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When should you talk about finances in a relationship?

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Would you dump your girlfriend if you found out she had $80,000 in debt?

What if it was student-loan debt? That’s what happened to this guy.

Or…what if you found out it was credit-card debt? How does that change things?

My guy friends and I talked about this. Most of them agreed — finding out someone we’re dating had $80K in debt would be a red flag, but if it was for student loans, that would be one thing. If it was CC debt for frivolous purchases, that’s an entirely different thing.

This simple question is a lot more complicated than it looks:

  • How does it change if you’re a woman and it’s the man who has the $80K in debt?
  • It’s easy to say you would walk away from someone who’s run up tens of thousands of dollars of debt, but by the time you find this out, aren’t you already in love? Are you putting a price on love?

Not surprisingly, the typical personal-finance “expert” has a pre-prepared piece of advice handy: “Always talk to your partner about their finances! You don’t want to be surprised!”

Uh, yeah, that’s a nice theory, but most people don’t talk to their partners about money for months, if not years.

Data I recently collected. I actually suspect most of the respondents are lying about how soon they have a serious discussion with their partners about money.

So now you have a Catch-22: If you talk about money too early, you come across as a weirdo/gold-digger/controlling freak.

If you wait too long, you’re already embroiled in the relationship. How are you going to walk away from the love of your life if you find out he has $40K of CC debt? It’s easier to rationalize that “we’ll try harder” and “things will get better” than to pack up and walk away. That’s human nature.

So, what would you do?

QUESTIONS:

  1. When would you talk to your partner about money in a new relationship? Be honest and don’t say what you “think” you should do, say what you ACTUALLY did in your last relationship.
  2. Is there a certain number (e.g., $80K of debt) that would make you seriously reconsider the relationship? If not, what would?

 

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Lance @ Money Life and More
4 years 8 days ago

I knew my girlfriend would have a ton of student loan debt when she graduated and it was actually close to $80k. A year after she graduated she’s already paid 15k down so I am pretty proud of her. We’ll pay it off even quicker once we eventually get married. So would I dump her? NOPE! However, I did know what I was getting into in the first place. If the bomb got dropped a year in I’d be pretty pissed.

Ornella @ Moneylicious
4 years 4 days ago

You two had a very upfront relationship in the beginning.

Personally, I will only discuss about money when I know I’m in a serious relationship. For me, talking about money would have to be between 6-11 months. I’ve been asked why not 12months? Because after one year in the relationship, I’m making a personal decision if I still want to be with this person or not.

Meg
Meg
4 years 8 days ago
I told my husband on the third date that I was chronically ill and that no one expected I would be able to work after I finished school. I wanted him to have an “out,” in case he didn’t want to date someone who would end up a dependent. He stuck with me, which I wasn’t expecting, and I later experienced a remission. I knew fairly early on that his family was relatively well off in their home country, that he would need me to sponsor him for citizenship. He knew my family was broke and that I had a… Read more »
Comet
Comet
4 years 8 days ago

Credit card debt is hugely different than school loans when you are looking at a relationship. Credit card debt is more of a lifestyle or habit. Meanwhile school loans are more of a one time purchase. Even 5k in credit card debt would concern me as I think about this person’s future habits. I’m not interested in a relationship where the other person is sucking away all my money for unnecessary purchases that we can’t immediately pay for.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
4 years 8 days ago

I think it’s hard to tell, actually. I know plenty of people who used student loans to pay off debt they acquired prior to grad school. For one friend, it was one of the main reasons she wanted to do a PhD – she had so much consumer debt it would take that long to gradually “transform” it to student loan debt via the twice-yearly disbursements. In retrospect maybe she should’ve declared bankruptcy, but there you have it.

Barbara
Barbara
4 years 8 days ago

Honey Smith, transforming consumer debt into student loan debt is one of the stupidest moves I’ve ever heard!

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
4 years 8 days ago

Well, yes, Barbara, I agree. People still do it, though. That’s all I am saying.

