When my little brother and I were young, my parents only spoke about money in Hebrew even though English is my mother's first language. I blame them for my stunted financial know-how.
During college, I was wise enough to educate myself. I'm inquisitive by nature, not the type to hide anything from my SO. I felt sufficiently confident to discuss money matters with my boyfriend early on (in English, even).
You don't need to be engaged to talk about money, because even casually dating merits a conversation. Bring it up whenever you feel comfortable enough, or when curiosity overwhelms you.
Spending and saving habits say a lot more about a man than his mouth does. Be warned, though: Discussing money can get tense.
I'm not quite sure what my parents were hiding when they used another language to discuss money. However, I'm aware that talking honestly about bank account numbers can be harder than talking about the number of partners you've each slept with.
Here are some important questions to start with.
How much do you make?
Direct, I know, but why not?
Being legitimately curious about how much your boo makes is OK. To ease up on the pressure attached to this line of questioning, ask for a ballpark estimate.
If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
If the previous question is too much for you to start with, this is an easy one. Your man's answers can give you a good sense of where his values and priorities lie when it comes to money.
Would he put it all away? Donate most of it? Invest? Or he would maybe buy his girlfriend a brand new Ferrari for her birthday?
How do you honestly feel about paying for dates?
This is probably a good question to ask on date three. His answer will provide insight into how he views financial responsibility in a relationship.
Personally, I think it's unfair to expect the guy to always pay. Why should he be responsible for feeding two people?
What kind of employee perks should I know about?
People can get all kinds of discounts and perks through their employers, like discount hotel rates and individualized retirement plans. Is the guy you're dating taking advantage of them? If he's not, he's probably not as smart as you think.
For example, my boyfriend and I have enough perks through our respective employers to cover significant costs when we vacation together.
Perks should right be up there with standard qualities people list about their partner, like the fact that he's funny and romantic. Let's be real, all the romance in the world can't get you a discounted rate at the Maui Marriott.
How do you track spending?
If you've made it past the casual dating stage of a relationship, you should be comfortable enough to delve deeper into his wallet. Otherwise, his spending habits might come as a nasty surprise later.
When an ex told me he didn't track his spending because he “had a sense of it,” I wanted to shake him. I picked his brain, trying understand his supernatural ability to just know how much he spent without checking.
Your man could be really savvy and use apps like Mint to track spending, but even the old school way of writing expenses down on paper is smarter than just having a "sense."
Do you have any retirement funds, like a 401(k) or an IRA?
This is a simple, yes-no question. If he's strategic, he definitely has one of these.
Preparing for retirement is pretty sexy, in my humble opinion.
What does "being rich” mean to you?
Everyone has a different idea of what wealth means, whether that's having enough money to travel or owning several homes. See where you both stand, and if your goals line up.
Up until you decide to get hitched or move in together, conversations about money are just like those about anything else. They matter when you're getting to know each other, but that's about it. When you make a commitment to someone, however, those matters take on a whole new meaning.
What is your credit score?
I hope both of you know what your credit scores are. If not, feel free to make a romantic night of checking them online.
Credit scores might not seem that important in your early 20s, as you're probably not buying a house. In 10 years time, however, you'll need have a good credit standing in order to invest in property.
Are you in debt?
So important! Marrying someone who has any kind of debt, like student loans and credit card debt, is not ideal. While we should all strive to get married debt-free, that's not always realistic.
Being bogged down by debt affects how much money you can spend on living expenses, since a good chunk of what your partner makes would have to go toward paying it off. Are you ready to sign up for that?
What are your thoughts on prenups?
We can't just pretend that divorce is not a thing.
It's better to discuss how you'd divide up your assets now when you're in love, as opposed to later, when you could potentially hate each other. Don't even get me started on custody of the dog.
Save yourself a big, financial mess during a potential divorce.
Are we doing the joint bank account thing or what?
Discussing how to blend your money is a must. What if money flies out of his pocket within seconds of getting a paycheck? Create a system that works for both of you.
Money shouldn't be frightening for either of you, just new territory to conquer. You'd be surprised at how much a conversation can help.