Is it weird to vet a future partner’s finances?
Today’s essay is by Money news editor Julia Glum. Julia also writes Dollar Scholar, a weekly newsletter that teaches young adults how to navigate the messy world of money — with the help of memes and cute dogs. When not at work, you can find Julia devouring The Bachelor, ordering the biggest popcorn possible at her local movie theater, and hoping her latest read doesn’t involve a character who’s actually a ghost (it happens more than you'd think).
As Jane Austen once wrote, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife... so if you know anyone looking, please have him email me.
I’m only half kidding. Dating in New York City sucks, which is partially why I don’t do it. Sure, I’ll occasionally get tipsy and spend a few minutes swiping on the apps, but mostly, they’re a source of endless anxiety for me. How do you find someone? How do you keep them interested? And even if you manage to do both of those things, how do you know if you’re financially compatible? For me, good money habits are up there with whether a guy is kind to waiters or knows when to use “you're” vs. “your” correctly.
Needless to say, I share your concerns. A couple of years ago, I actually took this question to Shelly-Ann Eweka, a certified financial planner at TIAA, a retirement planning company. She told me it’s 100% valid to be concerned because “someone else’s financial decisions and behaviors impact you in a relationship.” Basically, if my goals don’t align with my partner’s spending/saving habits, it could pose a legit problem.
Here’s a scary example. Say I’ve found a nice Nick Jonas look-alike to settle down with, but he has a low credit score. That could affect what mortgage rates we get, which could affect how nice of a house we can buy, which could affect which neighborhood we live in, which could affect which schools our children go to, and so on.
In fact, Eweka identified a whole bunch of red flags I need to watch out for: overdue bills, unpaid child support, being secretive about money, etc. Having one or two of those flaws might be fine in the early stages of a relationship, but it’s probably not a good idea to overlook them later on. After all, as Louisa May Alcott put it in Little Women, marriage is an economic proposition.
There’s a ton of research out there about love and money, which are more tied than many of us care to admit. One of my favorite reports, from 2019, found that 54% of single millennial women said they’d rather date someone who has a tattoo of their ex than someone with a credit score below 500. A more recent example comes from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, which determined earlier this year that married couples with joint bank accounts tend to have better relationships and fight less about money.
Vetting your partner’s financial philosophies is not only normal but crucial. However, there is such a thing as mentioning money too soon in a relationship. Eweka acknowledged it might be “jarring for someone to ask what their credit score is after their hors d'oeuvres” on the first date. In the absence of a formal discussion about saving and spending, you’ll likely be able to get insight into a partner’s finances by paying attention to their actions over time. Do they tip well? What’s their job? Is their apartment nice? In other words, it’s not how much cash they have, it’s what they do with it. The reverse is also true.
Bottom line: It’s not weird! You probably don’t need to swap bank balances in your first DM with a potential partner, but if things get serious, you should probably address your money habits and goals in the interest of open communication. Try not to think of it as a stressful discussion but instead, as an opportunity to get on the same page and work together.
You got this.
🎁 IT’S GIVING SZN! 🎁 Want to win a trip to NYC with your BFF, have a Diem salon created in your honor AND meet other cool girlz in the community?
📅 NYC DIEMERS!
Feeling festive? We’re excited to invite you to our holiday ice skating party on Thursday. Details here.
Your Daily Briefing!
👀 Can recurrent yeast infections be caused by your partner? Share thoughts.
👀 What's your advice on living with your partner? Exchange tips.
👀 Would you ask to see your date’s bank account balance on a first date? Add opinions.
👀 Have you broken up with a friend before? wtf do you do when you think you need to? Share stories.
👀 Do traditional gender roles show up in your personal or professional life? Drop thoughts.