With Valentine's Day just days away, it's a good time to think about how money works into your love life. Whether you're single and dating or married, money is part of your relationship - whether you want it to be or not.
In a dating relationship, assumptions and expectations are being set by who pays for what and the price point of the date. Whether a date is a bargain matinee movie with some fast food or steak and seafood before going to a private live show, you're sending a financial message if you're paying. If you're not paying, you may have assumptions about the finances of the person you're dating. Once you've decided a relationship is serious, it's worth discussing finances.
Most people who are considering a long-term relationship exchange information about income. That's important, but more friction can develop from money habits than from income disparities. For example, how much does each person think is a reasonable amount for an unplanned purchase? The differences can range from candy at the grocery checkout to a major piece of furniture. What is a reasonable amount for emergency savings? When do both want to retire and how are they saving for that? How do both feel about debt? Does one carry credit card balances for several months while the other wants a mortgage paid off as quickly as possible? Financial compatibility is important.
If you're married, financial transparency is a great goal. Whether you have a one-income household, a primary and secondary earner or two people earning similar income, spending and saving need to be joint decisions. Couples who function harmoniously with their finances generally do not have one person making all the decisions. Ideally, both spouses are informed and have a say in financial priorities. Also, while many households now have two incomes, it's outdated to assume that a spouse who doesn't earn money has no financial rights.
Mending financial rifts can be difficult but not insurmountable. Talk about the disagreement. Be candid about the facts and emotions. The dollars and cents of family finances are important and need to have balance. But ignoring the emotions of finance is unrealistic and unwise. Spouses need to acknowledge and be respectful of each other's feelings about money.
If you and your spouse disagree about finances, consider getting some help. A financial planner who is sensitive to behavioral finance concerns is a great choice. Good financial advice is more than just crunching numbers. It's listening and understanding what's important to each spouse to help harmonize financial perspectives and meet goals.
Love and money don't need to conflict. Like any aspect of a good relationship, candor and mutual respect are key.
Linda Leitz is a certified financial planner who can be reached at email@example.com.