By Janet Howard
On the list of best Valentine’s Day activities, talking about money ranks just below washing the dishes and cleaning the floor, but unlike those household chores, discussing the way you feel about your finances just might save your relationship. You might not want to lead with those money matters — it is Valentine’s Day after all, but once the candles have been put out and the chocolate has been eaten you may want to pencil in time for these important matters.
If you doubt the importance of talking about money, just consider that financial incompatibility ranks second only to marital infidelity in leading causes of divorce. If you want to spend this Valentine’s Day having fun and next Valentine’s Day as a couple, planning ahead for this important subject is a very prudent thing to do.
Discuss Your Monetary Similarities — and Your Differences
When it comes to spending, saving, and investing money, everyone is an individual. Even if you and your romantic partner agree on religion, politics, and what color the bedroom curtains should be, there is a better than even chance that you will not see eye to eye on all things monetary.
Some of these monetary differences will be small and insignificant, while others will be large and worrisome. Here are some of the incongruities you may want to discuss as part of your Valentine’s Day festivities.
• Are you a saver and your spouse a spender? You need to know that long before the wedding bells start ringing. Spendthrifts and dedicated savers can live happily together, but long-term success will require a delicate balancing act.
• How do you and your partner view investing? Are you a buy and hold devotee while your spouse prefers day trading? Views on investment will influence everything from retirement planning to the paying of day-to-day expenses.
• Do you both view a monthly budget as key to financial success? How do you feel that budget should be set up, and which luxuries are you willing to sacrifice to keep that spending plan on track?
• How much money do you both make? Do you know one another’s salaries, or is job-related income a deep dark secret? If your relationship is getting serious, talking about income is totally appropriate — even on Valentine’s Day.
Look for Creative Workarounds
It is not the end of the world when you and your partner do not see eye to eye on money, finances, and investments. It would be strange indeed if you and your lover agreed on everything in life.
What sets successful couples apart from their divorce-bound counterparts is how they handle those differences. No matter what the source of the monetary disagreements, there are always creative workarounds to be had.
If you are a dedicated saver and your partner loves to spend money, letting them maintain a (small) separate checking account could be a smart workaround. That way your partner can play around with part of their paycheck without putting the household finances at risk.
A similar workaround can be found for partners with disparate views of investment risk. If you view low-cost index funds as the core of the household investment portfolio but your partner looks for moonshot stocks, setting up a limited trading account for those riskier investments will let both of you sleep more soundly. If one of those moonshots pans out, your partner can treat you to a romantic night out — maybe even on Valentine’s Day.
Talking about how much you make, how you invest your money and what you spend it on may not be the most romantic discussion, but it is a necessary one. So go ahead — plan a romantic Valentine’s Day, complete with red roses, decadent chocolates and all the trimmings, but when the day comes to an end, talking about money could make your relationship stronger still.