O
O
4 years 8 days ago
Yeah, there is a huge difference. Someone with even 5-10k of CC debt could be an issue. Something like a one-time total emergency 15k charge (maybe some sort of medical bill that they paid with a CC instead of negotiating a payment plan with the hospital) is not a big deal if they have been dutifully paying it off. If that same debt was worked up buying clothes and vacations and drinking at bars…there is probably a systematic problem that is NOT going to just go away. Odds are good that they are going to blow that number up at… Read more »
Ryan
Ryan
4 years 8 days ago
1) I would talk about money when I decided I may want to spend a lot more of my life with this person. I talked with my wife about finances perhaps a year before I proposed to her, which would have been maybe 2 years into our relationship. 2) I don’t think it’s a specific number that would’ve caused me to have issues with the debt. I think instead that it would have been more of the ratio of debt to earnings, or, the likelihood that this person could and would be paying this debt off responsibly and quickly. If… Read more »
nathan
nathan
4 years 8 days ago

I’ve been dating this girl for a pretty short time, two weeks, (we “talked” for awhile) and we’ve already talked about money. She is going to a cheap school to be a nurse practitioner. I’m not sure she has a solid iwty “focus on whats most important” but she has aspirations. But it definitely is a weight off my shoulders not wondering about money.

A
A
4 years 8 days ago

I’m female.

I’ve probably talked finances once things were serious, but it may have been 6-12 months in. I’ve never had debt so I’ve never been an issue (I have good savings). Previous relationships haven’t had debt.

The guy I’m currently dating does, and it bothers me. His debt goes up and down, but it’s always there, and it’s been a combination of spending and bad luck.

I can’t say a number that worries me, but it’s more a pattern. Bad things sometimes happen to people, it’s how they respond to those things that matters.

Harry @ PF Pro
Harry @ PF Pro
4 years 8 days ago

I think 80k in cc debt is just as bad as 80k in student loans if you went to an expensive school and got a worthless major. IMO, it’s not quite as bad as cc debt, but I don’t want to marry someone who went 80k into debt to be an art history major…

Barbara
Barbara
4 years 8 days ago

I don’t know why people are so “on talking point” about majors. I know bio and chem majors making $10/hr. as vet techs and art majors making $100K as packagers or designers or Web developers. And far, far more people whose career has no apparent connection to their major.

No major is de facto “useless.” No major is automatically going to get you a good job either. Just ask an unemployed lawyers.

patrick
patrick
4 years 8 days ago
I think this is an issue most people try to avoid in their relationships. I haven’t spelled it out in any of my previous relationships (but I’m young and they weren’t really serious relationships). I think most people will drop hints about it so their partner will get the general idea. However, it seems like a lot of people don’t like looking at the exact numbers for their own financial situation, let alone sharing it with their partner. I think you should probably talk about it before you get married. Probably sometime between getting engaged and actually getting married. I’ve… Read more »
Rob
Rob
4 years 8 days ago

First marriage: not in any reasonable way for first 3 years. Ended in divorce. She was *horrible* with money in every conceivable way, and that was one of the major stresses in the relationship.

Second marriage: first 6 months. After things were serious. I knew from the previous mistake that financial responsibility would be a make-or-break kind of thing for me. Very happily we were on the same page (she’s responsible and savvy) and share everything.

Claire
Claire
4 years 8 days ago
I suspect you would get different answers if you asked “when did you have a serious discussion with your partner about money” instead of “when did you talk to your partner about money?” Something simple such as finding out your partner’s salary could qualify for the latter but not the former. 1. I would have a serious discussion with my partner about money when it looks like engagement is in the picture but I haven’t gotten to that stage yet. However, in past relationships, we knew a lot about each other’s finances after about a year (approximate income, assets, debt).… Read more »
Tim Kirch
Tim Kirch
4 years 8 days ago

My wife and I talked about finances within the first few months. I work in the financial industry so it’s very easy for me to talk about.

I think credit card debt of any level over $5k would be very concerning for me. Student loan debt would have to be appropriate for the other person’s salary. i.e. They can have 100k in debt if they are making 100k/yr +. It would definitely have to be proportional to how quickly it can be gone.

Ben W
Ben W
4 years 8 days ago
The conversation is best, for me, after a few months. Adequate time to think the relationship may have serious legs and also plenty of time to observe spending habits and sometimes even financial standing. I used this site, and the book, as an excuse to have the conversation. If someone is going to freak out about that, they wouldn’t have lasted that long with me anyways. When I first met my fiancée, she was in the process of paying off debt. Student loans were a big part, sure, but credit cards were larger. She was drowning and it threw up… Read more »
Rick
Rick
4 years 8 days ago
1. My current relationship moved pretty quickly at the beginning, so we did end up talking about money just a few months in, like your first polling option calls for. I can’t vouch for anyone else and whether they’re lying, but we were pretty open in this relationship about everything because we spend a great deal of time together and it’s difficult to keep things from each other when you’re spending that much time together. 2. I’m not sure if there’s a certain number that would make me pack up and leave. $80k would definitely scare me and I’d probably… Read more »
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[…] Would you dump your girlfriend if you found out she had $80,000 in debt, asked IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com. […]

