This financial activist’s divorce left her $25,000 in debt — here’s something couples should try to avoid the same thing
It wasn’t until they were together for four years, got married and had kids that Dasha Kennedy realized she wasn’t financially compatible with her husband.
Having worked as an accountant and advisor by default, the financial activist and contributor to wedding planning website The Knot – also known as The Broke Black Girl – had all the right tools to have all the right money conversations. with his partner. But she lacked the confidence to speak for herself.
“I felt confident making financial decisions as an individual, but not as a participant in my marriage,” Kennedy says.
But without their financial values aligned, the marriage fell apart. The divorce left him $25,000 in debt and took him five years to recover financially.
Now she’s pushing couples to test their financial compatibility by having conversations about money early in the relationship, on the first date.
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Why it’s important to have these discussions
A September survey from The Knot found that being secretive about finances or dishonest about how you spend your money is one of the biggest deal breakers in a relationship.
“When we look at the data, we find that not talking about money or money-related issues is one of the biggest causes of divorce,” Kennedy says. “Initiating those conversations as early as possible and trying to get ahead of that curve is very important.”
She says she and her ex rarely talked about money throughout their relationship and always handled their finances separately. While Kennedy was preoccupied with long-term financial goals, her ex usually focused on the present.
For example, once she suggested they buy life insurance to make sure they could still provide for their children just in case. But her ex didn’t see the point in preparing for something that “may not happen.”
“If we had started more financial conversations early on, we probably would have decided early on that we just weren’t financially compatible to be in a relationship, let alone get married.”
after divorceKennedy says her financial responsibilities have doubled while household income has been cut in half – on top of the $25,000 in debt she now had to pay off. She made it work, but it was hard: she downsized her apartment, took public transportation instead of buying a car, and traded in services she couldn’t afford, like child care.
How to talk about money when dating
Kennedy says she doesn’t necessarily encourage people to ask out a potential partner what is their credit score on the very first date. But you can talk about more general topics around money.
What you want to know is how someone views money rather than their habits, which don’t matter as much to you when getting to know someone. She suggests asking for dates on their relationship with money and just see if they are open to having conversations about it.
“In many ways, money has been around since the very beginning,” Kennedy adds. From deciding where to go on your first date, to splitting the bill and tipping, finances can find their way into your love life without you even planning it.
Kennedy adds that many financial habits stem from your experience with money as a child, which could be a great conversation starter — though keep in mind that it can also be a great conversation starter.
Once you’re further into a relationship, you can start asking more serious questions.
“In addition to discussing education, couples should discuss financial goals, financial planning, accepting each other’s financial differences, different fair money management practices, and creating financial limitations,” Kennedy said.
Some people may be eager to discuss money immediately, but others may need a little more time to engage. One of the most important things you can do, Kennedy says, is approach the conversation with empathy and an open mind.
“Give your partner time to introduce themselves,” she advises. “We all come from different backgrounds, different beliefs, we all have different experiences when it comes to money.”
What are the red flags to watch out for?
You can make it work with different monetary philosophies, but some things should be non-negotiable. Kennedy warns you to be wary if your potential partner suddenly needs to borrow money or is constantly hiding important financial details.
These red flags should be especially concerning if they seem to be trying to live beyond their means.
However, Kennedy adds that it is also important to be aware of the current economic climate and its impact on people’s financial situation. Living with parents longer than usual or not owning a car and taking public transportation instead are not necessarily indicators of financial instability.
But if your financial aspirations and behaviors are completely out of sync, you may need to make a phone call and end the relationship.
“It’s critical to know that certain financial goals and habits can be considered deal breakers, which isn’t a problem,” Kennedy says. “You and your partner won’t always agree on everything, but that doesn’t mean you have to conform to values that go against your financial morals.”
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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.