Once you know their zodiac sign, height, hobbies and dreams, it’s time to dig deeper.

Dating and finances: When is the right time to talk about money and how should you approach it?

When you first start dating someone, questions like when is their birthday, what countries do they want to visit, what’s their favourite childhood memory, etc. tend to come up. As time goes by, you might probably ask deeper questions of them, such as what their biggest fear is, what their family is like, and what they think is their purpose in life. 

The process of getting to know someone and letting them know you is exciting and beautiful. However, one subject you may not have considered asking questions about could be money. It can seem unnecessary and awkward at first. But if you think your relationship is becoming a serious and lasting one, it’s time for you to bring up money matters. 

Here’s what to keep in mind when you do: 

1. Go slow and approach it carefully

There is no one right time to bring up money matters when dating. This is because everyone’s relationship progression is very different, and only you can know what time feels right. For some, it may be three months into dating; for others, it may be a whole year. You’ll realise that money issues will eventually come up, and you won’t have to necessarily arrange a sit-down talk. For instance, if you plan a weekend getaway, you’ll get a good insight into what budget they are comfortable with and how they approach money. Becoming financially intimate should be dealt with just as sensitively and slowly as emotional intimacy.

2. Know more than just their salary

How much you both earn is probably one of the first things that will come up financially. But knowing just that is not enough. It’s essential to know how much debt they carry, what kind of investments they have, how they save, etc. This is because a person may earn a lot, but if they are bad at managing money and have no savings, they may be broke when compared to someone who earns little but saves religiously. It’s also important to remember that as they share these numbers with you, you must too. 

Related: Does your partner spend impulsively? Here’s how to handle it

3. Find out each other’s money values 

Every individual has certain money values and beliefs that they formed in their childhood and adolescence. This is usually because of the way their parents managed money. For instance, people who grew up seeing their parents constantly worry about making ends meet may care a lot about financial stability and certainty. They may focus more on savings and on having a solid emergency fund as compared to others who didn’t grow up with such financial anxiety. Understanding your partner’s history with money will help you identify their money mindset. 

4. Discuss long-term goals

Financial goals are often linked to one’s long-term goals in life. Knowing what your partner wants from their future is essential, both financially and otherwise. Do they want to quit their job and start their own business; do they want to relocate to another country; do they want to retire in their 40s? These are some questions you too should answer because it will significantly affect the decisions you and your partner make in the near future. 

Related: 5 Money arguments that can prove toxic in a relationship

5. Observe their standard of living

If you want to build a life with them, knowing their standard of living and comparing it to yours is essential. If they enjoy the finer things in life and only use high-end brands, that will tell you a lot about them. Knowing if they finance all that using their income or with consumer loans will also be insightful. But most importantly, it will allow you to decide if their standard of living is similar to yours because that will affect how you live your life – where you stay, the restaurants you eat in, the kind of vacations you go on, etc. 

6. Don’t interfere in their financial decisions

Once you know each other’s numbers, it doesn’t mean that you have a right to tell them what to do. If they want to buy a second expensive car and you think it’s a waste, it may still be early on in your relationship to have a say in such matters. Similarly, if they lend money to their family members, that’s another topic you’ll want to stay out of because it’s very personal and sensitive. This applies to your financial decisions as well. Don’t let them dictate the way you spend your money. 

Related: Are you and your partner a (financial) match made in heaven?

7. Decide who pays what 

During the first few dates, they may have picked up the tab, or you may have. But as you become exclusive, it’s important to talk about how you will tackle the bill – will you split it each time or will you take turns? It’s best to be honest and practical while discussing this because in the beginning you may want to be polite, but later on hidden expectations and resentment can mess things up. If your relationship reaches a point where you decide to live together, it’s best to have a conversation about the percentage of salary each of you will dedicate towards rent and utilities, how you will manage your bank accounts, and whether to maintain a joint account or not.

Ultimately, keep in mind that while your financial personalities may be different, you can still make the relationship work. It’s all about having honest conversations, understanding where the other person is coming from, setting clear boundaries, and not indulging in blame games. Do you and your partner disagree over money issues? Here's how you can achieve financial compatibility in your relationship