Without hiring a private investigator to track down your boyfriend’s every move, you should have a general idea as to whom you’re dating–including knowing the basics of his personal finances, too. Even before a relationship gets extremely serious, it’s your prerogative to know what you’re getting yourself into. When you need to know–and how much–is up to you, but periodically asking your boyfriend a few financially-related questions is completely in your realm of girlfriend rights. Depending on your personal list of relationship deal-breakers, you may want to know a lot now or you may be inclined to let the conversation flow more gradually over time. Either way, you should address your financial concerns as they come up, being sensitive to your boyfriend’s preferences but satisfying your own needs to know.
1. What’s Your Income Like Now? It’s a basic question with far-reaching consequences. If your man stays at home playing World of Warcraft every second he’s not with you, he may not be the one regardless of his views on money. Even early on into a relationship, you are entitled to know at least the basics of where your boyfriend works, about how many hours he’s on the clock and if his compensations are salary- or hourly-based. Besides it telling of his personality and interests, knowing your man’s current work situation can help you understand if he’s on the right financial road in life. If you’re looking into a long-term relationship, you’ll likely want to know–even if he’s gotten himself into trouble in the past–is he actively working on developing a solid future today. Does he make more than he pays out and what does he do with discretionary income? The fact that he gives you candy and roses every day may seem nice now, but how he pays for them and what he should be using that money on instead might pique your interest later.
2. What’s Your History with Money? You don’t need to know like a creepy stalker every place he’s ever worked at, but does he have a track record of being employed? Even if your sweetheart seems to be in a good place now, are you seeing an indicative screenshot of his life or the one stretch he’s ever kept a job–and ever will keep a job–longer than six months. If he went to college, how did he pay for it? Does he have outstanding student loans? And, does he have commercial debt? Does he buy on credit even now? Has he ever declared bankruptcy? Just because he has debt doesn’t mean you need to throw him to the curb, but why he’s in debt and how he’s dealing with it are two questions you should understand as you become a more serious girlfriend.
3. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years? If you don’t see yourself with the guy in five years, you can skip asking him where he sees himself financially in that time-frame–especially if you’re about ready to break up with him and you suspect he’s already planning what holidays your kids’ kids will stay at grandma and grandpa’s house. But, if you can see yourself possibly together, ask him what his game plan is. When will he pay off his debts and start saving for retirement? Does he want to own his own house or is he forever content with his bachelor-pad of an apartment? Can he see himself financially stable and settled, and–more importantly–can you see him that way?
4. What Do You Financially Expect of a Wife? As the relationship gets more serious, you obviously have more at stake. Before becoming his fiancée, you should know what he thinks of a married couple’s finances. Does he expect you to work and pay half of everything? Will his money be his and your money yours? Or, will you stay at home relying on his sole income to provide for the family? Different approaches work for different couples, but knowing if you and your boyfriend are on the same page is important when preparing for the future. Don’t forget: kids learn bad money habits from their parents. What legacy is he going to pass on?
Read more from Elizabeth Valentine:
Using Ratios to Test Personal Financial Health: How Financially Healthy Are You?
Setting Financial Goals for the New Year: Where to Start, What to Include & How to Maintain Them
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