dating


I think I just hit pay dirt…the reason I’ve had such trouble talking money with My Man.  It happened last night.

I’ve been an avid journal writer since the 5th grade. Every once in a while, I’ll go to the big cardboard box that holds my old journals and randomly pick one to read.

Last night, I selected a green spiral Mead notebook. It was from 1993… a very painful period when I was struggling with money…not long after the government told me I owed them over a million dollars (for back taxes my ex didn’t pay, for illegal deals he got us in).

As I read what I wrote on February 7, 1993, my jaw dropped:

I think I just made a discovery. Why I have money problems. Watched a video with Susan [a girlfriend]. A woman comes on who says she’s having trouble with finances because she’s afraid people would be jealous if she had too much.

“Susan looked at me. “Can you relate to that,” she asked?

“Could I!!! I instantly felt the shame and secrecy of having money growing up, of being different from everyone else…and the almost pride I now feel when I talk about all my money problems. I can see how my need to be like others, to be accepted, has me sabotaging my success.”

I’ll be damned! The same discovery…16 years later! I had forgotten how self conscious I was, as a kid, about being rich. Sure there were advantages to living in a big house, having a famous father. But, at the same time, I was embarrassed.  I never felt like I fit in. I was never quite sure if people liked me for me, or because of my family. I was always trying so hard to be just like everyone else. If I’d ever told anyone how I felt, which I rarely did, they’d always say: “Gee, I wish I had your problem!”

No wonder I was so scared to reveal myself to My Man. It suddenly made sense. In fact, writing this now, it seems downright obvious. I’m afraid of being different from him…of not being accepted.

Isn’t it astounding, how unconscious, irrational fears like these take hold with such an irrepressible force, it feels like we’re going against gravity?

So, here’s my current question: Now that I’m enlightened, will the conversation be easier? I’ll definitely let you know!

Barbara Stanny

The leading authority on women & money
barbara@barbarastanny.com
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I sent him my blog the moment it was posted… the one about  sharing our financial statements before he moves in.  I made him read it while still on the phone.  I was nervous for his reaction.  After all, I was  putting him, and our relationship,  in the (kind of) public eye.  His response was typical of a man with high self esteem.

“This is great,” he said and meant it.

“So,“ I said taking a deep breath, “Do you want to have The Talk?”

“Sure,” he replied without hesitation. “Let’s do it this weekend.”

Two weekends later, we still haven’t “Talked.”  My Man and I are extremely close.  We discuss everything, unabashedly.  Yet when it comes to money, we keep tip-toeing around the topic.

What we’ve done is have a tepid conversation sprinkled with some tiny revelations.  I threw out a vague number about how much I’m worth.  He did the same.  I mentioned something about diversifying my assets, but being heavy in cash.  He, in turn, shared his disciplined approach to making retirement contributions.   He even said he’s looking forward to seeing how I’ve invested.  But we’ve both been reluctant to reveal specifics.  I consider the conversation we had a good starter step.  But why haven’t we ‘gone all the way?’

Truthfully,  I’m mystified by my avoidance.  All I have to do is take my latest financial statement out of the folder, hand it to him, and say “Here it is.  Let’s talk,” and there’s no doubt in my mind, he’d do the same, in a heartbeat.  But I haven’t.

Reminds me of the letter to Ann Landers from a woman who wanted to ask her boyfriend to help pay for her birth control, but didn’t feel she knew him well enough to ask!

I laughed when I first read that.  Sure, it’s scary for most people  to talk money.  But I never put myself in that category!!!  I mean,  for the last 12 years I’ve been writing about money, consistently telling women:  “It’s our secrecy and silence that keeps us stuck.”

Now, here I am, doing the secrecy-and-silence-thing… and I’m truly shocked. Is it because he’s so resistant?  Or is that my projection?  Does our mutual reluctance come from our disparity in income?  Or is there a lot of old baggage weighing each of us down?

I think it’s time to walk my talk!  Stay tuned.  As always, your insight and advice is welcomed.

Barbara Stanny

The leading authority on women & money
barbara@barbarastanny.com
www.barbarastanny.com

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It’s been several weeks since I asked for advice on the ‘right’ time to  share financial statements with my boyfriend.  Well you gave it to me!!  And as a result, I had three big “Aha’s.

  • 1st Aha:  Clearly this subject touched a nerve.  I was astounded by how many of you responded— by email, on my site,  and in Facebook.
  • 2nd Aha:  I’m still amazed at my reticence.  I  sent my boyfriend the blog, which stimulated an interesting discussion… but we have yet to “go all the way” (by sharing our statements).
  • 3rd Aha:  I’m noticing how easy (and apropos) it is to use sexual metaphors when describing money discussions between couples.   Hmmmmm… perhaps the subject for another blog?

As for your responses…

First, deep thanks to all who replied!! It was beyond fabulous to realize how many of you could relate to my dilemma.

