Money comes and goes, but is love eternal?
That's what the majority of Americans hope for as 67% of survey respondents said they would "rather experience an unexpected financial challenge than a romantic breakup (33%)," according to a new survey from MassMutual.
There's a certain romance to that, but money and love are not mutually exclusive. If you enter into a relationship with someone, you are also taking on their financial situation. Doing that requires some frank conversations, or else you risk both unexpected financial challenges and a potential romantic breakup.
Don't just listen to your heart
Love can make people stupid, especially in the early days of a relationship. When you're swept up in the joy/ecstasy of a new relationship, you don't look for warning signs and might not ask difficult questions.
That's fine during the early stages -- nobody should ask about credit card debt or student loans on a first date. You should probably also avoid discussing your investments, retirement portfolio, checking account balance, or anything else overly personal.
That, however, needs to change once a relationship progresses toward marriage or living together. It's important to discuss finances in order to figure out how your goals for life will align with the person you plan to merge your household and finances with.
"A happy heart doesn't equal happy finances as two-thirds admit that their love lives have been negatively affected by a significant other's money decisions," said MassMutual Head of Insurance Operations Amanda Wallace in an email to The Motley Fool. "As highlighted by our research, there is a strong connection between hearts and wallets."
Basically, if you ignore talking about finances you're leaving a ticking time bomb in your relationship. Even if the news is bad (maybe one of you has a lot of debt) you have to discuss how you will handle it and how you will make financial decisions as a couple going forward.
"To ensure both of you are happy, I encourage you to make thoughtful decisions in every area of your life and establish good financial habits that work for both you and your partner," added Wallace.
Stop, in the name of love
If you want your relationship to last, you need to have an honest financial discussion. If one or both of you bring financial baggage with you, then it's important to talk about how you will handle that.
Talking leads to solutions. You have to discuss everything from short-term budgets to longer-term goals. Do you want to buy a house someday? Are you planning to retire to a beach somewhere, or do you plan to live your whole life in the big city?
If you don't have these discussions, you may invest yourself in a relationship with someone who wants different things out of life. It's very important to know that going in so you can either compromise or decide that maybe you are not right for each other after all.