Money is never a more sensitive subject than when it comes up in relationships. In fact, fighting about money is one of the biggest predictors of divorce.
But it doesn't have to be: Here we explain how to have the money talk—and why it's so important.
And—newsflash—not only can knowing how to talk about money make your relationship more peaceable, knowing that you know how to handle it makes you more attractive to your significant other.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
Don't believe us? We asked nine guys ages 28 to 40—some married, some about to be, some on the market, some straight, some gay—to reflect on the financial issues they take into account before getting serious with someone.
Hear how they really feel about everything from the "wallet reach" and cheap tippers to settling down with someone who has a lot of debt.
LearnVest: What do you think of 'the reach'—when your date reaches for his or her wallet when the check comes?
“It's appreciated and the polite thing to do. Within the first three dates, the guy should politely say 'I got it,' but the woman should offer. It shows she isn't being a user.”
Kevin, Westfield, NJ
“ 'The reach' is a bit awkward—it's like, 'I'm going to make a very obvious, slow-motioned movement just to be considerate, but I'm expecting you to pay.' The gesture is nice in a way, but honestly, I just want a woman to give a sincere 'thank you' afterward. I'd prefer she say something like, 'Would you like me to help pay?' It acknowledges the elephant in the room in a direct, but polite way."
Greg, Houston, TX
“Depends on when it happens in the relationship. A girl can't go wrong doing the reach early. It's the safe play. If there was no reach after date number two—or an offer to pay the tip or, 'At least let me treat next time' – then that's a problem and would give me a little pause.”
Brian W., New York, NY
At what stage of the relationship should a significant other start picking up the tab?
“I'm very old-fashioned, and I still think the person who asks someone out should pick up the check. At least on the first date. I think it starts pretty naturally from the beginning of a relationship and gets easier over time."
Pat, Pittsburgh, PA
“I think the bigger deal is kind of the opposite—I'd know I'm close to 'something real' if we stop thinking so much about who gets what and we started thinking more like we're making decisions like a pair and less like two individuals.”
Dan, New York, NY
“I think after three or four dates, or once it has become an exclusive relationship, it is probably time to start sharing the cost.”
Brian W., New York, NY
How do you feel about dating an over-spender?
“Won't do it. Not interested.”
Dave, Philadelphia, PA
“If a girl is an over-spender with a ton of credit card debt and a closet full of stuff she never wears or uses, I think it demonstrates an undisciplined 'live for the day' type of attitude. I would be fine dating someone like that but that is as far as it would go—dating.”
How do you feel about dating a spendthrift?
“HATE IT. Perhaps I don't have much willpower, but having money for the sake of having money isn't something that works for me.”
“Would not enjoy that.”
Brian S., Covington, KY
“I have never dated one, but would not like to. YOLO, and you can't take it with you.”
Chad, Richmond, VA
How do you feel about dating someone who makes more money than you?
“Totally fine, as long as it isn't used as a weapon for leverage in other aspects of the relationship.”
Frank, New York, NY
“No problem. I think I'd like it, actually. Ego is not important to me, but what is important is understanding the consequences of that high salary. Making good salaries typically means more responsibility, working more and sacrificing other parts of your personal life. If that negatively affects the relationship, that's not good. If kids are involved, it becomes more complicated. How does it impact the family? Plenty of dual-income families are successful, but it's important to have a good, strong understanding of the true costs and benefits.”
“I don't really care, as long as it's not too much more. If the other person was making $1 million a year, that may be a problem.”
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"My deal breaker? Cheap tippers—that extra dollar or two isn't going to make or break you, so give it to your server."
How do you feel about dating someone who doesn't have a savings account?
“Yikes. One should have at least $50 in there.”
“I think it'd be weird. I would expect she'd have at least a savings account we could laugh at for being so small after our years of figuring out life. I'd be surprised to know someone who doesn't have a savings account at all. I'd be curious as to why, and I'd probably move on pretty quickly.”
“It wouldn't be a deal breaker for me, but it's definitely a sign of potential bigger problems down the road. Why wasn't this person able to get their finances organized enough to start a simple savings account?”
How do you feel about being in a relationship with someone who has a ton of debt?
“I don't like it, but it's not a deal breaker as long as the other person is committed to getting out of debt and fixing any bad habits they have. Sometimes it's a person who made poor decisions as a young adult and didn't realize the impact, and now they've matured. The type of debt matters, too. Student loans are more palatable than credit card debt. Student loans are an investment in one's future, while credit card debt indicates poor spending habits or living beyond your means.”
“Aren't we all in debt? I don't think it's impractical though for someone to assume another person's debt just because they're dating.”
“This issue can be tough. Long-term, I think it would be a real challenge, but it would depend on the attitude toward the debt. An unhealthy level of denial that drives it up would be a big problem—not in the short-term of course, but it would make long-term expectations and planning pretty difficult. But having made some mistakes with some cards while still trying to recover from student loans, I know it certainly happens ... and if she's working on it, then it's just one of probably many challenges that both of us would have been taking on individually."
And speaking of deal breakers... What are they?
“None really, but you should at least have a job.”
“Cheap tippers—that extra dollar or two isn't going to make or break you, so give it to your server.”
“Deal breakers for me are living beyond your means, growing debt, and not adopting a long-term plan. If you didn't have one before, then that's fine, but if we're staying together then you need one, now.”
“There are no deal breakers. If it is the right person, I will endure anything.”