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Debt: Talk Finances in a New Relationship

When is the ideal time to talk finances in a new relationship? How long should you wait?

Would you dump your girlfriend if you found out she had $80,000 in debt, asked

What if it was student-loan debt? That’s what happened to this guy.

Or…what if you found out it was credit-card debt? How does that change things?

My guy friends and I talked about this. Most of them agreed — finding out someone we’re dating had $80K in debt would be a red flag, but if it was for student loans, that would be one thing. If it was CC debt for frivolous purchases, that’s an entirely different thing.

This simple question is a lot more complicated than it looks:

How does it change if you’re a woman and it’s the man who has the $80K in debt?
It’s easy to say you would walk away from someone who’s run up tens of thousands of dollars of debt, but by the time you find this out, aren’t you already in love? Are you putting a price on love?

Not surprisingly, the typical personal-finance “expert” has a pre-prepared piece of advice handy: “Always talk to your partner about their finances! You don’t want to be surprised!”

Uh, yeah, that’s a nice theory, but most people don’t talk to their partners about money for months, if not years.

So now you have a Catch-22: If you talk about money too early, you come across as a weirdo/gold-digger/controlling freak.

If you wait too long, you’re already embroiled in the relationship. How are you going to walk away from the love of your life if you find out he has $40K of CC debt? It’s easier to rationalize that “we’ll try harder” and “things will get better” than to pack up and walk away. That’s human nature.

So, what would you do?


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