Do You Openly Discuss Finances in Your Relationship?

Sexually Transmitted Debt can be avoided with a bit of planning. Don’t dive in without knowing whether your partner might be gambling away the mortgage money.

Paris Hilton seems to have it all worked out.The millionaire hotel heiress with the chihuahua in her handbag has fame, fortune and a movie career that’s been critically acclaimed by practically every teenage boy on the planet.

Yet just like our Aussie text-spinning sensation Shane Warne, Paris has more than her fair share of relationship problems.

Common sense isn’t so common

It’s obvious why these two run into trouble isn’t it? Their problems can be solved with a dose of common sense: Paris, stop being a tart, and Shane, put down that phone and pull up your pants.

Why don’t we apply that same common sense to our own love lives? In the rush to cohabit many pay the price for ignoring the financial pitfalls that a new union can bring. According to Relationships Australia, money problems are one of the biggest factors affecting couples today.

Truth before toothbrushes

Therefore, discussing your financial affairs before sharing toothbrushes may avert heartache. In the words of Doctor Phil, it’s time for some “tough talk”.

Being truthful with your partner about how much money you earn is the first step. The size of your pay packet determines a range of things, like your ability to pay bills before being threatened with disconnection, so make sure that your shared bills are in joint names.

Talking openly about your partner’s attitude to financial risk taking and gambling will give you a better understanding of their financial makeup, while checking their ‘history’ may prevent you ending up with an STD – financial lingo for Sexually Transmitted Debt.

Joint credit or acting as guarantor for your partner can spell danger. If things go bad the bank won’t take sides, it has the legal right to chase both of you for repayment. Remember, there’s no ointment than can cure a bad case of financial mismanagement.

Window to the financial soul

Another potential minefield is the ability of your partner to stick to a budget – buying a slab instead of a six-pack may be savvy saving but it’s not exactly clipping coupons.

Analysing your partner’s spending patterns can be like looking into a window to their financial soul. Hollywood couple Tom ‘I’ve lost my marbles’ Cruise and Katie Holmes provide a handy illustration of this point.

Tom’s a wealthy guy, and while I’m sure he throws in more than a fiver as the plate is passed around at each Scientology sitting, he’d still have a bit more tucked away than young Katie. Tom’s lawyers would well understand that ‘I love you’ can quickly turn to ‘I hate you and I’m taking your car and your investment portfolio’ when a relationship sours. For this reason I’m sure they’ll be running over the fine print before these two walk down the aisle.

Sorting the paperwork

Pre-nuptials and their defacto equivalent, cohabitation agreements, have had plenty of attention of late thanks to Anna-Nicole Smith, the tacky Texan who rolled a 90-year-old wheelchair-bound oil millionaire out of his fortune. Her motto was ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue oh, and something in writing too’.

These agreements are primarily used to protect the assets each partner brings into a relationship by way of a binding agreement. As in guy meets girl – girl has a three-bedroom apartment. Think of these agreements as a damage-control device should one starry-eyed lover forget their wedding vows after the cake has been cut. Depending on your circumstances these agreements can cost around $300. Ensure it is signed by both parties, witnessed by a solicitor and is versatile enough to be changed if your circumstances change.

Understandably, many couples baulk at the prospect of having a lawyer as part of their bridal party and find that the best agreement comes from ensuring that both partners share the same financial goals and, more importantly, are willing to work together to achieve them.

Not all of us are superstars – nor do we have their bank balances. Taking the time to openly discuss these financial issues may well ensure that your relationship isn’t jeopardised by the realities of living and loving. Money comes and goes, but it’s our relationships that are the most important asset to protect.

Tread your own path!