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Love & Money: How to Talk Finances Before You Get Serious

Money is the number one reason couples break up. To avoid the inevitable clash over spending, NBC consumer reporter Janice Lieberman explains what couples can do before they get serious:

Put all debt on the table, including credit cards, student loans and back taxes. Both parties need to know up front about their future spouse’s credit card debt history for one reason: if you ever have a joint account, you can become liable for your partner’s past debt. Keeping accounts separate will help you avoid inheriting each other’s problems, but the best thing to do is keep the lines of communication open.

Start talking about money issues as soon as you’re in an ‘exclusive relationship.’ You can look for signs, too, such as whether your partner uses cash or credit when you go on dates. Are they a big tipper? A show-off with material goods? Do they have an income to support their spending habits? It can be an uncomfortable moment, but breaching the topic early can save you heartache – and money – down the road.

As far as money values in a relationship go, similarity is important. If your partner is a tightwad and you’re more laid back, it will drive you crazy. On the other hand, if you both like to spend you can learn together how to rein it in and be more responsible as a couple. Some people think opposites balance each other out, but when it comes to money it is more likely to become a source of friction.