Sue
Sue
4 years 8 days ago
In # 1, you ask when we would talk to our partner in a new relationship, but then the next part asks about our last relationship. So there is actually subpart “A” and “B.” 😉 About my last relationship, I never seriously spoke with him about money! He had an MBA and worked in finance, so I felt hesitant to address it. What do you do when money is someone’s job? Ramit?? 🙂 I can’t really say when I would discuss money in my next relationship. Frankly, I do not want to come across as a control freak/gold-digger/weirdo. Regarding the… Read more »
Dani
4 years 8 days ago

HOW DID THE KITTEN SWALLOW A KNITTING NEEDLE?!?!

Sue
Sue
4 years 8 days ago

It was a sewing needle, not a knitting needle, sorry! And kitty is doing fine.

Jim
Jim
4 years 8 days ago
1 – My wife and I started dating in college when we had no money and almost no credit, so we’ve always been comfortable talking about finances. From observing my non-married friends finances come up regularly while discussing plans for the weekends or vacations. It’s only a taboo subject for one friend who was in pretty major CC debt. 2 – I would not be turned off by any arbitrary dollar amount. I would be turned off if their plan to pay off that debt would interfere with our future financial plans. If they won’t pay off student loans for… Read more »
Sweta
Sweta
4 years 8 days ago
1. I would bring up money when I feel that he’s someone that I want to spend a lot more time with like Ryan said. Also does anyone have a good way to start the conversation when it comes to money? What exactly did you guys say? Write out the script Ramit style. 2. I think what’s more important than the amount of debt is how he is dealing with it. Is he being aggressive like No more Harvard debt guy in paying off his loans? If so then I’d be impressed and not dump him because he has $80K… Read more »
John
John
4 years 8 days ago

Before getting engaged we picked up a book called 100 Questions to Answer Before Getting Married. The conversation for us began something like this.

Me – You ready to go through some more questions.
Her – Sure, why not.
Me – Question 62: How much Credit Card debt do you have?

R S
R S
4 years 8 days ago
1 – End of first date dinner. It was a natural point, he wanted to cover dinner, and since things had gone well up to that point, I made it clear that if we weren’t going 50/50, then I’d cover the next dinner. I may have been a bit rude, but I attempted to gently point out that we couldn’t yet truly “treat” the other out, since we weren’t yet earning the $$ we’d be treating the other with. I know, I’m lucky he’s still around. 2 – no real $$ amount. Going to sound gold-diggery, but I think it… Read more »
DK
DK
4 years 8 days ago
In all my past relationships, I never uttered a word about debt. Most of my friends don’t know I have student loans. They all think my family is rich. And even my family didn’t know about my credit card debt (they knew the first few times, helped me pay it off, but they didn’t know about the most recent binge). I came clean to my boyfriend 9 months into the relationship. Why? Because I was trying to maintain an expensive relationship with him and I just couldn’t keep it up, or I could, but I’d never dig myself out of… Read more »
Nick
4 years 8 days ago

I think a natural time to talk about finances is when you plan your first trip with the significant other. It could be a weekend away or maybe a more substantial trip.

This gives you an opportunity to bring up how you are paying for the trip and also makes it easy to segway to other financial topics.

Traveling together is also a signal that you are at least somewhat serious about each other. Who would want to spend a weekend alone with someone that they maybe just kind of like?!

