Valentine’s Day is a day for couples to celebrate their love but what if chocolates, flowers and a romantic dinner aren’t enough to protect your relationship from its biggest enemy – the money monster, asks People’s Choice Credit Union spokesperson Stuart Symons.
“Romantic gestures are great ways to show your other half you care, but if you are getting serious and want the relationship to be healthy and flourish long-term then a discussion about finances will do more to make that happen than champagne and roses,” he said.
“Talking about money before you move in together may not seem sexy or particularly romantic, but statistics show that disagreeing about money is still one of the main reasons couples break up. Long-term relationships take hard work, compromise and require communication – especially on subjects where you may not see eye to eye.
“Asking some basic questions early on will help you discover if you are financially like-minded and help you decide what you will do about it if you aren’t.”
1. Law of attraction
While a relationship may begin with physical attraction, its long-term success will rely more on shared attitudes and goals, Mr Symons said.
“To build a healthy relationship you need to know whether you have the same goals and attitudes around money. If you don’t have similar goals and attitudes about how you spend and save and pay the bills then there will be tension and stress in the relationship,” he said.
“If you both want the same thing – whether it is a deposit for a house or saving for a holiday – then you are more likely to not only achieve your goals but get there faster.”
2. Take the plunge
Asking someone about their savings or debt levels on a first date would probably guarantee no chance of a second date, but you should jump onto it when things start to get serious, Mr Symons said.
“Communication is crucial to understanding what you are both getting into and it can help you plan a stronger financial future together,” he said.
“It is not unusual for a couple to have opposite financial personalities: one may be a saver and the other person a generous giver or a spender. Neither approach is wrong, but it will cause conflict if you don’t understand this about each other and work out how you are going to make financial decisions together.
“It helps if you think about the discussion as a starting point, and not a foregone conclusion.”
3. Taking it to the next level
“If you are thinking about marriage or moving in together, it makes sense to think about how you are going to manage your living expenses before you take things to the next level,” Mr Symons said.
“As housing costs are likely to be your largest living expense, it’s important to think strategically about renting, buying and investing,” he said.
“Moving in together means you will go from paying two rents to one, which will free up much-needed cash that could help you with your future housing choices. The money that used to be spent on the second rent may as well be put away to save for a deposit.
“If one or both of you own a home, it is worth getting independent advice. It might make more sense to treat one house as an investment over the other, or even sell one of the properties to diversify your investments.”
4. Crushing it
“Once you’ve decided to bring your love under the one roof, it is time to start budgeting together to achieve the things you want,” Mr Symons said.
“Living in the same house involves sharing expenses. Discussing early on how you are going to split those costs, how you are going to save and how much you will spend for some fun outings like date nights will take much of the stress out when the bills start arriving,” he said
“There are many different ways to manage your budget. The important thing is to budget."
“If you have a little bit of spare cash, think about budgeting a small amount for future investments and a small amount for present fun. This will help build your shared wealth while also allowing you to have some fun and nurture your relationship.”
5. Smitten kitten
“Being honest from the beginning about your current financial status and your financial needs and goals is important for establishing healthy habits for your new, shared life together,” Mr Symons said.
“Having regular discussions about money can help you build financial awareness and the trust and respect you need to maintain intimacy in the relationship. But trust around finances won’t happen unless each partner feels they can talk honestly – whether it’s disclosing existing debt, sharing the fears they may have about discussing money or their desire to feel financially independent in the relationship.
“If your partner lies to you about their spending or is taking money from a shared savings account without telling you then that is going to erode your relationship and make you feel insecure.”
If your relationship has ended, take a look at our handy tips here on protecting yourself and making a clean financial break.