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Financials and Dating
Old 06-24-2019, 12:36 PM   #1
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Financials and Dating

For anyone who has successfully found a good FIRE partner or is currently searching for one, I'm wondering how/when you brought up your financial situation with your prospective partner?

It would seem that wealth (high salary or high net worth) should be kept private, to avoid that being the main focus for pairing up... to avoid attracting people who may want your wealth or net worth to spend. However, the flip side is that it is important to know someone's financial health as a means to decide how reliable a partner they would be in marriage. I've come to appreciate that people don't often change. That is, if they were raised to be in debt, and carried debt in their 20's and 30's... it's likely they won't magically change in their 40's because they met someone they love who taught them about money. That, said I'm not against helping a partner be better with finances, I just would rather find someone who already is. If that makes sense?

So when and how is the best time to bring this kind of thing up? Is it good to talk vaguely around it on a fourth or fifth date (as in, ideas about financial behaviors, but no specific to your own situation or theirs) early on. Or should numbers and situations be described more in detail early on to avoid going down the road with someone who may otherwise be perfect, except a potential financial disaster. Also, I obscure my wealth and income quite well. I live very modestly, and even my friends and family are a bit clueless to it. So if someone were a FIRE guru like myself, they might look at my life and wonder if I have my act together too. It goes both ways. So what is the safest way to lower that net, so to speak...

Not sure if there is a coherent question in there, but I'm sure I wrote enough to get the topic started

Mainly I'm just curious how you went (or are planning to) go about evaluating financial compatibility with potential partners.
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Old 06-24-2019, 12:42 PM   #2
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I've come to appreciate that people don't often change. That is, if they were raised to be in debt, and carried debt in their 20's and 30's... it's likely they won't magically change in their 40's because they met someone they love who taught them about money.
I don't think it's that simple. I've come to conclude that we are all the product of nature and nurture, in varying degrees, and the "nurture" part sometimes comes in the form of counter-examples. For example I have heard some people say that they learned how NOT to handle money because of their experiences growing up with parents who were always in debt and struggling financially.

Also, I think the type and amount of debt matters. I am less critical of someone who carries reasonable mortgage and student loan debt as I am of someone who carries high interest credit card or consumer debt. Having said all of that, I agree that if someone over the age of 35-40 is up to their eyeballs in consumer debt they are unlikely to change.
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Old 06-24-2019, 01:38 PM   #3
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I don't think the financial discussion is needed until you're ready to tie your finances together -- so, either get married, or live together full-time, at least. By then you should know a lot about how they handle finances:
  • Do they live within their means?
  • Are they prudent and thorough and careful, but not paranoid about risk to their own detriment?
  • Are they generous, but not in a way that leaves them in a bad situation?
You'll probably also have a decent guess as to their net worth, as you'll have taken trips and gone out for special occasions and bought joint gifts together, although they could surprise you.
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Old 06-24-2019, 01:51 PM   #4
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Spending habits: discuss and observe early and often

Debt: long before considering marriage.

A lot of marital probs boil down to money.
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Old 06-24-2019, 01:54 PM   #5
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I always request a financial statement certified by one of the Big 6 accounting firms. I'm still single.
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Old 06-24-2019, 02:08 PM   #6
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I have not been successful at dating for a number of different reasons, but I do have in my OKCupid profile that I am secure and retired at age 46. Elsewhere I list that I'm looking for a financially responsible woman. It gets the point across I think.

When I was married, my wife and I had combined finances and she knew everything. Since our divorce, nobody knows my finances. I like being stealth, it's a lot easier for me.
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Old 06-24-2019, 02:25 PM   #7
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I think that marriage after childbearing years is basically a financial arrangement; at present, having been married for 23 years and then divorced for 21 years, I am completely over the "knight on a white horse that is going to sweep me away" romantic idea of marriage. If there are no kids involved, then it all has to do with dollars and cents IMO. I had troubling financial concerns about marrying again so I dodged it.

A little history....

I met Frank through a free matchmaker website twenty years ago, around 1-2 years after my divorce. He messaged me and we arranged a coffee date.

At that first date I told him, "Look, if you have custody of kids that need a nanny, I'm not interested. If you want a wife or a live-in girlfriend, I am the wrong person for you. What I want and can provide (when I find the right person), is deep emotional commitment, without marriage or living together. Also I am old enough that I don't have a second shot at preparing for my old age so I'm not willing to risk my financial stability. Therefore I am unwilling to engage in any sort of financial entanglement. Despite what a lot of people seem to think, I believe that emotional commitment does not require financial entanglement."

