“How do I owe thee? Let me count the ways” may not be the way the Browning poem originally went, but it's a talk many millennials will be having this Valentine's Day.1
The question is, will you be having that same discussion with your partner? A heart-shaped box of candy and a dozen roses may be one way of showing you care, but “the talk” is certainly another way of showing you're not only in it for the long haul, but that you want your partner's financial security to be taken care of in the event they're left to manage the household on their own one day.
A reported 73% of millennials believe the financial discussion should be had early in the relationship, accoring to a recent COUNTRY Financial Security Index, while that same survey shows the younger generation is more accepting of a partner's debt level than a generation nearing retirement age.2
This is probably because younger workers have a longer and greater earning future than their older counterparts, but financial experts caution there needs to be some distinction of the types of debts a potential partner may be carrying.
While a budding romance shouldn't be derailed because of finances, it may be a red flag to proceed with caution. Crushing credit card debt, school loans, or even upside-down mortgages can all be signs of financial instability, and they are no longer your partner's problems, now they've become yours.
It's best to put everything on the table before moving to the next level of your relationship. Financial secrets never end well, and you may have a skeleton or two in your closet as well.
Many couples today are two-income households, but this often brings with it a disparity of finances, with one partner earning more than the other. It's important to remember you're partners, not rivals, and neither of you should use income as the source of power. This is a sure way to create resentment.
Communication is vital, and a financial date night to discuss your current money situation and where you see yourselves in the next year or so can help assure you're both on the same page.3
It's worth noting that millennials tend to get married later than previous generations, so they're likely to be set in their spending habits. Because of this, it may be wiser to postpone blending finances to maintain the sense of self-sufficiency.4
Not all experts agree as to when to have “the talk.” Some believe it should be before taking things to the next level, while others feel it can wait until time to make a major purchase, such as a house.5
Whenever you decide the time is right, it's important to avoid criticism and to keep the lines of communication open.
For older couples, the talk this Valentine's Day may involve meeting with your financial planner, lawyer, or accountant, to make sure your partner knows where to turn if the worst happens, and that there's a comfort level between them.
If this is your second marriage, make sure all your legal documents are updated. You may have your will in place, but it may name the wrong beneficiary.6
If it's a blended family, this only compounds the need to make sure everything is out in the open and understood.
These things can help relieve a lot of financial stress, and the less stress you have, the more in the mood for romance you'll be.1. The Financial Talk All Millennials Need to Have This Valentine's Day, Forbes, February 12, 2016
3. A Few Financial Tips for Couples on Valentine's Day, Cole Financial Planning, February 13, 2014
4. The Financial Talk All Millennials Need to Have This Valentine's Day, Forbes, February 12, 2016
6. Valentine's Day: The Perfect Time to Talk... Financial Planning, Motley Fool, February 14, 2012