The year was 2002. The OC was must-see TV, everyone wore hair extensions and Reese Witherspoon was becoming a big Hollywood star after the success of Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama. She was starting to command a high salary, and people took notice. One of those people was her then-husband actor Ryan Phillipe. When they presented at the Oscars together that year, to an audience of millions of people worldwide, and it was time to read the winner’s name Phillipe instructed Witherspoon to read it. He told her as he cheated out to the audience that she should read it because “you make more money than I do.” A nervous laugh emitted from Witherspoon as gasps resounded from the audience. This was no Will Smith Oscars tantrum slap but it was certainly an awkward moment as you could hear just the faintest tinge of resentment in Phillipe’s voice.
“He didn’t tell me he was going to say that before it happened on air. So I was a little bit flummoxed in the moment, too,” Witherspoon said in an interview a few years ago. The Oscar winner went on to say that she thinks today, over 20 years later, gender norms and power dynamics have progressed so this wouldn’t have even been brought up, but the real issue at hand is something else. There was a lack of communication between Witherspoon and her husband. Perhaps they didn’t discuss the fact that Witherspoon was earning more and it was bothering him. Or maybe he was actually thrilled about it but didn’t get the chance to tell her and thought the Oscars telecast was the right time to do so. That second scenario is probably not the case as they did divorce four years later.
But whether you have the salaries or funds of a movie star couple or you are drowning in student loan debt, talking about your finances with your partner, even quite early in your relationship is essential to a successful relationship.
In this article we will discuss the concept and importance of money dates with experts. They may just be the determining factor in what makes a relationship go the distance. Because though Reese makes it look super fun, real life is not a romantic comedy.
What is a money date?
Ok so let’s start at the beginning. A money date refers to a date in which the focus is communicating with your partner about money. This could include payment due dates for bills, dates when investment returns are paid or stocks are distributed or really big conversations like whether you want to buy a house together or not. The purpose of these dates is to establish open communication as well as better financial planning and stability.
But should you talk about money on a date?
Didn’t our parents always tell us not to talk about money? You aren’t supposed to talk about politics, religion, and then money was kind of the unspoken third subject. Well, you probably don’t need to ask someone on the first date how much they have in their 401(k,) but if you start to think you may have a future with this person after a few weeks, a conversation on money can only help you.
Sofia Figueroa, a financial planner for Ellevest, a financial company that helps women with their finances, told Credello, “For a long time, talking about money has been a pretty big taboo. And when you’re dating someone, trying to present your “best self,” money might feel like an especially touchy topic. But if you can treat money as a natural part of the conversation early on, it’s less likely to become awkward later. So while there isn’t a specific timeline I can prescribe for when to start talking about money, I will say that talking about money — early and often — is better for your relationship. The name of the game here is openness.”
Plus, money dates are proven to be effective. Yes, doing the dishes without being asked and not going ahead with the next episode of Yellowstone before your partner are wonderful things to do for your partner, but talking about money is paramount for a healthy relationship. Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest, noted that 78% of couples say they are happier when they talk about money, according to their research. In fact, for couples who don’t manage money together, 20% say they plan to leave their partner due to financial problems.
“So, if I could give people in relationships one piece of advice about money, it would be: Keep control of, or stay involved with, the money throughout your relationship. “Money dates” are a great way to do that. Wherever you are, just start. Taking the first step and taking control of your financial wellness means you’ll be taking care of Future You. And any loving partner would want that for the both of you.”
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If your partner is working towards debt freedom, you can use Credello’s loan payoff calculator tool to seen when you finally be through this headache. This handy tool calculates your debt free date and gives you a starting point to talk about your money goals together.
You will learn a lot about your partner when you talk about money. Figueroa said everyone’s financial habits and attitudes are built from what they experienced growing up and throughout life. Remember, children pick up money habits by age 7! “For some, those early childhood experiences are negative or traumatic, leading to less than healthy financial perspectives. More often than not, we don’t even recognize these patterns or attachments. If partners are struggling to discuss money early on or well into the relationship, remember it’s okay to take it slow and even ask for help from a financial therapist as you get more serious. You or your partner may need to address your personal histories to understand why you (financially) behave the way you do and how to become more comfortable with financial intimacy.”
How do you start a money conversation?
OK so in the beginning of the relationship, initiating a money date can seem daunting but it’s not impossible! Figueroa suggests sharing that you’re trying to build up your emergency fund, asking for their advice about negotiating a raise, or being honest about how much you’re willing to spend on date nights.
It could honestly be a great conversation starter if you frame it in a fun way. Ask about long-term dreams like traveling the world or plans for retirement. Ask them what they would do if they suddenly came into a lot of money? “As you build intimacy, deeper and more personal conversations will become more comfortable. Again, this isn’t about making judgments; it’s about getting to know the other person, their emotional life, their values, and their plans better. And while financial status doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker, respect definitely should be. If you find your date disrespecting your opinion or your own money journey: red flag. And if you truly can’t respect theirs: same.”
What if your partner has money issues?
First of all, let’s remember that talking about finances is not easy. You need to be open-minded when talking with your partner and apply the same honesty barometer to yourself. If your partner reveals that they have a lot of debt or really any amount of debt, this doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. What may be the dealbreak is how they handle the debt, Figueroa says. The key question is, are they working on paying it off? “Deliberately hiding their situation from you, or leading you to believe it’s different from reality, is lying — or as we sometimes say, it’s financial infidelity. And that’s never OK. Some people manage to avoid debt their whole lives, but most don’t, and paying it off has a big impact on how much of your income is left for saving and spending. Discuss what kinds of debt you each have — student loans, car loans, credit cards, etc. — and what their balance and interest rates are. Do they have an emergency fund, just in case? It might be good to ask about their credit score, too — and if it’s not so great, whether they’re working on fixing it.”
Is talking about your finances the most fun part of dating? No, probably not. But is it the most important. Arguably it is right up there with where you want to live, whether you want to have kids or not and which show you are going to binge that night. Money plays a role in everything you do so you want to be on the same with your partner as soon as possible so they don’t embarrass you at the Oscars in front of millions of people.