In today’s “Financially Savvy Female” column, we chat with Shelly-Ann Eweka, CFP, senior director of financial planning strategy at TIAA, about the three biggest money mistakes women make in relationships — plus, how to successfully talk about finances with your partner.
Mistake #1: Not Talking About Finances Soon Enough
You may not want to talk about money on a first date, but it’s a topic that should be discussed before you’re opening a joint bank account.
“Discuss finances in a relationship as soon as you believe your finances will become intertwined,” Eweka said. “The person you are in a relationship with will impact how and when you reach your financial goals. In fact, your financial goals may change because of the relationship. The topics that should be discussed include credit scores, debt, estate wishes, goals and dreams. It is also important to understand your partner’s relationship with money.”
Mistake #2: Not Communicating Openly About Expenses
“When it comes to combining finances and dividing expenses in a relationship, mistakes happen because of a lack of communication between partners,” Eweka said. “It is critical to communicate and set expectations of how expenses will be handled. Dividing expenses is a very personal decision — there is no right or wrong answer. If both partners are working, some couples split expenses evenly and others split expenses proportionally to earnings. The best way to handle this is for each partner to share their comfort level and come to an agreement about how to split the expenses. It is important to be aware that the agreement will probably shift over time — children, job loss or promotions may cause the agreement to change.”
These discussions will likely involve compromise — you can’t demand of your partner what you yourself are not willing to do.
“It won’t feel fair if you ask your partner to skip out on the season tickets if you don’t also show how you are contributing to maintaining the budget,” Eweka said. “Make a commitment to bring your lunch to work and pass on the expensive coffee each day.”
Mistake #3: Keeping Secrets About Your Financial Past
You may be ashamed of your current financial situation or past decisions, but keeping these issues from your partner will only make things worse.
“Communication and accountability are the keys to maintaining a healthy financial partnership,” Eweka said. “It is critical to be upfront. If you have debts or a low credit score, tell your partner. It won’t be any easier to make a plan if your partner finds out you’ve been keeping secrets.”
How To Talk About Finances With Your Partner
Many people avoid talking about money in romantic relationships because it can be awkward and uncomfortable, but it’s important to make sure you and your partner are aligned. These conversations can go smoothly with proper planning.
“Make sure you start the conversation during a calm moment,” Eweka said. “It’s likely to be too stressful if you start this conversation right after a big credit card bill has just arrived.”
If the conversation is about re-evaluating your spending, keep an open mind and a positive outlook.
“Focus the conversation on what is possible, not just what you are giving up,” Eweka said. “Over the long term, it can be difficult to maintain sacrifices such as reducing entertainment or expensive daily coffee purchases without an agreement on why you are making these compromises. What is a ‘why’ you agree on? [Becoming] debt-free by age 60? [Buying] a retirement home at the beach? A couple with a clear understanding of why they are making choices today is more likely to stick to their long-term plan. This strategy also can be helpful when pursuing shorter-term goals. If you both dream of taking a big vacation, sit down and plan how you can save for it together. It shouldn’t all be about what you can’t do, but how you can achieve something together.”
If you’re unsure how you can achieve your financial goals as a couple, it’s always a good idea to get outside help.
“It can be helpful to sit down with a financial planner who can help you see the big picture,” Eweka said. “A professional can help you make a plan that you can both stick to.”
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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