“Avoid pursuing a relationship with someone with a checkered financial history” may be prudent advice, but perhaps a bit narrow. After all, there’s a world of difference between being chronically irresponsible with money and happening to have an imperfect financial track record, especially in today’s challenging economy. Someone with bad credit or less than stellar money habits can definitely learn to do better, especially with good advice and support.
If you’re in a relationship with someone you care about but whose track record with money is less than ideal, there are steps you can take to protect your own financial picture while helping him acquire better habits and re-establish his financial situation.
- DO unpack the underlying influences in his family history or upbringing that may be feeding unhealthy attitudes and habits with money. Start this conversation in a safe moment, not during a crisis, and frame it as nonjudgmental, mutual sharing. The goal is to understand each other’s point of view about money and establish an open channel of communication. A foundation of openness and trust will help make future adjustments feel cooperative, rather than threatening or judgmental.
- DON’T make any financial commitments together while his finances are in bad shape relative to yours. Did you know, even if you marry, your credit scores remain separate? It’s true. Protect yourself by keeping your bank accounts, credit cards, and other accounts separate from his until he has restored his financial picture. Till then, do not co-sign loans or undertake any other financial responsibilities on his behalf. Put off major purchases like a house or a car unless you are comfortable tackling them alone, for now.
- DO help him develop healthy financial habits. It may take a few years for these habits to become second nature, especially if smart money management was not part of his upbringing. Help him acquire good money habits by modeling them for him and practicing them together:
- Pay bills on or before time
- Maintain low balances on credit accounts
- Avoid opening new accounts, unless necessary
- Pay off debt
- Review your credit report once a year to confirm that the information is current and accurate (and forestall identity theft)
Your relationship doesn’t have to compromise your financial health if you take these practical precautions and give yourselves the time you need to get on the right track together. And, the journey may even bring you closer as a couple!
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone whose financial picture or habits were less than perfect? How did you handle it?