Aster
Aster
4 years 8 days ago
My husband and I phased in discussions of money as the relationship progressed, so there was always stuff like ‘I hate my new car payment!’ or ‘I’m buying a new computer with cash, but it won’t wipe out my savings’ or ‘I get paid tomorrow, can you get dinner tonight?’ But I think the first serious conversations that included deliberate disclosure were when we started talking about moving in together. We mostly knew each others’ financial styles and general income, but when we had to consider rent and bills and groceries, it became important to discuss specifics.That’s when we talked… Read more »
Martha
Martha
4 years 8 days ago
I brought up $$ early when 1st dating my husband. We’d gone out once or twice, and he’d paid. Told him I didn’t expect him to pay all the time. He responded that $$ wasn’t important, which meant I still didn’t know who was going to pay for the play that evening. When we arrived at the box office, he pulled out an already completed check. While, over the years, he pays for some things and I pay for others, I think looking back, that might have been significant. He said $$ wasn’t important, but I later learned, in his… Read more »
Jessie
Jessie
4 years 8 days ago
1. I met my husband at 18 as university students, so money talks were limited to our day to day expenses, working through school vs not, etc. I think our first serious discussion occurred about a year & a half in when we discussed moving in together. I have no other frame of reference. 2. The reason for the debt matters to me. School, illness, and business start-up all make sense to me, depending on details. Consumer debt or mortgages would be harder, but I would also consider the track record of their paying it down. I can’t say what… Read more »
Caitlin
4 years 8 days ago
I would be okay if the guy had $80k in debt as long as they are student loans and he is in a career where repaying within 5 years is feasible. If it was credit card debt, I’d run. They always say you can’t change a person and being fiscally responsible is one of those traits that will be difficult to change. If I really liked the guy, I may tell him that we have to wait for him to pay off the credit card debt before we can get engaged and put a mutually agreeable timeline to it (so… Read more »
Susan
Susan
4 years 6 days ago
Why is paying for things with a credit card a red flag? I (and many friends) pay most of our bills with credit cards. Then we pay everything off at the end of the month. This means we either write a single check for many items (the old-fashioned way) or we automate credit card payments (a la Ramit’s advice). So paying with a credit card does not mean one is wracking up debt unless one is not paying in full at the end of the month. Living beyond one’s means is a whole other kettle of fish–a bright red flag… Read more »
Andrea
Andrea
4 years 8 days ago
I think it depends very much on circumstance. In my current relationship, we started talking about money about two weeks in. He has almost no debt but is planning to transition to his own business and has created a cushion (which includes both savings and available credit if needed). I have about 9K remaining in credit card debt from my last marriage…where I learned a TON about how not to do things. My debt is my responsibility, I know exactly what month it will be paid in full given my current financial situation, and I wanted him to know that.… Read more »
Sarah
Sarah
4 years 8 days ago
The time to start talking about finances is when you start getting really serious. We talked about it when we decided to move in together. The problem is, though, that I ended up feeling very judged for my debts. He was concerned about my student loan debt (only about $30K), but I had around 15K of credit card debt from a combination of underearning while being chronically ill with a non-fatal but expensive chronic pain syndrome (which also limited the amount of work on the side I could do), and some stupid mistakes – compounded by a serious family crisis.… Read more »
levi
4 years 8 days ago
1. Small stuff like halving restaurant/movie bills: Right away. Big stuff like debt and spending behavior: Started 2-3 months in with actual in-depth convos coming around 6-9 months. 2. Absolutely not; It’s just money. If, however, this prevented them from paying their side of the expenses (like food/rent), then scaling back would be in order. If they didn’t jive with that, then it would turn into a philosophical/psychological matter (ie why the NEED for materialism?) which would probably indicate that there is a lot more going on then just slopping money skills. I would try to help her with the… Read more »
Jesse
Jesse
4 years 8 days ago

As soon as I read the headline in the email, I KNEW this was the same story I heard on NPR.

I feel so in the know! Thanks for inadvertently stroking my ego, RamRam.

Jeffrey Ankrom
4 years 8 days ago

As a bankruptcy attorney in RI and CT, I’ve seen many married couples face debt differently. Some couples support each other through business failures resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, even when they stand to lose their home. I’ve seen other couples destroy their own health and happiness by blaming each other for accumulating less than $25,000 in combined credit card debts on shopping purchases that were not entirely unreasonable. I’m not a psychiatrist, and certainly have no desire to become a marriage counselor, but I do try to remind people regularly: It’s only money!

Jen Turrell
Jen Turrell
4 years 8 days ago
When you are marrying a foreign national like I did it all comes up during the immigration process whether you are ready for it or not. We did talk some before we got to that point, we both had some student dept still (me at 25 him at 29), I had more assets but his business was making more than mine at that point so it all seemed good and reasonable. The point at which things have gotten difficult is now (almost 11 years into our marriage) having two autistic children whose therapies have cost us between $40-$60K per year… Read more »
John
John
4 years 8 days ago
My wife and i talked about money after just a couple months. Once we were at the point where we began talking about a life together, before the actual engagement, we picked up a book 100 Questions to Answer Before Marriage. For those looking at making their relationship more permanent find a similar book at your bookstore. Going through the book we not only better understood each other’s financial style (by answering the questions) but we also decided how we’d join our styles (not in the book). There is not a number that would make me reconsider. I feel that… Read more »
Doug
Doug
4 years 8 days ago
Definitely a difficult subject that needs a light shined into the dark corners. Nice you have the courage to try and make the information more public. It is nuanced. Is the 80K in debt to become an MD or lawyer? Or is it for an undergrad in Art of Fashion, with 6 years of “finding yourself” in grad school? A big difference to me. I personally paid off my wife’s student loans before we were married (less than ~20K). I am a geek who makes a good salary and at the time, before kids, the money was available. We are10… Read more »
Barbara
Barbara
4 years 8 days ago

