Banking On Financial Intimacy

Navigating discussions around money while dating is not just about budgets and bank accounts—it's also about building trust and understanding.

The role that finances plays in our life is undeniable, but the role it plays in our relationships—romantic ones to be specific—is often nebulous. For some, money is the currency of trust, the silent arbiter of values, and the unspoken language of intimacy. 

For others, partner cash talk is avoided altogether.  

In the realm of modern relationships, more and more couples are seemingly opting for the former—ensuring financial conversations are prioritized and transparent.

Studies have shed light on divorce rates being linked to inadequate communication about finances within marriages. It’s estimated that financial problems contribute to 20-40% of all divorces. Couples who struggle to address financial concerns, such as budgeting, saving, and spending habits, often face increased stress and conflict. 

Ericka Young, a financial wellness coach who’s been hosting the For Better And Worth podcast alongside her husband of 25 years, has observed firsthand how a lack of effective communication can lead to feelings of resentment and even financial infidelity in marriages. “The challenge here is, how much are people making it a priority,” she says. “Because there is so much at stake if we don’t invest here.”

Timing Is Everything 

But even for those who recognize the importance of financial intimacy, the question of when to discuss money is still a common concern. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, early-stage casual conversations about financial goals, spending habits, and views on saving and investing can be an easy entry point to begin laying the groundwork for healthy financial communication. 

“You can [start by asking] specific questions but it doesn’t have to be, ‘How much money do you make?’it can be something as simple as, ‘How much do you think you spend on eating out every week?” says  Kiersten Saunders, the co-host rich & REGULAR, a podcast she and her husband Julien launched in 2017. “There’s so much about our modern romantic world that includes financial aspects, we just don’t categorize it that way.”

Courtesy of Julien and Kiersten Saunders

The Saunders have made it their mission to redefine conversations about money, using their platform as an advisory money management and investment resource. They focus on practical steps that both individuals and couples can take to improve their financial well-being. 

Reflecting on their journey, the couple acknowledged their initial misalignment in their approach to money after splurging on an early-stage romantic vacation.

“I was in a rush to pay off the vacation, which felt normal to me and she was in a rush to keep the party going,” says Julien. “That led to a conflict, which then led to a breakup.” Wisdom gained, they’d eventually reunite two months later, much more willing to talk out their differences and better understand their respective relationships with money. Later, with a new in-this-together mindset, they’d eliminate a combined $200,000 in debt.  

Debt Dialogue

Navigating debt discussions can serve as a litmus test for mutual support and teamwork. The transparency and openness required to address debt not only fostered trust for RJ and Anjie Muhammad, founders of the platform Rich by Intention, but revealed fundamental aspects of financial responsibility and shared goals. 

“The biggest thing in our relationship at the time was my husband’s relationship with his student loans,” says Anjie. “He had a high student loan payment of over $1,300. That was a huge burden for him at the time.”

The Muhammads took a proactive approach to tackling their debt by educating themselves, together. They read highly regarded investment books and established “money dates” at home to discuss their individual debt and develop plans to pay them off before tying the knot in 2017.

Courtesy of RJ and Anjie Muhammad of Rich by Intention

“We focused on increasing our income and living frugally without changing our lifestyle significantly,” says RJ. 

This intentional approach to managing their finances led to the creation of Rich by Intention, empowering others to attain financial freedom through strategic wealth-building practices.

Money Is Emotional—Handle With Care 

People are often raised with different attitudes and approaches to money. Some may have grown up in households where money was openly discussed and managed collaboratively, while others may have experienced financial secrecy or instability. Diverse money upbringings do ultimately shape our financial behaviors and attitudes as adults.

Recognizing and valuing these differences are essential aspects of financial intimacy, as highlighted by financial therapist Aja Evans. 

“Money is emotional because all of our personal histories, our baggage, and our beliefs around money stem from childhood,” she says. “When you’re a couple, one person might do it one way based on how they were taught or brought up, and that can create a level of friction.”

Given the emotional weight of discussing finances, it’s important to be mindful. Approach these conversations with honesty and active listening. Careful consideration of each other’s perspectives and emotions can lessen anxiety, strengthen bonds, and set the foundation for setting financial goals together.


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