In this “Financially Savvy Female” column, we chat with YouTube creator and financial expert Aja Dang about the money questions women should be asking their partners and why asking these questions is so important.
Talking about money can be awkward, and it can be an uncomfortable topic to broach for the first time when you’re in a relationship. But making sure you and your partner are aligned when it comes to your attitudes about money and financial plans is important for the long term, so these are conversations you shouldn’t be putting off.
“It depends on the person but the sooner the better,” Dang said. “There’s not really a best time. But if you want to really dig in to see how compatible you are early in the relationship, you might as well throw in a money question to see how uncomfortable they are or how open they are. The longer you wait, the more difficult some of these results may end up being for you in your relationship.”
Not sure where to start? Here are some money questions that Dang says you should be asking.
What money habits did you learn from your parents?
“Our childhood greatly impacts a lot of things in our lives, especially when it comes to money. For instance, my parents never talked to me about money. I grew up thinking that money was very hard to get and that it was OK to struggle. [My boyfriend] Brian didn’t really grow up talking about money either, which helped us to understand how we got to this point individually and what we can do together as partners for the future when we have children — how we want to communicate about money and work and all of that stuff.”
Why you should ask this: “If you have different views about money, that’s obviously something that needs to be communicated. Me and Brian grew up the same way, so it wasn’t a big problem. If someone grew up talking about money and being very well-off, and they made me feel bad about my situation, that would be a red flag. Not understanding and respecting our individual experiences generally, and especially when talking about money, would be a really big red flag for me.”
What motivates your financial decisions?
“You need to know what someone’s money motivation is. For me, I want someone who wants financial stability over driving a really fancy car or showing up your neighbor.”
Why you should ask this: “If someone’s financial decisions are driven by looking the best, that could cause you to be in debt, that could cause financial instability. When you’re always trying to one-up someone, it’s really hard to reel that in unless they do some kind of inner work, which I don’t know that a lot of people would do.”
What’s one money habit that you admire about me?
This question can give you some positive reinforcement for any good financial habits you already have.
Why you should ask this: “It’s nice to hear that some things that you do that may not seem like a big deal — like for me, budgeting every week isn’t a big deal, it’s just something that I do — if my partner were to admire that, not only is he paying attention to your daily habits, but it’s also nice to be recognized. I think it’s always nice to praise your partner, and when it’s financial it’s a little bit more uncomfortable, so I think that’s a good one to ask.”
Is there anything about your financial situation or debts that is important for me to know about?
“For a lot of people, this conversation may be the first time you’re talking about money so you have to dig deep. The leading cause of divorce and separation is money, so if you want your relationship to thrive and grow, you have to be honest about all aspects — especially money. If they have a debt that they’ve been keeping a secret and they’re willing to share that, I think it’s important [to find out] why they felt the need to keep that debt a secret. I didn’t tell Brian about my debts for years because I was simply embarrassed. But if there’s another reason like, ‘I don’t think you deserve to know. It’s my money, my choice,’ that might be a little bit more difficult to explain away. If your partner is able to really dive into this conversation and be as open as possible, I think that’s a pretty good sign.”
Why you should ask this: “It’s important to be honest. I have a history of high debt across the board. That doesn’t make me bad with money. I was open and honest about it and I was able to tackle it, but if someone was hiding it or was thinking it’s not a big deal, I think that’s more of a red flag than the actual amount or type [of debt]. You don’t have to have a joint bank account, but if you hide a really bad financial situation from your partner, I think that’s worse [than simply having debt].”
Do you expect to support your parents or other loved ones in the future?
In addition to understanding your partner’s financial situation right now, it’s also important to know about their future plans for their money. Providing financial support for family members or other dependents in future years will affect your financial situation as a couple when the time comes, so it’s better to understand their plans sooner rather than later.
Why you should ask this: “For me, it’s culturally an Asian thing to take care of your parents when they’re older. They move in with you. For me, if someone was like, ‘I want to throw my parents in a home and they’re good,’ that would be a red flag because that’s just not how I grew up — but that obviously will take a huge toll financially on you as a couple no matter what decisions you make. So if there’s a way to prepare for that, I think that’s a conversation that needs to be had.”
GOBankingRates wants to empower women to take control of their finances. According to the latest stats, women hold $72 billion in private wealth — but fewer women than men consider themselves to be in “good” or “excellent” financial shape. Women are less likely to be investing and are more likely to have debt, and women are still being paid less than men overall. Our “Financially Savvy Female” column will explore the reasons behind these inequities and provide solutions to change them. We believe financial equality begins with financial literacy, so we’re providing tools and tips for women, by women to take control of their money and help them live a richer life.
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