There are few topics of conversation that are less romantic than finances, but if your relationship is getting serious this Valentine’s Day, consider planning a date in the near future to discuss money. Understanding your own and your partner’s financial history and habits before you make a formal commitment, such as marriage, cohabitation or a big joint purchase, can help alleviate a host of unpleasant surprises — and maybe some heartache — over the long term. To prepare for this conversation, make sure you can share the following things with the one you love.
- Your credit score. Before lending you money, creditors assess what the risk may be in doing so. Your credit score, which can range from 300 to 850, helps them determine how likely you are to pay them back. A low score can negatively affect your eligibility to receive a loan or to finance a purchase. If you and your partner were to apply for a loan or credit account, your significant other may have to shoulder the debt if your personal credit score is unsuitable.
If you don’t already know your credit score, request a report from a reputable credit-reporting agency, such as Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. These top three national agencies will provide you with a free report annually.
- Your debt. Whether you carry student loan, credit card or other forms of debt, your financial obligations — or those of your partner — may affect your credit rating, day-to-day spending and ability to save for future financial goals. Understand and discus exactly what you owe, and how it may impact your partner if you plan to combine finances in the future. If either of you has significant debt, being upfront about it can open lines of communication and help you evaluate together how your relationship may continue to grow despite financial hardship. If the amount you owe is too complex for you to determine on your own, meet with a financial, tax or legal professional who can help you to figure it out.
- Your personal money values. This includes how you spend, save and manage finances. It also involves assessing how comfortable you are with investment risk, which ranges from conservative to aggressive. Because every relationship involves compromise, it’s important to understand what falls inside — and outside — your financial comfort zone. Work to resolve areas of disagreement by deciding how you’ll approach future financial situations together.
- Your retirement goals. No matter what age you are, it’s important to identify and discuss your dreams for tomorrow. Ask yourself such questions as:
- How career oriented am I?
- What would my ideal career path look like?
- Do I want to go into business for myself?
- What age would I like to retire?
- What type of lifestyle do I want in retirement?
Understanding and communicating your personal goals and dreams for the future will help set expectations and begin to think about the compatibility of your long-term plans. It will also help to determine how much you need to start saving today to reach your shared retirement goals.
- An accurate picture of your overall financial situation. Before you can talk about your joint financial situation, you need to have a clear and accurate understanding of your own finances. Pull together your budget, insurance policies and investment information — including your 401(k) or other retirement plan statement — to share with each other.
It takes more than one conversation to determine whether you and your significant other are genuinely and equally committed to an agreed upon approach to finances, but starting with full financial disclosure is an important first step to a healthy relationship between you, your loved one and your finances.
Christopher Petrik, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, CLTC, is a Financial Advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in Milton, MA. He specializes in fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for 21 years. To contact him, (617) 298-3900, 500 Granite Ave, Milton, MA 02186.
Advisor is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of NH, SC, CA, AL, NC, UT, VA, ME, TX, CT, VT, NY, TN, FL, RI.
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