How do you distinguish between credit card debt and student loan debt? That’s a serious question. What about the person with a $300 student loan payment who paid for dental work on a credit card because what would have been emergency savings went to the student loan payment? (Obviously I’m setting aside the person who just charged up a lot of shoes and handbags and three iPods!)

kaprian
kaprian
4 years 8 days ago
1. In my current relationship, we’ve been dating for almost 2 years and have been living together for the past 4 months. While we’ve shared hints about finances since about the 6 month mark, just last month we revealed our salaries, student loan debts, tax, and credit card debts. We also then both discussed our comfort level with carrying 1) our own debt and 2) the other person’s debt. Finally, we discussed our individual plans to pay off our OWN debts, and when, if ever, would we assume responsibility for each other’s debts. 2. The total amount is arbitrary to… Read more »
Rebecca
4 years 8 days ago
At first, I let actions do the talking when it comes to money. Personally, I am a quality-over-quantity kind of spender with that same lifestyle. If the guy that I am dating, seems to make similar financial decisions (ex. he deliberates large purchases and makes sure that what he is buying will be an investment) and doesn’t spend money like it is going out of style, then I have no problem waiting until the relationship progresses to a serious point to have a money conversation. If a guy is spending money in a way that doesn’t resonate with me, it… Read more »
Rebecca
Rebecca
4 years 8 days ago

Realized I should quantify timelines:

1st example – resonate with spending — wait until “a serious point” about when ready to say “I love you” (6 months?)

2nd example – do not resonate with spending — wait until ready to make a commitment (exclusivity) to have conversation (2 months?)

