Money is one of the last taboos. Many people would rather talk about their sex lives than discuss the details of their income, debt, or savings rate.
While it may be a taboo subject in most social settings, there’s one place money can play a prominent role: romantic relationships.
But at what point should you pop the question and put it all out there and ask, “How much do you make?” When should couples talk about money at all? Is there a right time?
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The Sooner the Better
The sooner you talk about money and your current income, the better. Now, you don’t need to reveal this on the first, second, or maybe even third date. There needs to be a level of commitment between two people.
You don’t need to share your income details with someone whom you’re casually dating and who may not be around next month.
But if you see yourself being with someone long term, you’re going to have to spill the beans at some point.
You want to do it before a marriage proposal or moving in together, but after you’ve talked about your life goals and dreams. Make sure you're on the same page with the big life stuff first — kids, marriage, etc. — and see how money figures into the equation.
When Is the Right Moment?
There is no right moment. You can prep the ground by talking to your partner about their income through contextually related questions.
Ramit Sethi, a personal finance author who specializes in behavior, offers several scripts to help you start a conversation around money:
“You’re really good at X [say what X is — for example, budgeting, saving, or investing] and I want you to help me with my finances.”
“We’re going to join our lives together, and I want money to be a part of that.”
Show your significant other that you want to work together on your financial and life goals. Once you ask the questions, schedule another money date over some nice wine or a freshly brewed coffee.
Sethi recommends sitting down and sharing the “Big Financial Stuff”:
- A list of your account balances
- A list of all your debts and the interest rates
- Your total income
- A list of your short- and long-term financial goals
I think his advice is essential. Start by talking about money in a nonthreatening way. Make it about your life together and your respective goals. Then move on to discussing your income in ways that reflect those goals.
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When Should Couples Talk About Money? My Experience
“How much do you make?” is a question either of you can pop any time during a relationship. As soon as my partner and I knew we were serious about each other, I told him how much I made. I told him right after I got a raise.
I was nervous, but realized it was only because of the taboo of discussing income. We talked about our financial situations over a glass of wine and shared our goals. It was a relief to have it out in the open and know that we were on the same page.
Others may want to wait until right before moving in together or before a marriage proposal to discuss the intimate details of their financial situation. In the end, it’s your choice as a couple when and how to do it. Use these tips as a guide and talk about money only when you’re ready to discuss big-picture goals with each other.