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As affection moves beyond the early romantic phase to more serious stages, money talk must inevitably find its way into couple conversations to ensure a relationship will endure.
Financial Health
February 14, 2018

Romance, finance, and the stages of talking money

As affection moves to more serious stages, money talk must inevitably find its way into couples’ conversations to ensure a relationship will endure

In the throes of romance and thrill of first love, who remembers when you and your partner first talked about credit scores or monthly debt payments? Probably, very few would go down that road so soon.

Yet as affection moves beyond the early romantic phase to more serious stages, money talk must inevitably find its way into couples’ conversations to ensure a relationship will indeed endure.

Before the relationship becomes serious, it is wise to have ‘getting to know you’ conversations about certain topics that could lead to financially teachable moments for both of you, said Arne Boudewyn, an executive with the Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management group.

“It’s easier to start with the soft conversation — asking about jobs, hobbies, and goals — without having a conversation about the numbers,” said Boudewyn, head of family governance and education services for Abbot Downing, a Wells Fargo business. “This begins the conversation and allows you to learn about your partner’s values and financial habits.”

The sooner, the better

In fact, the sooner you discover your “money personalities” and negotiate your financial “hot spots,” the more likely a budding relationship will last, writes author Jonathan Rich in his 2003 book “The Couple’s Guide to Love and Money.”

“It’s hard enough to deal with money when you’re single,” he wrote. “When you add another person to the mix, you have an almost certain formula for disagreement and conflict.”

Miesha Lilly, a personal banker with Wells Fargo in the Orlando, Florida, area, remembers well those early spats over money with her boyfriend, who would later become her husband. Dating in their late teens, married in their early 20s, the couple often ran into conflict when the talk turned to finances.

“The subject of money came up frequently and was often not handled pleasantly,” Lilly said. “My income was more than his then, so I could focus on saving money, while he couldn’t. This caused some arguments because he was always on a tight budget.”

Since those days, their lives have changed dramatically, she said. Her husband’s career took off, making him more financially confident. That laid the groundwork for merging their financial lives, planning, spending, and saving together.

Step by step

Miesha Lilly, a Wells Fargo personal banker in Florida, says talking with her husband about money led to a healthy financial partnership.
Miesha Lilly, a Wells Fargo personal banker in Florida, says talking with her husband about money led to a healthy financial partnership.

Lilly said she has never regretted talking about money early in the relationship — even though it led to some arguments. Working out their differences on such a sticky issue deepened their trust and confidence in each other, she said.

Having open and honest talks about finances and finding out you can flourish despite disagreements are the first steps in taking a relationship to the next level, said Mischelle Copeland, a financial advisor with Wells Fargo Advisors.

“A couple that learns how to resolve money disagreements — and there will be disagreements — is building important relationship skills,” she said. “Those are foundational skills that will be valuable both at the beginning of your partnership and likely for your entire time together.”

Having conversations at different stages of a relationship will develop a foundation for your ongoing success as a couple and your future family.

Tech tools to use

No matter what stage a relationship is in, couples these days can benefit by using a growing set of technology resources — from savings and investment apps to budgeting and credit management tools — to improve their financial health together.

Wells Fargo, for example, has introduced a number of tech innovations that can help couples stay on the same page in managing their finances. Jim Smith, head of Wells Fargo Virtual Channels, noted the latest is an artificial-intelligence-based predictive banking feature that analyzes a customer’s spending history, anticipates future needs, and alerts customers about how they can better manage their money. Other features include free access to FICO® Credit Scores and the Financial Health Conversations program.

“We’re exploring, developing, and introducing customer-friendly innovation that empowers individuals and couples to succeed financially,” Smith said. “Predictive banking is one of the latest features, giving customers personalized insights, information, and perspectives that can help them establish financial health.”

Pride in partnership

For Lilly and her husband, that maturity has only come through openness, hard work, commitment, and collaboration, she said.

“A successful financial relationship requires teamwork and clear communication from both partners,” Lilly said. “You have to be on the same level of interest and aspiration for it to work. I was lucky enough to find this in my husband, and I am proud of the life and partnership we have formed.”

“Even in those early days, I knew my husband had great potential,” Lilly said. “Our worldviews aligned, we shared the same dreams and hopes for our future and family, and that’s why I fell in love with him. I knew eventually with time, he would go far, because he strives to be successful in everything he does.”

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