On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of speaking at pit stop #2 on Jason Vitug’s Road to Financial Wellness tour. Being one to relish an opportunity to broach slightly taboo topics with a room full of strangers, I deviated from all the typical personal finance topics and decided to address how to get financially naked with your partner.
When I announced this topic on Facebook and Twitter, I had a few requests to share the presentation. It was filmed, so hopefully I can get access to the full version, but in the meantime, here is an annotated version of select slides from my talk. I’ve shared my own story of getting financially naked with Peach before as well as how we financially handled our long-distance relationship, but I’ve never drafted up a how-to list.
The topics below can serve as a guide for you to walk through your own process of getting financially naked with your partner.
Before you engage in this conversation, I suggest you move tactfully and be willing to spread it out over the course of several discussions.
Step 1: Picking the Right Time
I’d love if everyone brought a copy of their credit reports on first dates and laid out their entire financial pictures, but, that’s about as likely to happen as Donald J. Trump becoming an honorable human being. In the meantime, I’ll accept people deciding to get financially naked around the time they realize, “oh — this could seriously be the person with whom I decided to spend the rest of my life and thus legally link myself to.”
When that time comes you should ask the questions below.
Some folks may balk at the mention of sharing credit scores and even credit reports. I’m not advocating that you ditch your honey if he or she has a lackluster score, but it should be a point of conversation. A low credit score is often a reflection of how clean someone keeps his or her financial house. Are bills being paid on time and credit cards being used carefully or are items going to collections and cards being maxed out? Having a dirty financial house with no effort to clean it up, or, at the very least, refusing to hire a cleaning person to help you rectify the situation, is a going to be a serious long-term problem.
Step 2: How are You Going to Handle the Debt?
Are you planning to work as a team to handle your financial issues or are you both focusing on your individual debts after marriage? Listen, I get that personal finance is personal and each couple should do their own thing — but — the team mindset can really help remove some of the tension as well as help pay down the debt faster.
When you’re in a situation, like I am, when one person is debt free (me) and one person is bringing debt into a relationship (Peach’s student loans), there can be an ownership mentality.
The first time Peach and I got financially naked he immediately requested ownership over his debts. He told me that these were his student loans and he’d be handling the repayment. I said, “Sure, for now. But once we get married that debt impacts my life too. Why wouldn’t I help you in order to pay it off as quickly as possible?”
After many back-and-forth conversations on this topic, we eventually settled on a plan that worked for us. You and your loved should take the time to develop a strategy for your specific situation and set reasonable expectations for when the debt can be eliminated.
Step 3: Implement the Strategy
This is still in the hypothetical stages for my relationship. Peach and I are not legally yoked to one another, so no one has pronounced us in debt yet. (The pun was just too there for the taking not to write it down). For now, this is our plan.
Lots of things may change between now and then, so our strategy may need to pivot, but it gives both of us a sense of empowerment and calm to know we can effectively communicate about this often sensitive topic. It also opens up the door to talk about other items on the getting financially naked checklist, like our short, medium and long-term money goals as well as what our visions of the future look like and the money required to reach those dreams. Getting financially naked isn’t a one time practice. It’s a conversation that should be revisited on a semi-regular basis. But, for your first-time, be gentle and take a stab at addressing some of the topics below.