It’s a sad fact to acknowledge, but money and security is more important to lots of folks than love. You can be as upset with me as you like, but that’s the truth. You think your relationship isn’t like that? Let’s see one of the partners in a relationship lose their job and have no income for a year or two. Let’s have one partner that’s a super saver and one that’s a super spender under one roof and you tell me how it works out. Some of you ardent defenders of love are now say, “well, that’s a specific instance” and “those are gross exaggerations of the situation” … riiiight. We all know people in situations like these. They are more common than we want to talk about.
With all the excitement over folks getting a mate, I notice there isn’t much discussion about keeping a mate. To that end, this post is about strengthening a relationship that’s already in place. There are 4 things that every couple should talk about asap. Of course, conversations about money should be ongoing however these are topics that you cannot put off and cannot be overlooked:
Credit scores and reports
I know you’re going to be upset, but you can’t trust anyone to tell you what their credit scores are. The reason? Most people don’t know. Each of us has 3 separate scores from each of the 3 major credit agencies and those scores go up and down every month depending on our behavior. It behooves each partner to pull their credit scores and reports and sit down to talk money strategy. If you’re building a life together, you have to know where you’re starting from. It’ll cost each partner about $50 to pull all three reports with scores, but it might save you thousands of dollars over your relationship and possibly … you’re relationship too.
Once you have your reports you may start to ask questions. If your partner is an ardent saver with a pristine report you may want to know how they did it? Does your partner live on less than what they make because they haven’t contributed a penny to a retirement account? Do they use coupons? Do they borrow money from parents to cover shortages? It’s important to know what behaviors are contributing to their credit report. Those behaviors may class with yours.
I’ve learned the hard way that money isn’t what makes people poor or wealthy. Attitude is what makes people poor or wealthy. If someone has $100,000 in debt because they like to buy expensive things, giving them the money to pay the dent off won’t make a difference. When the debt has been paid off they will rack it up again because they have not changed their behaviors. What behaviors does your partner have?
Who’s in charge?
You will be responsible for paying the bills? Who is in charge of purchasing groceries? You will choose what retirement strategy you use? You can take turns, you can do it together or you can choose one of you to be responsible for it, but you must make a decision. There are no wrong choices. Sometimes it’s easier to play to the strengths of each partner and delegate that one partner deal with the retirement plans while the other partner pay the bills every month. Once it’s settled you both still need to sit down once every 3 months to make sure that you’re reaching your goals. If you’re not, with only 3 months of miscalculations things are pretty easily correctable.
No one is perfect. Each of us has shortcomings and things that annoy our partners. The best thing to do is own up to it and create a set of workarounds for each of you. For example, I know that I love to travel. I used to have all the travel deals come to my inbox every day. As a new trip to some great place showed up in my email I would start to plan my escape only to realize that it didn’t fit into my spending plan. Which made me sad for a minute. Then it made me upset. Then it made me want to eat noodles all week to be able to pay for it and not mess up my spending plan. This is a horrible cycle that would happen at least once a week until I created my own little workaround. I stopped having those travel deals sent to my inbox. You know what? I don’t even think about them any more. What easy workarounds can you figure out to help you and your partner stay on track?
When we choose partners we do it for many reasons. Very few of us will see someone walk down the street and think, “wow! look at the credit score on that one!” but many of us end potentially awesome relationships over who spends too much money or who nags about how many video games are purchased each month. If the person isn’t a good fit for you emotionally or spiritually, let them go. If they aren’t a good financial fit for you there is a possibility that person can change, and if not isn’t it better that you know from jump?
If a person tells you who they are, believe them.