That seemed to work, since he felt the same way. Also, if we weren't going to mix our money, that really simplified things.

I was embarrassed for him to see the old junker, trashed, dented up LBYM car that I was driving, until (after that first date), I saw him get into an even *worse* old junker car, older than mine, obviously a junker too, and his had blotchy primer paint all over it.

We had a lot more in common, like our science and engineering backgrounds and nearly everything else. So, once I saw his car I knew I had met the right guy. Oh, and in answer to your question, we were pretty open about our finances right from the start. No reason to hide it, since we weren't mixing our money together.
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Old 06-24-2019, 02:57 PM   #8
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Both DW and I were widowed when we met. Her sons had cautioned her not to be revealing any financial information (good idea).
After we had dated for some time and we became very close, we did have some serious financial discussions.
After we were married, we did a total reveal, so I could help her with her investments. She had been suckered into an annuity, supposedly to protect her ( sold to her by a "friend"), and I helped her navigate through it. Plus she was in some MF's with high expense ratios, and I switched her out of them, as well as moving her accounts to FIDO.

At our age it is simpler to keep our finances separate.
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Old 06-24-2019, 03:01 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by EvrClrx311 View Post
For anyone who has successfully found a good FIRE partner or is currently searching for one, I'm wondering how/when you brought up your financial situation with your prospective partner?

However, the flip side is that it is important to know someone's financial health as a means to decide how reliable a partner they would be in marriage. I've come to appreciate that people don't often change. That is, if they were raised to be in debt, and carried debt in their 20's and 30's... it's likely they won't magically change in their 40's because they met someone they love who taught them about money. That, said I'm not against helping a partner be better with finances, I just would rather find someone who already is. If that makes sense?
Apologies in advance for the novella. I don't recall knowing how much my husband made before we married. He lived in a modest home in Cleveland, that he bought as part of an estate sale just a year before we started dating. He had a full time job as an electronic technician, a part time job at a karate studio, and was finishing up his 4 year degree. He didn't even have a stove. When he'd first moved in, he used the milk chute as a mini fridge until he could buy a refrigerator. He used a microwave to eat something hot. All his furniture and dishes were used and he covered up a huge hole in the living room carpet with a swivel rocker. His only debt was his mortgage. None of this discouraged me.

As for me, my mother had died weeks earlier after an 11 year battle with cancer. Her mounting medical bills had kept me broke and still living at home with my grandparents, where I'd lived since birth. Partially due to the care giving stress, I'd left a full time job in accounting a year earlier, and quit college after 4 years of part time pursuit of an accounting degree. I worked full time for awhile at the karate studio, then started temp work full time for more money, and kept working part time at the studio. When I wasn't working at either place, I took over the care giving duties from my grandparents. I was broke and had credit card debt from charging my mother's narcotics that she needed for pain management in her final months. None of this discouraged him.

None of that sounds like a recipe for success, does it?

After we got engaged, we agreed that I'd be a housewife, as long as we could manage financially. I'd spent several months after my mother's death getting out of debt, mainly created by her illness. I quit my full time job 5 months before our wedding and kept the part time job. I went from broke to bringing $6,000 into our marriage, more money than I'd ever had in my life.

After we married, he gave me responsibility for the finances and I made it work. (I had to, unless I wanted to go back to full time work, and I didn't. ) He wasn't making much money, but we were at least $200 ahead month after month, and our savings grew. I left the part time job several months into our marriage. He left it after the birth of our second child.

Started dating at 27, married at 28, 2 kids, and still happily married 27 years later. He's still working full time, by choice. I'm still a housewife. 2 young adults still living at home. Sold that house in Cleveland and bought new construction 23 years ago, paid in cash. Several raises later, he's now making 6 times what he made when we were first married. Our financial accounts total low 7 figures. Interest and dividend income from my investment activity brings in more money than I could possibly earn working.

Broke and in debt, doesn't always mean you'll stay that way. We were given nothing by anyone and built up what we have together.

But no way would I consider talking finances by a 4th or 5th date, let alone earlier. And it depends on how you talk about them. Our first date was a typical movie and dinner. On our second date, I said that we could rent a VHS and order takeout pizza. I even offered to pay! He wouldn't let me pay (ever), but the rest went as I suggested.

Funny anecdote: during the movie, all of a sudden, his whole house went black! I said: "This is exciting!" He laughed. Then he slowly slipped his arm around... No, he didn't. He got up, went to the basement, I heard a chainsaw start up... Seriously, he got up, went to the basement, the lights came back on, and he came back upstairs. A breaker tripped whenever he ran 2 appliances at once. He'd started a load of laundry right before we sat down to watch the movie. He replaced that breaker maybe a couple of years into our marriage. Until then, no microwaving and laundry at the same time.

