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Once you leave school and enter your early twenties, relationships become more complicated, and financial decisions involve more than deciding who’s turn it is to order UberEats. Although you may miss the days of zero complexities, mature relationships aren’t all bad. Together, you support each other to reach your goals. With any discussion in a relationship, the key form of attack is honesty and open communication, and the same goes for your finances.
My current boyfriend and I have successfully navigated two rentals, new jobs, property hunting, and a furry friend. Hopefully, I can help you navigate similar financial transitions with what I’ve learned. Below are five mistakes you may be making that are hindering your relationship from being a supportive financial unit.
If your childhood was similar to mine, you may have grown up being told that it was rude to talk about money. What was especially forbidden were any questions involving salary or net worth, even between family members. In addition to these well-known rules, there were also unspoken rules. Like how you could never discuss the price of a person’s home, or how both parties had to insist on paying the dinner bill.
With these societal rules ingrained in us from a young age, it’s easy to see why we fall short when discussing money with our romantic partners. Often, it takes years into the relationship before you know the financial baggage that your partner is carrying. Perhaps only when you’ve reached the point where you’re assuming that baggage as well. Maybe you’re keeping quiet for fear of judgment, or maybe you hadn’t thought to be open about finances with your partner yet (which is totally normal, btw).
The foundation of any healthy relationship is honesty and trust, and you should include those same values in discussions about a person’s financial situation. Sit down with your partner and be open about your debt, salary, savings, and everything in between. This will be one of the most important conversations that you navigate and will be a key milestone in your couples’ history.
My boyfriend and I discussed our financial situations pretty early on due to our circumstances. After graduating from university, we were moving into an apartment and had to discuss our rental budget and lifestyle expectations. Both of us were in a very fortunate situation because we didn’t have any student loan debt; however, I didn’t have a stable job lined up after graduation and was worried about my future income. Knowing that my boyfriend supported me emotionally and was willing to support me financially, if needed, made that transition in our lives much easier.
No matter what stage of your relationship, you should do your best to include each other in all financial decision-making. But when it comes to newer relationships, there can sometimes be a grey area. Maybe you’ve never included each other in financial decisions before, and you’re not sure whether now is the right time, or worse, if your partner will care.
If you’re happy and want your partner to feel secure in the relationship, I suggest that you share, share, share. Even if it doesn’t directly affect your partner or if the decision is ultimately yours to make. Without open communication, your partner could be caught off guard and question your commitment to the relationship moving forward. They will appreciate the open communication and that you cared to listen to their point of view. And if you do see a future with them, any financial decisions you make will ultimately affect them, so you want to make sure they’re understanding.
About a year into our relationship, my boyfriend made it clear that he was interested in buying a house. His family was in the business and didn’t view renting as a good option. Although he knew that I was not interested in investing with him, he communicated with me every step of the way. He took my opinions into accounts, such as location and interior design, as I would ultimately be living there too if things continued. Although his investment didn’t directly affect my finances at that point in our relationship, it was still really nice to be included in the decision-making and made us stronger because of it.
I understand that new relationships are meant to be spontaneous, fun, and taken day-by-day. Trust me, I’ve been there, and I get it! When I say discussing the future, I don’t mean picking out your baby names. What I mean is discussing your five-year (or more) plan. If you see yourself staying with your partner, you should have an open dialogue about your goals and ambitions.
It’s easy when you live in the same town or go to the same school, but once you leave university and enter the “real world,” I feel that everyone is constantly moving in a million different directions. Do you have any plans to travel? Work abroad? Move to the city? Move out of the city? These are all important conversations worth having. Not only that, but each of them directly correlates to money.
Discussing these things ahead of time will allow both of you to decide if your plans align and how to implement them properly. Nowadays, you can’t drop everything to travel through Europe busking on the streets (something my dad has, in fact, done). Spontaneity is hard to come by, especially with two people, if you don’t want to run into financial problems. If I ever get to travel again post-COVID *sigh*, I know that I’ll do something similar to what my parents did in their twenties. After university, they returned to their hometowns to work and save money. From there, they were able to coordinate work, living situations, and travel expectations. Although they weren’t known for luxurious travel, they had enough money to enjoy themselves while not running into future debt.
