the same page, we set aside 15 minutes every month to run the ruler over the finances together.
And while we are 100 per cent committed to our common goals, we both still have personal spending accounts which we can do what we want with. Like buying each other surprise gifts, right Libby?