You get my point. Our dates weren't fancy. His house wasn't fancy, but clean and orderly. He picked me up at my grandparents house (which wasn't so clean and orderly, except for my bedroom) in a hand-me-down car. If I had been a gold digger, there wouldn't have been a second date. I probably would have been married already to someone with more to offer financially.

OTOH, if someone with money kept trying to impress me with it, I'd run the other way. That's just not me. Take out of all that what you will.
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Old 06-24-2019, 03:23 PM   #10
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I've told some of this in pieces, but here goes: Widowed 2.5 years ago at age 64; this was my second marriage. Net worth in the (very) low 7 figures plus SS Survivor benefits plus a couple of small, non-COLA pensions. First husband was a leech, among other bad qualities- expensive tastes, glossy facade but all hat and no cattle. Second DH and I were a true partnership and on the same page financially.

So- I ventured out onto Match.com and I did post pictures from my travels because I wanted someone with the same interests. Also said I was financially solvent and wanted someone who was the same. I'm now dating a really great guy of modest means- had a "grey divorce" and his Ex lives in the house. He'll get half when she sells, but no deadline. He lives in a bachelor apartment that is apparently not presentable enough for me to visit. (We DO have lunch frequently in his small town where he seems to know everyone, so I'm satisfied that he's not secretly married.) So, we mostly meet at restaurants or, more often, meet at my place, which I love but rarely get to share with anyone. We have wonderful conversations and a great physical relationship.

Just from discussing our lives from the beginning we knew there was a great gulf in finances. I did throw out my bottom line, and he kind of gasped. I don't know his but I know he has a 401(k), an investment account and he's still working and putting money into the 401(k). He's about to file for SS (age 68) and is planning to save most or all of it. He lives on less than he makes, pays for meals with a debit card or cash, and has NEVER indicated that I should be picking up the tab more than 50% of the time or buying him nice things because I can afford it.

So- it's been gradual and I said nothing till I'd observed how he seemed to be running his life. Neither of us is interested in marriage or cohabitation so I'm not concerned about the disparity at all.
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Old 06-24-2019, 03:34 PM   #11
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Just from discussing our lives from the beginning we knew there was a great gulf in finances. I did throw out my bottom line, and he kind of gasped.
I've found that if both people are financially independent (that does not mean wealthy) then money is less of an issue. However, if one is dependent upon the other to finance the two week vacation in Hawaii, the theater tickets to see Hamilton, and the salsa dancing lessons, then there may be issues caused by dependence.

None of this means the wealthier person can't do something nice like say "Let's take that 8 hour non-stop flight to Paris, instead of the two stop 20 hour flight. I'll pay the difference."

What's bad is when one person has to go into debt to keep up with the other person. Or has to lie about why he/she can't accompany the sweetheart to Paris at any price.
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Old 06-24-2019, 03:35 PM   #12
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Two stories.

A couple years ago I was on a first date with someone I had recently met. We were hiking, and somehow finances came up. I don't remember how but I really doubt it was me. Probably divorce stories, settlements, and how we were managing. She had already been to my house for a 4th of July party and knew I was retired, so I guess she figured I knew how to manage finances. She had already talked about being pretty frugal, and then she mentioned having her IRA at Vanguard, split between Total Stock, Total Intl, and Total Bonds. Lightning bolt moment! But, she was either still reeling from the divorce, or otherwise not interested, and just wanted to be friends. Almost two years now and no change so I guess that's that.

Second story, I had a co-worker who was an incredible stock picker. This was in the 2nd half of the 90s, so any monkey could toss a dart and pick a good stock but this monkey had a knack. He met a woman who was struggling somewhat. She knew he was good at stocks and apparently asked told him she had $3000 and really needed $5000. So he invested it for her, and about a month later she had $5000. They got married a year or two later. She seemed a bit like a gold digger. He asked and she agreed to sign a pre-nup, but he never followed through. In mid 2000, just about the height of the market, she said she was really nervous about how much he had invested. He told me he sold out. Not sure if he sold everything, but probably close. Right before the bubble burst. So he may have made all the money, but she saved him from losing a bunch. Knowing the stuff he was invested in, sometimes leveraged, he probably would've lost 75% or more, though he might've seen the signs himself and bailed after a 10% drop. No idea if they're still together.
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Old 06-24-2019, 03:37 PM   #13
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gwraigty, great story and wonderful outcome!

