The Romance of Finance

02/08/2010 9:12 am EST

Focus: MARKETS

Terry Savage

Author, The Savage Truth on Money

Heads up, guys. Valentine’s Day is next Sunday, and a box of chocolates just won’t do if you’re serious about romance. So, forget the last-minute rush to find an appropriate card. And take a pass on Victoria’s Secret. Think about the things that will really make your romance a lasting one.

I usually don’t give relationship advice, but a new PayPal survey caught my eye. It says that the number-one subject of arguments in relationships is money and finances, with half of the couples surveyed reporting they fight about money at least once a month.

So, could you help your relationship by buying an expensive valentine? That’s doubtful—especially if money is already a sore subject. Instead, here’s a terribly un-romantic suggestion:  How about using this holiday to get your financial issues sorted out? Call it a down payment on domestic tranquility.

As all successful lovers know, the first step is in the presentation. It’s not usually the perfume that makes the impression; it’s the packaging. And that’s why candy in a heart-shaped box draws oohs and ahs. So, how about a small box, elegantly wrapped—with a key inside.

She may think it’s the key to your heart, but you know it’s the key to a calmer discussion of the things you fight about most. (Just google “locked jewelry box” and you’ll find dozens of them in every style.)  You don’t want her (or him) to be disappointed that there aren’t diamonds inside—so some advance warning is necessary.

Here are a couple of things you could stash inside your gift box that would start you on the way to that discussion. You could go to Quicken.com and download the latest personal finance software, set up the links to your individual or joint checking and credit card accounts, and then print out the home page and scribble the password on it. Then offer him or her a glass of wine and head to the computer to do some financial planning.

Or you could go to my Web site, www.TerrySavage.com, and fill out the sign-up box with your name and e-mail address. By return e-mail, you’ll receive a link to my Personal Financial Organizer form. You can print out as many copies as you like for friends and family. But you and your sweetheart can fill them out together, keeping the information handy in case of an emergency—and triggering a discussion of everything from credit card debt to life insurance coverage.

Or you could make the ultimate Valentine’s Day sacrifice. Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com and click on the links to the three major credit bureaus to get a free copy of your credit report.  Will your partner do the same—thus revealing all outstanding debts and other historic financial woes? Sounds frightening, but what kind of romance is it if you can’t talk honestly and openly about money?

If this sounds totally callous, consider this from the PayPal survey:

A third of respondents say they would wait to marry someone until their credit score improved. After all, when you marry someone you not only marry their family and their sexual history; you marry their balance sheet as well. 

This exercise in romantic revelations might be just the excuse you need to put off that wedding or to help your partner make some important changes. The only thing worse than a broken heart is a devastated credit report. 

Do you think a discussion like this will open your partner’s mind—or a can of worms? Please join the conversation and have your say.

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