Chris
Chris
4 years 8 days ago
While its incredibly difficult, and perhaps not that worthwhile (I mean who wants to have a heavy duty finance talk when you’re still trying to figure out how you feel about that person?), to have this talk early there is an alternative. Make your views on money clear. You can’t detail out every situation, but make it known that financial literacy and solvency are important, that you’re looking for someone who has a strong grasp on their money – not that they’re making lots but that they know how to handle it responsibly. Now, you may word it differently but… Read more »
Eleanor
Eleanor
4 years 8 days ago
Response to 1: In the past, never until it was a problem – the last straw for me. (Note: past guys were not financially stable/smart. Case in point = last boyfriend actually told me that he tried to sue a credit card company because he had run up so much debt (RED flag !). Then when he started dropping hints about how my family should pay to improve my lifestyle – meaning his too, as he didn’t have a job, wasn’t looking and had no credit card because he “had a hard time managing how much he spent”. Not surprisingly,… Read more »
Jess H.
Jess H.
4 years 8 days ago
I think a big factor in talking about debt is age / stage of life. My partner and I have had four major conversations about money so far. Each one was different and each one was at a different stage of our lives together. Our first conversation was within six months of our first date (can’t remember exactly – it was fifteen years ago!). We talked about how our different budgets would affect our ability to go on different kinds of dates, and decided that we’d rather go out more often and more cheaply than to go on fancy dates… Read more »
Amber
4 years 8 days ago
I’ve always been open about my finance with friends and family. My openness has influenced others to take control of their own assets and we actively share information. I have some friends who love frugal living, others who prefer stocks, and others still who want to just do better for themselves. My current partner and I talked about our financial status long before we started dating. Learning about how he spends money educated me about what he valued and the effort he’s willing to put into creating a stable home environment. While I do carry two forms of debt (student… Read more »
Anna Marie
Anna Marie
4 years 8 days ago
Money is everything in this world. It’s how we live. I’m sure we can still barter and trade for some things but really most things are traded in monetary value. I want to know how the person I’m attracted to lives his lifestyle and spends his money. I don’t need to ask in most cases, I usually observe. I find that little details say a lot about where the heart lies in money beliefs. They are Freudian slips and also how they act or don’t act on a date when money comes into the picture. When alcohol comes into the… Read more »
Victoria
Victoria
4 years 8 days ago
In my current relationship (3+ years) we discussed finances early on (w/in 3-6 months). It was a common conversation topic since finances are closely tied to so many values (education, travel, career, family, etc.). We were always very transparent about our finances, which means there was never an awkward serious money talk. The financial transparency in my current relationship probably resulted from my previous relationship. The big eye opener was 1+ year into the relationship, when his bank account was completely empty and he had to ask me to buy him groceries. His last $40 was spent on weed and… Read more »
B
4 years 8 days ago
Hm. I just read a Helen Gurley Brown biography, so let’s talk about gender and money. (She wrote Sex and the Single Girl and was editor of Cosmo for decades). Sex and the Single Girl theory from the 1960s was that work should be fun, relationships should be fun, and it is our job and joy of life to do our best at both. Unlike other feminists, who were banging on culture for fair and equality, HBG decided to treat gender/dating market for what it was: Women were objectified — which could be used to women’s advantage: Men wanted women.… Read more »
Sima
4 years 8 days ago
When would you talk to your partner about money in a new relationship? Be honest and don’t say what you “think” you should do, say what you ACTUALLY did in your last relationship. I don’t think we ever really did talk about it when I was married. Every time I brought it up he’d freak right out and go off about how I was trying to control him. I ended up leaving, because “stuff” was way more important to him than me. I managed 3 years into our marriage to put us on a 15 year plan to be completely… Read more »
Steve
Steve
4 years 8 days ago
You should be paying attention to this from the first date bro. If a woman doesn’t at least make the reach that’s a red flag. You don’t have to ask to see bank statements up front, but if you have a functioning brain you can observe the other person’s spending habits and make some judgments about how their finances relate to their spending. As for $80k debt, it depends. It doesn’t really matter how it got there, for most people that would put a serious financial burden on their future and make getting married, buying a house, and spending money… Read more »
Nicky
4 years 8 days ago
My husband has about ten times that much debt. I had zero going into our marriage. He was raised upper-middle class where debt for cars, houses, business and school was something you did w/o a second thought. I was raised low income. I literally went hungry sometimes as a kid because my parents were so choked with debt payments. He told me the first night we met that he had some major financial problems and the rest of the details came as we got to know each other better. It has been really difficult. We’ve had a number of other… Read more »
Elizabeth
4 years 8 days ago
Question 1: When would you talk to your partner about money in a new relationship? Be honest and don’t say what you “think” you should do, say what you ACTUALLY did in your last relationship. Answer 1:Before I was ready for a serious relationship, I talked with some of the guys I dated about money and the state of my finances as early as 2 months in or sooner. My financial state was never bad, but it wasn’t too good either–I was largely debt free, and knew to live below my means albeit marginally, but for the smarts I had… Read more »
Carly
Carly
4 years 8 days ago
I have been unofficially “dating” someone for about 6 years (4 of which I was in school in another city). We were planning our first international trip, for which he would need a passport. We booked the trip and he applied for a passport, later to be denied for child support debt. I knew that he had some small CC debt, and he mentioned he was behind on child support although he was paying every month. He even worried that he may not be able to get a passport, but I thought it was fine since he said he was… Read more »
Dani
4 years 7 days ago

I know I’m in the minority here – well actually I don’t know that, because I don’t know how many people AREN’T responding.

But “I actually suspect most of the respondents are lying about how soon they have a serious discussion with their partners about money” – this is why I skip a lot of Ramit polls! Because I always have the sense that our replies will be either dismissed or mocked.

