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Money Matters with Nimi: Are You Financially Compatible with Your Partner?

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The issue of money is a leading cause of friction, broken relationships and divorce, yet most couples fail to discuss their financial compatibility. We all have unique personalities that influence our attitude to budgeting, borrowing, spending, saving and investing. There are the scrooges that hate to spend at all on the one hand, and at the other extreme are the shopaholics that spend with reckless abandon. Then there’s the savvy investor who looks out for long term investment opportunities, gamblers who will risk everything including the family home for a hunch, and of course those who sit on the side lines doing absolutely nothing, because they are too afraid to lose anything at all. There is also the whole spectrum in between.

Start with yourself and think through your own perspective on money. Understanding your partners’ money personality is an advantage in a relationship. You do not need to have identical views on money to be able to build a successful future together, but if you are able to communicate about money matters, you may be able to adjust, adapt, accommodate or resolve the issues surrounding your finances. If these issues are not addressed early, they will fester and can damage your relationship. If you can’t talk about money when there isn’t the pressure of major decisions, when times get difficult, and they will, it may be much more difficult to cope.

Important topics for discussion
Don’t ask about money too early in a relationship, or you might seem like a gold digger or too nosey! Once things appear to be getting serious you may want to bring up the subject of money and do including some of the following questions:

• How much do you earn?
• Do you have any savings?
• Are you in debt? How much?
• What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in five years? 10 years?
• Where do you plan to live?
• What is your attitude to risk? Do you protect yourself with insurance?
• How many children do you plan to have and what sort of education would you like for them?

Look out for warning signs
Naturally if you don’t pick an appropriate moment to discuss money matters, it can be an awkward conversation. You could share this article with your significant other as an icebreaker or way of broaching the subject. However, action speaks louder than words, and it is possible to form an impression just from your partner’s lifestyle. When someone is a really big spender, without the income or investments to back it up, you will notice and ought to be concerned. Do they live way above their means? Does he or she spend without any thought for the future or about the consequences of their spending decisions? Is your partner in debt that is out of control and is borrowing from every friend and relation?

Remember that once you are married, debt becomes your problem so you should be aware and comfortable with it. Does he like to splurge on a luxury vacation whilst you are happy to “manage” in cheap two star accommodation. Is he controlling and makes you have to account for every single penny that you spend? Do you believe in full disclosure about your finances or are you comfortable with secrets?

Does the cost of the gift your date gives you match what you know about their income? Does she insist that she can only ever be seen wearing expensive watches and jewelry, designer clothes and shoes and the average cost of one of her handbags is about five months of your monthly wages as she carries only leading brands? Are you going to be able to afford to maintain that lifestyle if that is her expectation and neither her income nor yours can cover her wants? If you have noticed that your boyfriend recently financed with credit, the purchase of a very expensive luxury car that he cannot afford, you ought to bring it up, particularly if the relationship is going somewhere. It is absolutely none of your business if it isn’t!

Prioritize Your Goals
Establish clear short, medium and long-term goals. You probably won’t be able to tackle all of them at once so just focus on two or three that are most important at this stage in your life. If you are just starting out together, this may include saving towards your wedding, finding a place to rent, or paying for a car. If you are already married with a young family, goals will include saving for your children’s education. Having just two or three big goals in mind makes it easier to focus on and achieve them. Build in some leisure including holidays into your plans. Of course retirement planning should always be included in the plans.

Joint accounts, separate accounts or a combination
When it comes to combining finances, there is no one size fits all; some couples merge their finances with joint accounts, whilst others prefer to keep their finances separate. Even the best system is not always appropriate for every circumstance, so plan to modify your system as your relationship and financial situation evolve and find an arrangement that works best for both of you. Will one person pay all the bills or will you share in proportion to your income? Is one of you planning to go back to school in the next year or two? Will you both work or live on one person’s income?

If you don’t like what you see then you need to make a decision. Within a marriage setting a husband and wife should ideally be financial partners but every couple will have to find a solution that suits them. Discussing finances might feel uncomfortable and is certainly not romantic but it is very important to address these issues before committing. Considering money matters together provides a great opportunity not only for strengthening a relationship but also for fulfilling mutual goals with a sense of direction and purpose. Ignoring this most important aspect of your shared life is only courting trouble.

Coming Soon: Nimi’s Financial Compatibility Quiz

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Rocketclips, Inc.

Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private wealth management. She seeks to empower people regarding their finances and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance.

13 Comments

  1. Puzzles

    November 6, 2015 at 9:06 am

    I’ve missed your articles, Nimi. Thanks for the practical advice

  2. L

    November 6, 2015 at 9:06 am

    Serious question. How do people talk about their finance in a relationship. Like do you say how much do you make? And do people actually honestly tell their partner how much they make at work?? This is a serious question It will be nice if people give personal stories.

