Kids and Money: Holding the money talk needs to happen early in a relationship

Author: Steve Rosen, Tribune Content Agency

Source: Kids & Money

When is it fair game to ask about a significant other’s credit score, debt, and salary?

The answer: Not until the couple has moved in together, according to respondents in a recent “Financial Infidelity” survey. More so than others, young adults and millennials tend to consider those topics off-limits until the relationship gets more serious, the survey noted.

That’s much too late, said Ted Rossman, a senior analyst with

“You don’t need to bare all of your financial details on the first date,” Rossman said in an email to me. “But relatively early in a relationship I think it’s important to discuss at least some of the basics.”

Getting married is a major commitment both emotionally and financially. But for whatever reason, many couples would rather discuss their weight, their health, their political views, and their religion than the balance on their credit card, the number of payments left on the car loan, and how much debt they’re on the hook for.

Parents can provide a steady hand on these heart-to-heart conversations.

I’m not suggesting mom and dad helicopter in on this issue. But if a relationship is getting serious, parents can encourage their son or daughter to ask important questions about their partner’s spending habits, debts, and financial goals, and to share their own values about money.

It needn’t be an interrogation — perhaps a conversation after shopping or planning a weekend date. I’ve been through this three times with my kids and the boyfriend-girlfriend talks about money should be a team effort.

“Knowing where you and your partner have been with money and where you want to go is really important,” Rossman said. “If you wait until you’re moving in together and one person has a bad credit score or too much debt, you might get turned down for that mortgage or apartment lease.”

Rossman said couples should discuss how much debt each person has, and how they can work together to pay down debts, improve their credit, and set financial targets for long-term goals, such as buying a house or starting a family.

There are a lot of misconceptions about how marriage affects a couple’s credit situation. Married couples still have their own credit report, and credit score, said Rossman. While you can apply for a mortgage or credit card together, Rossman said it’s important for each partner to have their own credit established.

Credit cards are typically held in one person’s name, so if a spouse dies or if the relationship breaks up, the other partner will lose access to that card.

Even if one partner decides to keep a separate bank account, or credit card, don’t keep it a secret. However, the survey found that a third of respondents who are in serious relationships admitted to spending more than their partners would be comfortable with, hold secret debt, or keep a secret credit card or checking account.

The biggest cheaters were young adults and millennials.


This article is written by Steve Rosen and Tribune Content Agency from Kids & Money and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to