Today, we bring you a question from a real reader still struggling to get her credit cards paid off, wondering how to tell her partner:
I’ve been dating someone for about six months, and it’s starting to get serious. We’re thinking about moving in together to a new place. Since that usually requires getting our credit approved by the landlord, I need to come clean about my not-so-fiscally responsible past and present. My credit score is in the dumps and I’m carrying balances on three different cards. How do I confess without scaring him off?
Talking about money is never easy (at first) especially if there are some financial skeletons in the closet. I commend you for wanting to be open and honest. Here’s what I suggest:
1. Don’t Let It Linger
The best approach here is to be straightforward and quick to discuss. If you keep him in the dark for too long you risk being totally embarrassed when your credit check comes back with a big fat “DENIED!” He’ll wonder if there are other things you might be hiding. Act even before you start looking at apartments together. You don’t want to falsely get his hopes up. Square away some alone time one evening or next weekend and let him know you want to go over “apartment hunting” and that there are a few things you want to run by him.
2. Come Clean…Together
You’ve been dating six months and seem pretty committed. Now is a great time for the both of you to have your first big money talk. When you get together for the “apartment talk,” let him know your exact concerns and ask him to share his. Does he have any financial worries? In addition to how much debt you both are carrying, try to broaden the discussion to include your savings goals, as well as your personal and professional aspirations. Get it all out on the table together. It may be tough to do so at first, so some ice breakers can include discussing how you paid for college or just how many credit cards you have in your wallet.
3. Propose A Plan
Don’t just dump all your financial baggage on your partner without explaining how you plan to clean up the mess. Explain your debt situation followed by the specific steps you’re taking (or plan to take) to improve your credit score and reduce your debt. Get his advice, too. He may be able to help guide you if he’s been there himself.
4. Take Baby Steps
It’s dangerous to jump into any financial commitments with another person unless you, yourself, have your financial life under control. You never want to put yourself or your steady in a compromising situation if, for some reason, you can’t make rent or fall short of cash one month. Ideally, you’ll want to enter the relationship with complete financial independence. Let your desire to move in together motivate you to get out of debt and polish your credit score. It may take another year or so, but I promise you, it’ll be worth the wait.