Approaching the subject of debt is hard at the best of times, especially when you are entering a relationship that seems to be getting serious. And we get it, discussing money with your partner can get a bit awkward and uncomfortable especially if one of you is carrying a hefty credit card debt (or any type of debt). Having debt isn’t something to be ashamed of, however, it is something that you want to be talking about with your partner once you have decided you would like to explore the future together.
It is extremely common that people have credit card debt or other types of debt, and if you feel like this is something you want to hide from everyone here are some stats we found to show you that you are not alone (but maybe you should be considering getting rid of that debt?). More than 1.9 million Australians are struggling with credit card debt and as a nation we owe more than $45bn (yes, BILLION) on credit cards. This suggests that more and more of us are borrowing money and with the high interests, this money is costing all Australians a lot of money.
Debt can take its toll on your mental and physical health but having your partner’s support can make things feel simpler and even take a load off your shoulders.
Before you start to think about scrabbling your DNA or buying a house together, it’s important to be honest and make sure you both know where you both stand financially. This way, you both walk into the relationship with open eyes and (hopefully) a plan of action! We can assure you, once you and your partner have “The Talk” you will feel like you leave things that are not important behind you and focus on what you both want.
Good judgment is your friend! so only disclose this information when you feel comfortable, you don’t need to roll out your full financial history on the first date but it’s important that you open up as things progress.
How should I approach this topic with my partner?
We have found that starting with our dreams/goals is a great start to the conversation, talk about things like, what would you like to achieve in the next couple of years? What are the things in your bucket list that you would like to tackle first and what is the timeframe you have for this? Or even start with things like, what do you think are good money practices? What did you learn from your parents about money? What would you like to keep and what do you think is bad practice? This would ideally, open up a conversation to a more meaningful conversation. Not all conversations about money have to be about how much you have or how much you don’t! You want to know your partner’s money values align with yours!
If you do have some serious debt that would like to bring up and are a bit anxious about it, we share some tips that our Chief Evangelist, Pete, swears by:
- Prepare – write everything down, particularly if the idea of telling your partner makes you nervous or anxious
- Plan – find a time where you have no plans for the rest of the day to allow you enough room to discuss in real detail, without any interruptions.
- Calm – talk to your partner in a calm, controlled way. Practice a few times and ensure you have answers to any questions they may have.
- Honesty – state the facts and be sure to reveal everything. Complete honesty is very important during this conversation.
- Bring your statements – Offer to show them evidence of your debts and also what you are doing to fix the problem.
- A learning moment – finally reinforce you have made mistakes in the past (we all have) and how you have learned from them and are a better person for going through the experience.
The best thing would be to tell your partner what the conversation will be about so that they can also bring along any information they would like to disclose. Approach this like you would approach a business meeting in an appropriate space and time; talking money with your partner shows you respect the relationship and your commitment to it so don’t be afraid to bring “bad news” to the table… remember, you are a team.
Let’s have that talk, “Do you have any debts I should know about?” - Yes
If any of you happen to have any debt, maybe it’s worth asking these questions:
- What made you get this debt in the first place?
- How much debt remains outstanding?
- Are you being chased by creditors and if legal action is being taken against you?
- Do you have a plan to tackle this debt?
- Has this impacted your credit score?
If you come into the conversation with all of this information, including documents or letters you might have received, it would be much easier to understand where you stand and come up with a plan to tackle this together or maybe just to understand the situation. Be as honest as you possibly can; honesty never killed anyone, but hidden debt has come close!
It’d be great if you had a plan on how to get rid of this debt so you could share it with your partner, if not, maybe both of you can think of a way to help you get rid of it. Remember, your debt is still your responsibility but sharing this information with your partner doesn’t mean they can’t help you. You could even ask them what they would do in your situation, they may be able to offer a new approach that you hadn’t thought of before.
Will there be any emotional aftermath?
“The Debt Talk” is a daunting topic for most of us, and no one like to admit they’ve lived a life they couldn’t afford! But if you trust your partner you know that bringing this topic to the table early on will save you, as a couple, many headaches in the future.
Remember, this conversation might touch on some sensitive points for both of you so be patient, loving and understanding of each other’s points.
Talking to your partner about your debt can only increase the amount of trust between you in the future and will make your relationship stronger.