Now that you’ve found love, who’s protecting your money?
When it comes to romantic relationships, we too often equate this question with the buzz-killing effects of a cold shower, robbing love of the intoxicating high that makes the ride worthwhile. We make some of our most damaging money decisions because we mistakenly think love makes it OK to dismiss the rules and realities of managing our finances. Bottom line: It’s not.
Many people are surprised to learn that the longest chapter of my book with my wife and business partner Zara D. Green, Loving In The Grown Zone: A No-Nonsense Guide to Making Healthy Decisions in the Quest for Loving, Romantic Relationships of Honor, Esteem, and Respect (Balboa Press), focuses on what’s at stake when financial decisions are influenced by our feelings in romantic relationships. That’s because the financial consequences of a poor relationship are both considerable and measurable. For example, the cost of a single failed marriage cycle—from engagement through divorce—routinely exceeds $100,000—and much more for senior-level corporate executives, pro athletes, successful entrepreneurs, and other high net worth individuals.
No matter how caught up you are in the throes of romance, protecting your money is your responsibility. Neglect it at your own peril. Here are four money moves you should never make for love.
Never assume that you can love anyone into changing their financial habits.
The object of your affection may seem perfect for you—the person of your dreams. Except for the way he handles money. No matter how strong your feelings are for one another, your love will not cure a person of shopping addiction, or make him stop abusing credit cards and pay his bills on time. A person who is not financially responsible will not miraculously become trustworthy and fiscally responsible because you fell in love. Nor can you force them to adopt your financial values, priorities, and goals.
You may be able to work together to seek help to deal with money issues, but a person can only change their financial habits for himself, not to please you or just to keep a relationship going. Protecting your money requires you to see people as they are, not how you wish them to be, and operate accordingly.
Never make financial commitments before sharing financial histories.
Romance equals intimacy, and for many, that includes our finances. Examples of financial intimacy include commingling funds and making joint financial commitments such as co-signing on an apartment lease. However, getting involved with anyone who lies or is secretive about her financial health and habits is an open invitation to conflict and disaster, no matter how strong your feelings for each other.
Look at it this way: Commingling your finances without knowing one another’s financial histories is like having unprotected sex without knowing one another’s HIV status. And the consequences can be just as devastating. If you are serious about protecting your money, just don’t do it.
Is your new sweetheart looking to be a partner—or an adult dependent?
Does he expect you to pay his bills, finance his lifestyle, be a ready source of cash and provide access to your credit cards as proof of your love? From a financial standpoint, he may really be looking for a parent or savior, not a romantic partner.
Are you prepared to be responsible for an adult dependent? Who handled his expenses before you came along? Be wary of getting emotionally involved with a person unwilling, disinterested, or not yet capable of providing for himself. For the sake of your finances, resist the temptation to financially support adult dependents in return for their affections.
Never forget the No. 1 rule of love and money: Protect yourself at all times.
That’s right, the most important rule applies in romance and finance just as it does in boxing. Do not let your natural desire to give and receive affection cause you to drop your guard and neglect your responsibility to protect your finances.
Maintaining your budget is your responsibility. And only you can say “No” to people who want to spend your money for you. That does not change because you feel love for them. If you don’t have an agenda for your money, your finances will fall prey to the agendas of others.
To put a twist on the Tina Turner classic “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” it’s your job to always ask what’s money got to do with it? when it comes to relationship choices that put your financial health at risk.
Black Enterprise Executive Editor-At-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert, personal growth/relationship coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a multimedia initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr.