When we’re young and beginning life as an adult, we usually see our own versions of “happily ever after”. The white picket fences… on and on and on. But what happens when “happily ever after” lasts until your 43rd birthday? Whatever the reasons are for finding yourself considering online dating at a time in your life when you thought you’d be planning your retirement with the love of your life, it’s a reality many face these days. It’s not romantic at all. Some single 40-somethings even steer clear of love and romance just to avoid the dreaded “F” talk: finances. Others worry about their credit scores and the scores of potential love interests.
Divorce, Money and Credit Scores
As we know, money is the number one reason couples do battle – and it’s also the number one reason they divorce. That means a lot of folks who are now divorced are wondering what the next relationship means for their finances. It’s the baggage of bankruptcy. The fear of finances. And it’s a necessary evil.
These days, a midlife love match goes much further than just sharing the same love for marinated crab claws or the Atlanta Braves. In order to be truly compatible, there has to be an honest discussion and realistic expectations on those pesky financial quagmires, including credit scores, the way debt is viewed and even net worth. And make no mistake: the word “honest” is the operative word.
A Slip or a Lifestyle?
That doesn’t mean if you’ve had credit problems and your intended has perfect credit, there can’t be a future. What it does mean, though, is that an agreement – an understanding – of what each expects is reached. If you’re the one with troubled credit, it can be embarrassing. If you’re the one with a 788 credit score, you might find yourself uncomfortable with the knowledge that your scores are 200 points better than your new love interest’s .
If there’s any good news, it’s that we’re no longer in our twenties. Not everything is a dramatic crisis, after all. We’re wiser, more mature and better prepared. That’s going to serve your purposes well. A few of the realities you may face include:
- It may be your credit scores that get the approvals for a new car or mortgages
- If yours are the lower scores, you may have to come to the realization that your contributions are going to be limited in that aspect until your own scores come up.
- The partner with the higher scores will be offered lower interest – and that could be a bit uncomfortable.
- You may have to face a prenup agreement if your relationship gets that far.
The sooner you get these conversations out of the way, the better you’ll both be. There won’t be this nagging reminder that you’ve yet to have the “talk”. When we’re in our 20s, just out of college and perhaps with our first credit card, the “talk” consists of how many kids we want. When we’re in our 40s, the “talk” is about what our adult children are doing now that they’re out of the nest, whether we’re supporting them financially and whether they have our credit cards because they can’t qualify for their own. It could be that we have their credit cards because we can’t qualify for them on our own.
Financial Worth and Self Worth: Different Animals
None of this makes anyone better than anyone else. Some people are just no good at managing money. Frankly, it’s a bit difficult trying to understand when and how that became such a horrible quality. Of course, strong money management skills are always encouraged, but like grammar, math or building a nuclear bomb: some folks just aren’t any good at it.
And then there are those dreaded conversation openers. You don’t want to suggest that money and finances are your top priority, so naturally, it’s not usually first date dinner talk, but once your relationship delves a bit further, it’s going to become very important. And don’t begin the practice of plundering around in public records or online searches. First, you don’t know how accurate that information is. Ideally, you want there to be an open channel of communication and one sure fire way to ensure that doesn’t happen is by snooping when you’ve not even given your partner the opportunity to lay it out on the table. The one exception being someone who places a very high value on one’s net worth. In those instances, love is rarely any kind of consideration anyway and those romantic flames will flicker out at some point.
Sharing aspects of your personal life is part of the dating process, as are your finances. A survey from Chase Card Services earlier this year showed that nearly 70 percent of the respondents agreed it’s best to discuss finances within the first 90 days of a relationship. That’s a great “middle ground”, so to speak. You’re invested enough to know if there’s potential, but you’re not so far in that you can’t back out.
Bringing up the M and F words: Money and Finances
You don’t have to throw it out there: “Hey, what’s your credit look like?” In fact, that’s probably not a good idea at all. But what you can do is find the right opportunity to open the door. Maybe a friend is worried about her home going into foreclosure. Maybe your bank is being bought out by one of the big 5 banks. Any opportunity to introduce a casual tone into a money conversation is always time well spent.
What financial advisors encourage anyone to steer clear from are the obvious ones:
- Giving a new romantic interest access to your finances
- Opening a joint account to “help” your partner rebuild his credit
- Allowing a new partner to see your online financial activity (including passwords)
- Bragging that you’ll be retiring with far more than any of your co-workers
- Agreeing to a new insurance policy with your romantic interest as beneficiary
And look, the bottom line is now that we’re a bit older, we’re just better prepared for those awkward topics. It comes with age or experience or whatever else you want to chalk it up to. Define your own deal breakers, figure out what you will or won’t accept (taking your Visa out of your wallet when you’re in the shower, for instance) and then move forward with that. We haven’t lived four decades to lose our voices now, right?