How (And When) To Talk About Money In A Relationship

Just because it's uncomfortable or sensitive, does not mean the conversation should not be had.
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There is no better time than now to discuss finances with your partner, especially if you see yourselves building a future together.

That's the view of Thami Cele, the head of savings and investments at Absa retail and business banking.

"While couples might believe they hold similar values about major issues such as lifestyle, religion, and raising kids, values regarding finances could hold surprises for both," Cele said – because two people may deal with money matters in very different ways.

These are not meant to be emotional discussions, but rather open-minded conversations between two mature people who are in it for the long haul.

Additionally, because money is a sensitive topic, couples avoid it precisely because it easily leads to arguments — but this is no reason to shy away from it. Financial stress, after all, has been proven to be one of the leading causes of divorce worldwide.

Ponder these two questions first, suggests Cele:

1. Is your partner mature enough to grasp the magnitude and importance of such discussions? "These are not meant to be emotional discussions, but rather open-minded conversations between two mature people who are in it for the long haul," he says.

2. Do you trust your partner to build a better future that is savings, investing and wealth creation-led, in which financially prudent decisions will be made jointly?

Who should initiate the conversation?

One of the partners must be bold enough to take the lead when it comes to initiating the money conversation, suggests Cele.

Here are a few guiding questions for this very important discussion with your partner.

1. Saving and investing

"What are your thoughts on saving and investing? Do you save?"

According to a SunTrust study, people who save or invest are generally trustworthy people. This equally applies to people who have good credit scores, as this is a great indication of how good they are at managing their debt.

Do you know your credit score? How healthy is it?

2. Credit record

"Do you know your credit score? How healthy is it?"

There is a growing school of thought that believes the healthier the credit score, the more trustworthy a person. So besides the need to understand how good your partner is at managing their debt, you could benefit from further understanding the nature of the person you are committing to.

3. Long-term financial obligations

Do you plan to buy, for example, a house or a car? Are you saving for a deposit for this?

Cele says it's okay to bluntly ask: "So how are you planning to pay for this?" This may give an idea of your partner's financial planning abilities.

4. Long-term non-credit related obligations

Obligations like garnishee orders, "black tax" and child support are longer-term commitments that would also need to be laid openly on the table. As a partner you need to understand these dynamics – especially if you intend to have children of your own one day – and how they affect your possible financial future.

5. Lobola

This is possible once the question of marriage has already been raised, notes Cele. Questions that can be asked include: "How is this going to be paid for?"

He also believes you must ask yourself if you're comfortable with credit-led lobola, in case your partner thinks that's an option. And if not, to make it clear that you are willing to wait until he saves enough for the lobola.

Cele suggests that partners who initiate the conversation should be prepared to share details of their finances if the tables are turned. "Many people use money discussions to interrogate the other partner, while they are not prepared to share the details of their finances if the tables are turned. Each party should show a willingness to openly discuss the state of their finances," Cele says.



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