What I found most fascinating, however, was the vast range of comments. They were all across the board— from one extreme; (“Say nothing!” and “It’s not his concern”), to the other; (“Never hold back anything” and “If you can’t come from a place of profound honesty, you’re not ready to make the commitment”).   Several of you suggested drawing up an agreement with our respective lawyers, kind of like a prenuptial for live-ins.  And quite a few of you remarked that the conversation about sharing expenses was far more important than sharing financial statements.

Without a doubt, the overwhelming majority were in the “full disclosure” camp, warning me that intimacy requires openness.

My favorite came from author Manisha Thakor, whose new book (due out this December) is aptly titled: Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey. You gotta’ love that title!!!  And it’s hard to argue with her premise.

“If you’re willing to take your clothes off together one way,” Manisha wrote, “you should be prepared to take them off financially speaking as well.”  (This gives a lot of credence to my 3rd aha!)

Her advice:  “Go for it.  Do the thing that these days is even more intimate than sex — talk about money together.  Get the pink elephant of money out into the center of the room and demystify it.  Otherwise, like termites eating away at the foundation of your relationship, little nagging doubts or questions about each others finances could end up destroying what is currently a beautiful home life.”

I agree with every word she says.  Yet, I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t open up and spill the whole can of beans to my boyfriend.   Nor could he.  But we did take a few baby steps… and I’ll share some of them with you in my next post.

Maybe, by then, I’ll figure out why neither of us were willing to “go all the way” yet.

Barbara Stanny

The leading authority on women & money
barbara@barbarastanny.com
www.barbarastanny.com

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I feel like I’m entering new territory here.  I’m usually the one answering your questions.  But now, I really need YOUR advice.  I sincerely mean that.  I’ve got a dilemma… and I’m not sure what to do, if anything.

As I vowed last month (http://barbarastannyblog.com/2009/07/17/the-retreat-to-), I am using this blog to be more authentic, especially around money.  So here I am… revealing myself and requesting your help.

Here’s the situation.  I’ve been dating My Man for a year and a half.  We’re talking about moving in together.   He’s definitely the love of my life, the person I want to grow old with, perfect for me in so many ways.  We don’t want to get married.  I’ve already done that twice (he, once), and we see no reason to do it again.

Here’s where I’m struggling.  At what point do I have “THE TALK” with my  boyfriend? Or do I even need to?

I’m referring to The Money Talk.  You know, that point where I show him mine and he shows me his… networth, that is.

My income is decidedly more than his… which makes sense since he was laid off earlier this year and is starting a whole new career.  While he’s never been a good saver, he’s a very frugal spender and quite responsible financially, with no credit card debt.  Neither one of us have a problem with the fact that I have more money.  But neither of us knows how much the other one has.

If we were getting married, it’d be a no-brainer.  We’d be baring our bank statements before we ever traded “I-Do’s. ”  But does co-habitating, when there’s no co-mingling of money, require the same financial transparency?  I figure, if I’m wrestling with this, others must be also.

Talk to me people… this is a tough one for me.  I need your feedback!

Barbara Stanny

The leading authority on women & money
barbara@barbarastanny.com
www.barbarastanny.com

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credit cardListen up, all you single gals looking for a rich guy. I have a word of warning for you. Beware the Big Spender. He might be a Kook.

What’s a Kook, you ask? “Someone you shouldn’t date,” explains Adryenn Ashley, who wrote the book on Kookiness, Spotting the Kooks.

Adryenn knows what she’s talking about. She’s a forensic accountant and certified divorce financial analyst who’s witnessed too many marriages go awry. “I saw a lot of people who got married and shouldn’t. I wanted to get to them early before they fell in love with the wrong guy.”

The Big Spender is often that “wrong guy.” He’ll woo you with expensive gifts, lavish meals, exotic vacations. Problem is, says Adryenn, Big Spenders, as seductive as they are, can often be heartbreaks waiting to happen. To him, you’re simply another possession. He values money far more than intimacy. When he does something wrong, his first response may be to give you a string of pearls. But don’t expect a heartfelt discussion or a genuine apology. Five years down the road, he probably still won’t know your favorite color or remember your birthday. And if one day you leave, he likely won’t even notice.

Sure, I may be stereotyping. But ever since my conversation with Adryenn, I think it’s a potential problem worth pointing out. Especially since I know the Prince Charming syndrome is alive and well.

“It’s so easy to get blind-sighted by bling,” Adryenn told me. So what do you do if you’ve got a big rock on your left ring finger, given to you by your beloved Big Spender? Take precautions, Adryenn urges. Get an “airtight prenup.” Or better yet, consider one of her workshops: A Man and A Plan. The workshop sound fabulous…even if you aren’t engaged to a Kook. She guides you and your man through those difficult financial discussions so they become collaborative, not adversarial. Then she has you both writing a prenup that’s based on your marriage vows (not your worst fears). How cool is that?

Spotting the Kooks won’t be out until July, but you can learn more about her workshops or other offerings at http://www.everygirlsguides.com