When you‘re dating someone new, the relationship can seem perfect. Everything they do is wonderful, and the sun always seems to shine on them. But as the relationship begins to get serious, you may suddenly note that your perspective has shifted: You start looking at your love interest with an eye to the future. This is when red flags can start to appear.
In your newly enlightened state, you’ll likely find the gauzy curtain of romance parting. You may begin to notice a few things that didn’t matter just a few weeks earlier.
There are thousands of articles online giving dating advice. They warn about relationship “red flags” concerning compatibility, how they treat their family, libido and a host of other potential failings that can wither a budding relationship or destroy a marriage – and possibly drive you crazy in the process!
Far fewer articles, however, touch on a very important but often overlooked area: your finances. Once upon a time, “polite people” didn’t discuss personal money matters, except with their family members or close confidants. That reluctance to talk money still lingers for many of us. In fact, 40% of millennials in a recent survey said they’d rather tell a partner about their STDs than their debt. That says a lot.
Why love & money should mix
As much as we might want to avoid it. Talking about money with a romantic partner could be very important, especially if you’re considering moving in together or the possibility of wedding bells is in the air.
No matter how scrupulously strict you both are about handling your own money and paying your own expenses, once you live together you’ll find some expenses will have to be shared. Furthermore, some purchases – say a new TV or refrigerator – are assets that are difficult to split equitably, if there’s a parting of the ways. Sooner or later money will become a consideration in your relationship, whether you like it or not.
Money’s not everything, but money management styles can predict where disagreements may happen and could signal financial (or relationship) danger ahead.
Money is a tool that, used well, can provide certain advantages, lifestyle benefits and security. Conversely, poor money management could lead to higher stress levels, huge debt, potential foreclosure or bankruptcy, lost opportunities, or even problems with the taxman.
When you commit to a person, you commit not just the person, but all their financial errors and obligations, as well. Having important conversations about how you feel about and use money could help both partners get a clearer picture of their roles and expectations in the relationship.
22 Financial red flags
So, what are the telltale red flags that should give you pause, and be discussed?
- Lying about money matters
- Bad credit
- Reluctance or refusal to talk about money when the subject’s introduced – This might include getting angry or defensive when you try to start a financial conversation.
- Filing for bankruptcy (now or in the past)
- Differing priorities regarding how you use money – Spender vs. Saver? Planner vs. Impulse Buyer? Cooperative planner vs. Controlling in money matters? Big differences could mean big problems
- Neglecting debts – Bills are often paid late, though there always seems to be money for “toys” or luxuries
- Failure to file taxes correctly (either filing late with a penalty, or not filing at all)
- Job instability (Long-term unemployment or frequent job-hopping)
- Financial ignorance – Is your partner generally disinterested in managing their money?
- Carrying multiple loans (and taking out new ones to pay off old debts)
- No plan B for emergencies – This might include procrastinating or refusing to take out life or funeral insurance to help safeguard their earnings or help protect you from debt if they were to pass away suddenly.
- High credit card debt
- Secretive about where their money goes
- Hides debts or purchases from you
- Unable to stick to a budget
- Having no savings or investments – This might be more of an issue if your partner is already established in their career and making good money for a number of years.
- Attempts to control your money (or limits your access to joint finances)
- Being stingy with their money (but expecting you to pay for everything)
- Showy overspending
- Still financial dependent on their parents
- Living paycheque to paycheque
- Having addictive habits that can cost a great deal (i.e., gambling, drinking, or drugs)
If your partner (or even you!) show any of these traits, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to throw in the towel. Open communication about money matters is the best way to approach issues or problems – the operative word being communication. Choose a specified time to have an open and relaxed money discussion. Work together to solve whatever problems may exist and make compromises where you need to. This process could make you even stronger as a couple.
However, if your partner refuses to discuss money issues at all– ever—it might be time to rethink the relationship. It might also be wise to say “adios” before getting more deeply involved if you can check off half the list above as being of concern. It may be tough to say goodbye, but finding a partner who more closely matches your money personality might be a smarter way to help build a brighter financial future.