Both of you deserve a medal for what you have accomplished from where you started.
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Old 06-24-2019, 03:53 PM   #14
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I'd be leery of bringing up the topic directly, until and unless you are truly thinking of mingling finances. As Athena and W2R have mentioned, if you aren't, then it doesn't really matter.

In the meantime, watch, listen, and wait. If you are getting close enough that you are thinking about cohabiting let alone marriage: with important topics such as money, either attitudes will become rather clear over time, or you may start to conclude that some things are being concealed on purpose.

Hint: if anyone seems to be using your feelings to coax you into buying things or paying for stuff for them...make like King Arthur and his gang in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," and run away! Run away!
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Old 06-24-2019, 04:11 PM   #15
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In the meantime, watch, listen, and wait. If you are getting close enough that you are thinking about cohabiting let alone marriage: with important topics such as money, either attitudes will become rather clear over time, or you may start to conclude that some things are being concealed on purpose.
When I first met DW we walked & talked and talked & walked.......money, (not that either of us had a bunch), was never a topic, but I, and it appears she, developed an appreciation of the other's character, which, I believe, includes fiscal responsibility....along with everything else.
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Old 06-24-2019, 04:29 PM   #16
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I've faced this 3 times in the last 5 years, and handled each one differently. In each case, I had substantially higher NW. I knew that because they shared stories in varying detail of their ex-spouse-inflicted financial difficulties.

To set the stage, I'm under 60, widower, no visible means of support, have two kids at home and live in a nice neighborhood. Didn't take but a few minutes for these ladies to conclude I have at least "something"

#1 - Became clear early she lived a modest lifestyle and had low cost desires for her future. Ended up providing a lot of detail, then discovered about 1 year in that it was not a viable relationship-for reasons other than money. So, disclosed for no good purpose.

#2 - This one was a spender herself and liked having money spent on her. I gave her no detail beyond "I have enough to live as I like". This one lasted 2 years and also ended for reasons other than money.

#3 - This is one is now my fiance. Like #1, she lives comfortably, but modestly. I "blow more dough" than she does. I started slow after she disclosed very early she was recovering from the ex's disastrous decisions. I had been very wary of being considered the money tree, but there has been no sign of that. We have had a couple of pre-nup discussions that have been candid and low-stress. At this point, I've shared all that I can think of, and will give a direct answer to any financial question she has.

One more thought - when I started dating, I was very concerned about someone being interested in me only for money. Then I realized I was in complete control of how it was spent and who would get it. Stopped worrying about it after the first two relationships ended solely because of incompatibility on other issues.
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Old 06-24-2019, 04:29 PM   #17
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Yes.
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I (and it appears she) developed an appreciation of the other's character, which, I believe, includes fiscal responsibility....along with everything else.
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Old 06-24-2019, 05:09 PM   #18
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gwraigty, great story and wonderful outcome!

Both of you deserve a medal for what you have accomplished from where you started.
Thank you so much! I hope it helps other people.
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Old 06-24-2019, 05:36 PM   #19
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That is, if they were raised to be in debt, and carried debt in their 20's and 30's... it's likely they won't magically change in their 40's because they met someone they love who taught them about money.
I disagree with this in the younger ages. I was a financial train wreck in my 20's. But I didn't change because I met someone who taught me, I changed because I had to and I'm not a twit. That said, my wreckage was fixed and far improved by the time I met DH. I agree I would not want to get involved with someone who was still a mess, especially now, older. 20's, 30's - excusable. 40's, 50's - yeah that's probably not changing when it's been a pattern for decades (barring a temporary setback or issue).

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That, said I'm not against helping a partner be better with finances, I just would rather find someone who already is. If that makes sense?

So when and how is the best time to bring this kind of thing up?
Totally agree with this. On Match back when I was looking you could pick income ranges. I didn't want to be a gold digger, but I knew I wanted someone in the same range as me - I wanted balance. I also don't want to train anyone. Dating is to discern if they are a match, not if they can be molded into one (that usually doesn't work over the long haul.)

I think a lot of this stuff should be self-evident and easily observed in those first few dates. A man can pay attention to her clothing, her cars, her jewelry, what she seems to value. You'll see where and how she lives, and she you, and you'll see her reactions. And of course you'll hopefully be having meaningful discussions about aspirations and your future plans, which can reveal so much in early dates without having to get specifics.

DH and I exchanged income info I think right around the time the L word made its first appearance. But we'd already talked about the idea of saving to retire early before that.
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Old 06-24-2019, 06:17 PM   #20
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I always dated women who were to young to get a credit card and beautiful enough not to ever need one!
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