Jessica
4 years 7 days ago
My husband and I started dating our freshman year of college, so there weren’t a lot of money issues off the bat — our dates pretty much consisted of walks around campus and meals in the dining hall. We met each other’s families within the first few months (he flew to visit me over winter break, I drove home with him one weekend in January), and it was pretty clear that our families had different financial situations (mine well-off, his not so much). The next month we took a road trip to my family’s house with some friends and his… Read more »
Mark
Mark
4 years 6 days ago
In my current relationship, it came “naturally” after we moved in together, i think it was almost a year in. She got a late payment notice from a lawyer on behalf of her phone company, i sad her right down to talk aboult money. The answers I got were really surprising: she had and still has more than $70K in savings and about half that amount in Norwegian student loans. She is just really bad at getting things done on time – that still annoyes me to thi date 5 years later – but we are still very much together.… Read more »
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Rachel
Rachel
4 years 6 days ago
I dated my now husband when we were at uni, so neither of us were dealing with finances at a level that was on a par with real life, as it were. We were both lucky enough to have parents who financed our higher educations, and neither of us even had credit cards at that point; life was a lot less complicated. In any case, you can tell a lot about a person without asking them directly – and there’s a difference between money-related discussions from which you can learn important trends (such as a digital camera he wants to… Read more »
Heather
4 years 6 days ago
I think we first talked about it a month in, or thereabouts. At the time I didn’t have any student loans (though now I do), and he was already working and doing quite well. Plus his family was wealthy, which I still occasionally find a little intimidating since mine really isn’t. 😉 So there wasn’t really an issue around money at that point. Were I to leave him for whatever reason and find someone else, the amount of debt would bother me less than the behaviours. Say if there was someone who had a lot of debt to pay (for… Read more »
Susan
Susan
4 years 6 days ago
With husband #1, we talked money after we married. It turns out he had several problems, including gambling debts. Because of the nature of the problems, and after trying marital counseling, I left. Following divorce, I paid off his (because we were married “our”) debts and supported myself and my daughter by working 3 jobs simultaneously (including one sole proprietorship 1K type business). It was a hard lesson learned. 7 years later, I started dating again. This time, after a couple of casual dates with a person (these dates included my daughter), I would state right up front about how… Read more »
Shawn G
Shawn G
4 years 6 days ago
1) My wife and I were friends before we started dating, so we both knew a bit about each others’ finances. After we started dating it was not a problem to discuss finances. We probably discussed finances more in depth by the 2 month mark of our relationship, and the more serious we got the more we talked about it. 2) Part of that discussion was her student loan debt. She had over $70k in student loans and I knew this fairly early on in our relationship. Once we were married we both set out to get the debt paid… Read more »
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Jason
4 years 5 days ago
My fiance and I started talking about money almost from day one. I think ours is a unique situation since it was love at first sight and all that and now we are engaged. We are both very upfront and honest people and we are completely open with each other and know that money is fleeting but our love will always last. We do not come from money so we have had poor spending habits in the past, but together we are focused on building our future together and being financially stable. So we knew long ago that we would… Read more »
Kelly
Kelly
4 years 3 days ago
“We do not come from money so we have had poor spending habits in the past” Coming from money doesn’t guarantee good spending habits, unfortunately for those who do. One guy I dated had horrible spending habits that directly grew out of coming from money. He never, ever had to think about where his money came from, his mother simply gave him more any time he ran out. He ran out a lot. I think it’s actually better to know you’re going to have a hard time, like you and your fiance who knew you would have debt, and plan… Read more »
Van Nguyen
Van Nguyen
4 years 4 days ago
I haven’t talked about money in any of my past relationships (longest one lasting 3 years). And I’ve yet to bring up money in my current relationship (going on 2 years). Currently, it’s quite easy for it to not be an issue, because my girlfriend is entirely funded by her parents. She’s not a prude about it. She’s offered to pay for dinner and gas every now and then, noting that I have to work, while she simply just uses her dad’s credit card. As for the second question, I won’t say there is a certain number regarding to debt… Read more »
Heather H
Heather H
4 years 4 days ago
Money came up pretty early in our relationship (started dating 7+ years ago.) I was in grad school, accumulating student loans with little/no credit card debt, and was pretty honest about not being able to go on expensive dates, etc. He always paid and I said I felt bad about it. He said it was fine and told me once I graduated and had a good job, I could pay. 🙂 He also had no debt, but bought a condo about a month after we were started dating. Between my lack of money and his new mortgage, we were pretty… Read more »
KP
KP
4 years 4 days ago
When it comes to money and relationships, I feel like I was very lucky that I had a valid reason to discuss this with my boyfriend. I just moved to New York and I was staying with family (rent free). I was spending my savings to get around, go out to dinner/movies, and interviewing for jobs. About 2.5 months after I moved I was still jobless and was beginning to feel the pressure of my finances. I had also racked up some record breaking (for me) CC debt (3K+) — that was more than I ever had before. I luckily… Read more »
Marvin Fontanilla
4 years 3 days ago

I talked about my financial situation when I realized we were no longer dating and the relationship was actually going somewhere. I think the disclosure needs to be done early in the relationship because you get to see what your partner is really made of.