    • elle

      November 6, 2015 at 9:50 am

      During the initial dating stages, I can make a close estimate of the guy’s income (eg if he is a banker, I can estimate his salary range). Later on, I find the guys open up about their income and investments (either out of passion for their money management or to try to make an impression). However, I am usually more concerned with how the guy spends his money/lifestyle. So i usually watch out for red flags (for me) such as debts, spending beyond income, borrowing from friends, repeatedly being broke, and lack of interest in investing money.

      If one is looking for relationship leading to marriage, he/she must be open to talk about finances. When dating, the lady should apply discretion…sometimes a guy will appear forthright by showing you his bank statements but in reality he is just trying to gain your trust so you can divulge your income before he starts asking you for cash or loans.

    • Blessedheart

      November 6, 2015 at 3:51 pm

      My personal story. It was first fruit service and as we paid using POS, I asked to look at his slip and he looked at mine. That was a month into a relationship we knew was going to lead into marriage. Subsequently, we discuss issues of finances as they arise, the wedding budget, saving plan, major expenditure, investments, etc

  3. Money Matters

    November 6, 2015 at 9:45 am

    This is a very important topic that most people overlook. Thanks Nimi for bringing it to light. This is actually the number one cause of friction between couples not even infidelity as most people usually assume. @ L, that’s a very valid question and I will try to answer with my personal experience. Once it was obvious that my relationship with my now hubby was leading to marriage, we started by discussing our budget for wedding and honeymoon. From there, it led to our long term plans including where to live, no of children to have, how to apportion our monthly expenses amongst other things. Luckily for me, we are both compatible financially as having similar goals and financial lifestyles so there was no awkward moment for us in discussing finances and we also disclosed our monthly income to each other. But the truth is for some reason some people don’t tell their partners how much they earn for various reasons. I always notice that its mostly high income earners that don’t like revealing their income. My take is financial compatibility is a very important issue for couples so it should be discussed before taking the final plunge to save one or both parties grief.

  4. Aro

    November 6, 2015 at 9:57 am

    Me I don’t know o, I can never ask my ‘boyfriend ‘ how much he earns : keyword: boyfriend . My friend asked me yesterday what’s bad in asking how much her boyfriend earns. I told her it’s totally wrong and again it depends on your level of relationship . Apparently, my babe asked and dude told her ‘ Not necessarily’ . And she went ,sorry for asking. Me I can’t ask o especially if the guy is still a salary earner.

  5. Aro

    November 6, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Necessary* like she doesn’t need to know.

  6. Kulu

    November 6, 2015 at 10:16 am

    L
    If the two of you have no issues about hiding stuff and the communication is lovely, then why not.

    On the other hand, if the beginning of getting to know each other, you can round off figures:)

  7. Iphee

    November 6, 2015 at 11:15 am

    It is easier to do in theory but difficult in reality for couples who are on different scales financially.
    Scenario 1: When the man earns in excess of the woman – She might be too scared to ask lest she is labelled a Gold digger or just too happy to care since she has landed her “knight in shining amour”. A rude awakening usually arises when they realize the guy might just have been keeping up with the “Dangote’s” or he turns out to be a control freak
    Scenario 2: When the woman earns in excess of the man – depending on the category he falls into (a)Those that will misread every move a woman makes as “because she has more money than me” and endlessly try to exert their manliness over the woman (b) Those that have finally hit the jack pot Cha Ching!!!!… and come up with endless reasons to ask you for money – usually some bogus supply contract #abigshoutouttoAbujaguys. They are those females tho who expect to be “adored and glorified” for contributing more to the home. In Hausa culture those kinda guys are called #mijinhajiya
    That’s why I personally prefer both parties to have roughly the same range earning power – both parties are most likely going into the relationship for love not for what is in it for me?

  8. Iphee

    November 6, 2015 at 11:16 am

    * There are

  9. natty

    November 6, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Very important topic, me I always want to know . I didn’t even ask my BF, he told me and sent a snap shot of his account statement to boot. When he asked for mine, I reduced it a bit jor. Always good to share the same financial goals, for us now the first thing is a house

    • Blessedheart

      November 6, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      No judgment here but I’m curious, why did you reduce yours?

  10. Tru

    November 6, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    I’m of the opinion that, when it gets serious, you should include finance in your conversations (emphasis on plural conversations). Not everything has to be asked at once; there are appropriate moments when you can both be real. It can be awkward, even difficult especially as you may have differing opinions but these discussions are very necessary. Again your response to each other will determine whether you truly are compatible.

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