How soon into a relationship should you disclose your financial condition, if at all? A wealthy woman wrote a letter to the editor of Money Magazine recently to explain that she does not want to let her new boyfriend, a relationship with the potential to get serious, that she has money. She is wondering whether it’s ethical to keep this information from her boyfriend or whether there’s a point at which she should let him know of her wealth.
The magazine’s editors did a good job of answering the question, and I agree with their conclusions. If a relationship becomes serious and marriage is a possibility, there should be no secrets. This particular woman was hurt by a former boyfriend who “used her for her money” once he discovered that it was possible to do so. That should be an immediate signal that this was not the right guy for her, but it should not scare anyone away from being truthful about money in general. You do have to make a judgment call to determine the right time for approaching the subject. It’s probably not appropriate if you’re on the first few dates, but if you’re starting to pick out rings or talk about living together, I don’t see how these decisions can be made without full financial disclosure.
Commenters who left their opinions below the Money Magazine article are divided. Some have very strong opinions in favor of not telling the boyfriend until the last possible minute. Some think they should discuss money as soon as they decide that the relationship is “serious.” But what is “serious?”
My questions are more specific: Should financial disclosure happen only after a couple decides to get married? Would this prevent money and the attitudes about wealth from affecting relationship decisions, or would it create the possibility for unhealthy surprises later? Should financial information, particularly if that information sets you apart from the average joe or jane, remain protected for as long as possible?
My girlfriend, A., reads Consumerism Commentary, so she can find details about almost every penny I earn and spend. I do have a special account set aside which I call “The A. Fund,” included in my savings totals. In order to allow the occasional surprise, I don’t provide her with details about that money. However, if she looks at my monthly reports, she could get a good idea of what I can and cannot afford in general. Not all relationships include someone who posts their finances in public, though.
What would you do or what do you do? Feel free to post a comment anonymously if you’re worried your significant other may read.
Updated January 16, 2010 and originally published April 29, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.