I knew she was for me after she sat through a 3 hour Dave Ramsey podcast marathon on a trip from SF Bay Area to LA!

William Cowie
4 years 3 days ago
The issue you highlight is a real one. The solution isn’t obvious and there isn’t a single “one rule fits all.” But it is important to talk about. That chart speaks volumes. Not enough people listen and that’s unfortunate. I am really fortunate. I met my wife more than 41 years ago when we were both too young to have either money or debt. Like most youngsters, we believed the world was ours and nothing would be a problem. Debt, schmedt – we took it on as fast as banks would let us have it. One needless toy after another… Read more »
Kelly
Kelly
4 years 3 days ago
I know the basic finances of all of my closest friends. Maybe my friends and I are anomalies, but we’re fairly free in discussing it. That includes my partner and others I’ve dated in the past. I’ve broken up with two people for reasons that included poor money management. It wasn’t the sole reason in either case, but contributed to growing doubts. One of them had tens of thousands of debt and the other had zero. The fact of debt is not what I see as a problem, it’s how the person deals with it, what their income is compared… Read more »
Amy
Amy
4 years 1 day ago
I cherish the few friendships I have where we can talk openly about money. I think it’s bizarre that generally people seem to be more comfortable disclosing the details of their sex lives than they are the details of their income and spending strategies. I couldn’t agree more that you learn from observing behavior, as opposed to listening to a person’s glossed-up self-description. There’s a saying, the checkbook and the calendar never lie. That goes for personal insights, too. I’ve noticed that my spending habits, especially around food and socializing, change pretty drastically when I am feeling stressed or emotional.… Read more »
Angelica Schneider
Angelica Schneider
3 years 11 months ago
Hi Ramit and world, My husband has close to $100,000 worth of debt and I have $3000! Mine is credit card/student related debt and his primarily student loan debtis about 85k and the rest are his credit cards. When he was in college he studied abroad and of course like a fool lived in the moment and just racked up debt traveling…however it gave him valuable experience and taught him another language (which slightly increases his income). When we started dating I knew he had about 50k in debt, he wanted to be a pilot and schooling for that is… Read more »
Angelica Schneider
Angelica Schneider
3 years 11 months ago

Oh also!! My husbands immaturity with money made him an expert on credit cards, loans, debt etc. He is the most informed person I know on the subject. He still has some what I like to call “silly” attitudes towards money but he is quick to check himself and get back on track.

Rod
Rod
3 years 11 months ago
I’m that person – I lost my business in 2008 with the housing and mortgage crash – I earned upward of 200k in one year. My business, my savings, my 401k, my house and everything was lost. It took me two years to get to making 80-100k a year. I’m still in debt this year I’ll make 150k. Now working with creditors to pay back even debts that have been written off. I did have a guy dump me before we had the talk which I was prepared to do he beat me to the punch. So, if you’re girlfriend… Read more »
Vangile
3 years 11 months ago
I think the biggest differentiator is is gonna be what caused the debt. A person who wracked up debt on student loans has a very different financial future from someone who impulsively gambled themselves into debt. If you’re looking for the long term, meeting someone when they are in a tight spot and standing bye as they work their way out- like the previous commentator- will teach you a whole lot more about them as a person than if you were to say; stand bye as you watched the same person spiral into debt with no idea or experience of… Read more »
Michael
3 years 11 months ago

I talk about money when I feel comfortable disclosing personal finances to a potential partner. For me there’s no set timeline. Anything above $100k will prompt me to reconsider a relationship. Luckily I haven’t met anyone with that much debt.

Kent
3 years 11 months ago

I counsel engaged couples about finances, and not only are there different habits relating to money, at least someone brings financial baggage into the relationship, but everyone brings some other type of baggage into it. I think it is good to let it naturally come up, since finances always do, and be honest about it, and if ‘issues’ work on solutions together, it can unify people.

Gita
Gita
3 years 11 months ago

I’ve been in a relationship for the last 15 or so months and we’ve discussed money plenty. We don’t see the point of having joint finances until we’re married, and we don’t pressure each other to spend or not spend our money as we choose, but we’re fully aware that we’re saving up for traveling/a house/etc. I don’t feel yet that we have to answer to each other, but we’ve already made major joint purchases and even budget our groceries and expenses. That way, we’ll be able to segue without too much stress (hopefully) into having fully adjoined finances.

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[…] Some data suggests that about half of people broach the subject in the first year. Interestingly, some people don’t talk about money until they’re engaged or married. […]

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