Beware of marrying debt

SPEND WISELY: Talking about money with your better half will ensure you avoid  debt trap photo: istock
SPEND WISELY: Talking about money with your better half will ensure you avoid debt trap photo: istock

Neglect discussing money issues with your significant other and you might end up marrying debt and having a partnership made in hell, ruined by money woes.

For a change, quit talking about how both your exes mistreated you because that is water under the bridge and those conversations ain't going to help you with your current relationship.

The history you will likely want is what your partner's parents taught them about money.

For instance, if they grew up with no money, they may have an inordinate fear of never having enough.

On the other side, if their parents always forked out cash when they needed anything, your partner may not have learned how to delay their gratification.

Knowing what shaped your partner's views can help you compare your experiences to theirs and see where your differences about money may lie. Some people tend to assume that everyone else will deal with money in the same way they do, and they don't think that the fact that money, or the lack thereof, can carry huge emotional ties as well.

Having different money personalities isn't an insurmountable problem but be aware that it is hard to change behaviours and thus you should know what you're about to get yourself into.

So on your next date, here is something you can do. It is best to casually discuss their childhood and upbringing and ask them veiled questions in a typical "get-to-know-you" fashion about money.

For example, you could ask them what their after-school job was, whether parents helped pay for college, or how often they went on family vacations.

These questions can help to give you clue into their values about money in the way they were raised.

Those values will be some of the biggest influences on their money personality - whether they are savers or spenders, worry constantly about money, are stingy or financial optimists.

Good news is that money personality isn't necessarily set in stone.

Bad news is that it may also mean your partner has some deeply ingrained money habits that could be hard to break.

It's good to know all this if you are to become partners for life. Debt, for instance, can be a source of unhappiness in the realm of dating. It ranks high on the list of important money conversations to have if you are thinking of taking a major next step together. Imagine not talking about debt only to find out after tying the knot that your other half has a huge debt, which is now no longer is their problem alone but yours.

I have seen people who made assumptions about their partners' spending and then a couple of years later, they were horrified at how this person was running up debt. You don't want to be in for a shock later.

So a little discomfort when dating can go a long way to saving your long-term relationship. Remember though that debt is not uncommon.

What is important is how future partners choose to manage it. There is a difference between someone who has R50000 credit card debt and has no plan on how to pay it off as they accumulate more debt, versus someone who has a R30000 student loan debt who is hoping to get work and pay it off.

So, on your next date look for cues that your date may have in spending habits that could be conducive to running up debt.

If they have a tendency to pull out a credit card for every single purchase or their lifestyle does not match their income, you have something to worry about.

Follow this counsel and you will be on your way to a greater partnership and a great future together.