Although it may seem old-fashioned and 50’s housewife-esque, subconsciously, the concept of a “breadwinner” within a relationship may still be present. The breadwinner is the sole income provider, and in a relationship with dual income, the breadwinner is the one who earns more. Whether unconscious or not, the idea that you or your partner are the “breadwinner” has a variety of negative connotations that can affect your relationship. If you haven’t already, go check out Alyssa’s recent article here, where she goes in-depth on the history of the term “breadwinner” and how it no longer serves.
Using breadwinner titles immediately brings inequality within a relationship. Healthy relationships thrive when both partners contribute to all aspects – childcare (if needed), housework, quality time, emotional support, etc. With a breadwinner, there is the assumption that they are no longer responsible for contributing to these other, equally important, aspects of a relationship. This title may also influence the holder to have more control over their partner. Subconsciously, you may view your opinions as superior, contribute more to decision-making, and only provide money to your partner for things you see fit.
Through Alyssa’s research, she surprisingly found that women who were the higher earner of the household were actually less happy than women who were not. This was because, on top of the career stress, they were supporting their families to the same extent.
The bottom line is, don’t view yourself as superior if you earn more, and don’t view yourself as inferior if you earn less or nothing at all. A healthy relationship is a cohesive unit that requires all areas of support to function.
This one may seem counterintuitive but let me explain. A healthy financial relationship is balanced. Balanced between saving for your future together and spending money on your present selves. I think those who are well-versed in the financial space tend to be wary of the latter. It’s easy to feel that way when interest rates and compounding periods are swirling around in your head. But, if you’re avoiding leaving the house because you don’t want to spend any money, your relationship will suffer.
I’m not talking about spending money on materialistic things. I’m talking about experiences. I realize that not everyone (including me) can afford to go on fancy vacations or see big concerts. I’m talking about going to the movies, a new restaurant, or bowling! Whatever activity you and your partner enjoy doing together. (These suggestions are obviously in a Post-Covid world). I realize not everyone has the luxury of spending money on activities. Still, if you are financially able, I highly recommend setting aside money in a ‘date budget’ for these things. That way, you’re still able to make those memories with your partner while not jeopardizing your future.
When my boyfriend was considering investing in the house, I was a little worried that we’d have no money left for each other. I still wanted to go on weekend trips, go out to eat and drink, and travel once all of this COVID craziness died down. He assured me that the mortgage payments would not affect our experience budget, which made me feel much better about the potential decision.
As we all know, money is a taboo topic – more so than sex or even death at times. It’s hard to go from society keeping us so secretive, to openly having discussions with people that you love. There is no such thing as perfection, but just know that any money conversation is better than none.
Mixed Up Money is thrilled to share that the digital workbook and spreadsheet from the ‘Oh F*ck, Are We Ready to Talk About Money?’ couples course is now available as an individual product at a reduced price made more affordable for couples.
46% of couples agree money is their biggest challenge in the relationship. Imagine planning a wedding with your partner that ends in a fight because no one is willing to compromise their idea of a good budget. And then having this same argument over every little money issue, ever. Not fun!
With this download, you will:
Find a way to communicate about money effectively
Learn about the emotional side of a dollar
Get to know all of the details you’re too uncomfortable to ask
Tackle questions that help you and your partner understand your money stressors
Focus on setting ground rules so that both of you feel heard
Learn the best way to manage your finances as a team
Have access to an Excel spreadsheet to manage your monthly budget separately or together
This is a digital download that includes a 24-page printable workbook to help you and your partner get to know each other on a deeper level – as in financially. Once you purchase your workbook, you will receive a download link for a zip file that includes the two PDF files and one Excel spreadsheet. One PDF is a printable version of the workbook, and the other is a fillable PDF to complete on your desktop. You will have 24 hours post-purchase to download the file as digital prints are for personal use and not for resale, or to be shared with friends.
To access the full course and video-sessions, head here.
Oh no, you missed the live webinar! But, good news: Mixed Up Money is pleased to share a free resource for anyone planning for a future child or family.
Mixed Up Money is pleased to share a free resource for anyone looking to cut back on non-essential spending. My most-requested product is these monthly calendars to share on your Instagram story, use as a phone background, or print off to track your spending habits.
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