Money And Your Honey…

If you’re hoping for the kind of merger that won’t spell disaster for your checkbook, read these tips on balancing your finances along with your love life.

By Randy B. Hecht

hen you’re looking for some romantic, sexy, or just plain flirty conversation, personal finance is not your best bet for subject matter. That’s especially true in the early stages of getting to know someone; at that point, it’s considered intrusive and impolite to pry into your date’s financial life. The catch is that avoiding the topic entirely can leave
The trick is to rely on your powers of observation.
you at risk of falling for someone with whom you’re financially incompatible. You don’t want to get deep into an established relationship before differing opinions about money crop up and turn out to be irreconcilable.

What steps can you take to avoid that particular brand of heartbreak? The trick is to rely on your powers of observation until you reach a point at which you and your date can speak openly and comfortably about your attitudes toward money.

Besides, there’s often a pretty distinct difference between what people say about money and how they actually handle it. For that reason, Russell Wild says, “I wonder just how much should be — or can be — discussed.” Wild, principal of Global Portfolios, a fee-only investment counseling and financial planning company in Allentown, PA, and author of several books about relationships, says the terrain can be tricky to navigate even for someone with his professional background. Here are some pointers on figuring out if you two are compatible on the money front.

Don’t interrogate; observe instead
“It certainly is wise to find out early on if you and a potential mate are financially compatible, but conducting a Q & A will likely have limited utility,” he warns. “After all, no one is going to tell you ‘Yes, I'm a cheapskate,’ or ‘Yup, I have all kind of neuroses around money.’ I think in large part, you need to witness the other person in ‘economic action.’ Does she offer to split expenses? Does he tip waitresses well? Does she comparison shop? Does he invest his money, fritter it away, or gamble with it? These things take time to reveal themselves.”

Consider on what your date is willing to spend
If you’re paying attention, your date will offer you some clues in the course of “normal” conversation, says David Hinson, principal of Wealth Management Network in New York City. People
You need to witness the other person in ‘economic action.’
tend to fall into two categories, he says: Those who acquire things, and those who acquire experiences. No single example of either approach to spending money is, in itself, an accurate barometer of wealth — but watch for the pattern, he advises, and you’ll get a sense of your date’s priorities and how well they mesh with your own.

Dare to talk about dreams
Dreams are another strong indicator, Hinson says. “Does your date talk about future plans and goals for a better life? People who don’t have dreams are people who don’t have anything for which they’re prepared to make sacrifices. If you’re both basically content with life as you’re living it now, that’s fine. But if one of you is satisfied with the status quo and the other feels a strong motivation to go after ‘more’ — whatever ‘more’ means to you — that’s a very basic difference in what you want out of life, and one that’s more or less non-negotiable.” And those future dreams can play a big role in revealing your sweetie’s financial style and approach to money. You’ll learn whether you’re with someone who’s saving for a fleet of convertibles… or someone who hopes to be able to retire early and live in a cottage by the sea.

That’s not necessarily information you’re going to uncover over your first dinner together. But if you listen carefully — and if you offer as much honesty on the topic as you ask of your date — you shouldn’t need to ask a lot of uncomfortable questions to reveal your level of financial compatibility.

Randy B. Hecht is a New York-based writer and editor.
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