Let’s Talk About Money, Baby
Earlier this week, I received an interesting study from a publicist at Chase Card Services called the Chase Blueprint Valentine’s Day Survey. The timing was ironic, considering my current focus on financial prosperity (or at least, peace), so unlike many press released I receive, I actually read over it carefully.
Here are some facts they shared and my thoughts on them.
30: Percentage of consumers who think finances should be discussed with their partner from DAY ONE of the relationship (men believe this more than women at 37% to 24%)
65: Percentage of consumers who think it is best to discuss their finances within the first three months of the relationship.
One number the press release was lacking, and probably because it’s nearly impossible to measure, is what amount of time (whether it’s days, weeks, or months) spent with someone qualifies for a relationship. I have always treated my financial problems like a deep, dark secret, and kind of used my comfort level in talking about them with someone I’m dating as a gauge to see how comfortable I am with them overall. Sometimes I was comfortable early in the dating process, other times I never got to that point. The first woman I ever opened to about them was the woman I lived with, and that’s because I lived with her. But that was more like six months into the relationship, three months beyond what the study says 65 percent of Americans feel is the proper time.
In my next relationship, whenever that happens, I think I’ll go with the approach of the men who were polled. I don’t want to treat my money problems like a handicap anymore, and the best way to go about doing that is to say something about it from DAY ONE. But understanding that it’s not DAY ONE of the relationship, rather it’s DAY ONE of when you feel comfortable enough to talk to them. Those two things may be mutually exclusive. Understand, you could think three months is now the time to start opening up the piggy bank discussion, just because it’s been three months, but they could surprise you, by choosing not to date you anymore if the problems are too severe. When my ex broke up with me over my financial problems, she said maybe it would have been different if we were together for six months, which let me know, if I had shared it with her on DAY ONE of three months, there’s still a chance the outcome would be as it is. So don’t worry about when DAY ONE is or is not. Worry about whether or not the person you’re with can handle the discussion, because there are people who can and there are people who can’t. Unfortunately, time has nothing to do with defining that person.
47: Percentage of Americans who feel being in a relationship makes it harder to manage their money.
Let’s just round this up to 50 percent. Since I’m single, I go back and forth about this all the time. On one hand, any time I’ve been single has never helped me overcome my money issues. On the other hand, dating casually or seriously has always been a distraction of sorts and, to be honest, an extra expense.
The ability to manage one’s money has nothing to do with a relationship status, at least it shouldn’t. It has to do with who we are as individuals. We’re either good at saving money and budgeting or we’re not. One thing I’m learning is not just the value of money in monetary terms, but in personal terms. We have to look not at our relationship with people but our relationship with money itself in order to determine whether or not we can manage it.
74: Percentage of Americans who would sit down and talk with their significant other about a significant debt (significant in the study qualifies at $10K+), rather than help them pay it down or break up with them.
21: percentage of MARRIED Americans who would help pay down their spouses debt.
11: percentage of UNMARRIED Americans in a relationship who would help pay down their partner’s debt.
My interpretation of this set of numbers: Support should not be measured in dollar signs. Apparently, EVERYONE would TALK to their partner about their significant debt, but very few, even if they’re married (and even fewer if they’re not), would contribute monetarily. This just further proves my point I made in the paragraph above: Your money problems have to be dealt with by you, no matter your relationship status. And that is fair. The next time I have a conversation with whoever my partner may be, I don’t want it to be me telling them I have a problem and that’s it. I want to talk to them about what I’m doing to fix that problem.
94: Percentage of Americans who think it is important to have compatible spending habits with their partner.
62: Percentage of Americans who think they can’t achieve financial compatibility or that it will be very hard to change the spending and borrowing habits of their significant other.
On the first date with any woman, I always ask the following question: Are you a morning person or a night person?
The question is an important one, because I have dated women with different body clocks from my own, and at some point, it becomes an issue. She wants to argue, I want to sleep. I want to argue, she wants to sleep. Now, I’m not saying different body clocks means we’re incompatible. My point is if something as natural as sleep can affect a relationship, the numbers above as they apply to money make absolute sense.
Now, let’s be clear here: These numbers point to SPENDING habits, not saving habits. This is because Chase’s financial interests are tied to Americans spending, not saving necessarily.
But the numbers are still worth a good look at, especially that 62 percent.
Though I’m not sure of the specifics behind the response from the individuals polled, I am going to go out on a limb and say this: To say the majority of us do not believe we can change our partner’s spending habits, is to say we believe our partner doesn’t have any good habits when it comes to money. Put more bluntly: We believe our partners have a habit of just spending and not saving or budgeting.
For the longest, this is how one can describe me. I don’t spend beyond my means, but for years I have been guilty of spending and not saving my means, which isn’t any better. What I am trying to develop now, is the discipline to develop a spending and saving habit, instead of habitually spending whatever I have.
That 94 percent number is an awfully big number too, but I don’t think it should be interpreted as you and your partner need to have duplicate spending habits. Ever since I opened up to my boys about my financial problems, two of them have come to me with their budget plans. Both are different in certain ways, but at least both are plans which is far more than I’ve ever had.
Chances are our income is different from our partner’s, which beget different habits. If one person spends more than us, it could mean they make more, which is not nearly as important as people would like us to believe. When I was 24, I was dating a girl who had way more money than I did. She wanted to go on a vacation together, a vacation I knew I couldn’t afford to pay half for up front. She understood, purchased the whole package with her own money, and then we developed a plan for me to pay her back my half. This is an example of someone being able to spend more because they can afford to, and someone not being able to spend as much because they simply can’t.
There are some people who will not want to date someone who doesn’t make as much as them, but more undesirable than a person who doesn’t make a lot of money, is the person who doesn’t have a plan with the money they make.
Financial recovery process: As I said up top, two of my friends passed along a budget to me, after I opened up to my boys about my money issues. I started using one of them. The budget has a “Projected Cost” column and an “Actual Cost” column. Every time I spend something, even if it’s five dollars, I put that number into the category to which it applies. I’ve never been this diligent about keeping track of where my money is going. I’m learning how to crawl here.