When it comes to deciding when and how to talk about your financial situation, there are several factors to consider. One of the biggest questions has to do with how far you are into the relationship. So before we discuss the HOW, let’s focus first on WHEN to tell a new person in your life about your financial situation. We’ll discuss a relationship in its early stages, in its middle phase, and when it’s gotten more serious.
When to Divulge your Financial Worth or Debt
A relationship in its early stages: If you’re on a first date, there’s absolutely no reason to say something like, “Did you know I have a Roth IRA worth $51,000?” Likewise, you’re not required to confess, at the beginning of a relationship, that the amount you owe on your school loans rivals the GNP of certain small countries. In other words, there’s definitely such a thing as telling someone too soon exactly what your net worth (or lack thereof) is. One reason this can cause problems is that finances can so easily overshadow more substantive issues. In other words, a person who has just met you might be scared off by some financial debt; but after the person has gotten a chance to see the real you and to see the many positive characteristics you bring to the table, he or she will be better able to view your financial situation as only one part of the picture, rather than the whole thing. So keep in mind that there’s no reason to rush. When you’re getting to know someone, debts and assets don’t have to come up right off the bat.
A relationship in its middle phase: Early on, your financial situation is nobody else’s business. But as you get more serious with someone, it begins to become that person’s business. And you definitely don’t want the other person feeling that you’re hiding something or that you haven’t been honest. So if you feel that you two are reaching that point where you’d have concerns if the situation were reversed, then maybe it’s time to talk. Perhaps the biggest question to ask yourself is how much you trust the other person. If you can’t trust the person, rather, you just don’t trust him or her enough yet, then it’s probably not time to get into specific details. If, on the other hand, the trust between you is strong, then now might be a good time to be more forthcoming.
A relationship that’s gotten serious: Just as you can divulge your financial situation too early, it’s also possible to wait too long. You don’t want to become engaged to someone before letting your partner know that you’ve accumulated some sort of outrageous debt. So the borderline between when a relationship is in its middle phase and when it’s gotten serious is an important one. Financial details will come out eventually, so don’t wait too long to discuss your current situation. The last thing you want, especially in a relationship that’s becoming more serious and solid, is to make the other person feel misled or that you’ve been holding back important information.
HOW to Divulge your Financial Worth or Debt
A relationship in its early stages: Again, we don’t recommend talking too much about the specifics of your fiscal situation until you two have gotten to know each other better. If the topic comes up naturally, though, and you find yourself wanting to be a bit more up front and informative, go ahead. Just keep in mind that you’re doing so before you’ve been able to give the person a full picture of yourself. Regardless of how much information you actually divulge early in a relationship, the key is to be authentic and avoid giving someone a picture that’s different from whom you really are.
A relationship in its middle phase: Once you two have been together for a while, then you can look for a good time to share your financial picture. One of the best approaches is to find a way to let the subject come up naturally in conversation. If, for example, you’re discussing what causes each of you stress or comparing issues that weigh on your minds, that might be a perfect time to broach the subject of finances. Or maybe you’re talking about your hopes for the future or where you’d each like to be in five years. When you can find a way to smoothly integrate the information into your conversation, you make it less of a confession and more of a natural opening up that lets you honestly share with each other. That way, the conversation can introduce a new element to the relationship and allow you to discuss deeper and more personal matters.
A relationship that’s gotten serious: If the relationship has already become serious and you have resisted sharing important information about your financial situation, then it’s pretty important that you come clean soon and explain why you’ve held back. After all, your partner probably already has at least a sense of where you are financially, based on what you wear, where you live, what you drive, and the kind of dates you two go on. So go ahead and be up front at this point. Talk about your fears and reservations, and help the other person understand why you’ve been uncomfortable talking about this part of your life. Since the relationship has already begun to get serious, you don’t want to build it on anything less than a foundation of trust and honesty.
And that takes us back to the central issue related to when and how to talk about finances: trust. Do you trust the person you’re with? Can you count on his or her intentions and motives? If so, then you may want to move forward and share this part of your life. If not, then there’s no reason to rush. Just wait until things feel safer, more solid. Then you can feel good about sharing your whole life and knowing that this person you care about is seeing the whole you.