All the elements are there – your partner is funny, the person you want to talk to most in the world, makes you swoon in a Hollywood kind of way … but do they share your money mode?
Sorry to ruin the mood, but, unromantic though it is, financial compatibility is key to a happy long-term union. It’s also key to a rewarding and enjoyable life.
So just how do you determine if you are dating – or maybe even married to – the right person?
Ask these five simple questions (maybe pop a bottle of champagne to take the harsh edge off!).
Five money questions to ask: click to view infographic
1. What do you think of debt? Do you have any?
This might seem a pretty pointed place to start, but I have a friend who married her ‘funny match’ without checking he was also a money match … and it cost her dearly. It turned out her hoot of a husband came with $50,000 in credit card and other debt and an extremely bad credit rating.
They couldn't get a mortgage and the breach of trust the secret represented saw them swiftly divorce.
OK, someone with a problem might not actually admit it. But their reaction to the question could give you clues something is amiss.
Speaking of problems, we’ll deal with the other potentially serious one next.
2. So, do you like a flutter?
Maybe pick Melbourne Cup day or a night out at the casino to delicately gauge whether gambling is an irregular ‘roll of the dice’ or a pastime with power over your partner. Research by finder.com.au shows 85 per cent of Aussies have gambled at least once in the past year – and that’s probably fine (incidentally, the race that stops the nation apparently lures more men, 28 per cent, than women, 21 per cent).
Hooking up with a person with an undisclosed gambling problem could cause great financial and emotional distress down the track. I’m not suggesting snooping – that doesn’t make for an honest foundation for a partnership – but light-heartedly find out how often your partner uses any betting apps.
Now we can get down to just what a perfect ‘money’ match couple might be able to achieve together.
3. What experiences and goals are most proud of? How did you hit them?
What a person has done in their past is a great indicator of what they could do in their future. Better still, you can achieve even more as two than one – you’ll potentially have double the income and half the costs. Theoretically, anyway (and we’ll leave kids out of the equation).
The thing you need to ascertain is your partner’s attitude to spending versus saving and delaying gratification. All of us need strong motivation to resist instant gratification – have they previously been able to exercise enough spending restraint to reach goals precious to them?
Bear in mind it doesn’t matter if the goal is a house deposit, where you’ll get to enjoy the spoils, or having funded a year of travel – what’s key is that they can make things that are important to them actually happen, without going into debt.
You’re not off the hook either: can you? Two short-termist spendthrifts are a recipe for a lean future. A spendthrift and a smart saver together provide for a greater chance of a comfortable life – but can the relationship handle financial friction? The best combination is two savers, however, that might not even be you, let alone your prospective life partner.
4. What do you want to achieve next?
The best relationships are undoubtedly those where you jointly target life goals so sweet you can almost taste them. (And these don’t have to only be financial.)
Bottom line: do you want the same things? The holiday to Fiji next year; the new car in two years; the house deposit in five years; a year off work, exploring the world, at some stage?
Specific (and terrific) agreed life goals will give you the greatest chance of success. It might also pay to subtly suss out the kid question.
5. Down the track, if I decide you’re a keeper, is the money yours or ours?
This is probably a curly question, so you may want to word it more appropriately. The thing is, joint accounts or not, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re both down with it.
Fewer Australian couples are reportedly opening joint transaction, savings and credit-card accounts. The catalyst is often either marriage or approval for a joint loan. You just have to be sure that, if it comes to that, you and your partner would be able to successfully sort the financial practicalities, in a way that makes you both feel valued and empowered.
Are you a money match made in heaven?
Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is a money educator and television finance commentator who delivers her Smart Money Start multimedia financial literacy presentation, including a version especially for young women, in high schools around the country.