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Would You Tell Your Boyfriend You’re Rich?

This article was written by in Family and Life. 23 comments.


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.

wedding ringCommenters 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.

Image source: prozacblues
[Money Magazine: I don’t want to tell my boyfriend I’m loaded]

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.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Mrs. Micah

I would ask why she doesn’t want to tell him. That might give her a clue as to her own feelings. Once she straightens out the roots of her desire for secrecy (is she worried about him wanting a sugar mama? is she afraid it’ll emasculate him? is she worried he’ll want control of it?) then she should have a better idea about when to tell him and she may end up with a better understanding of how she feels about the relationship. I can see not wanting to get into the details at first, but within 6 months of dating, I had a general idea of Micah’s student loans.

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avatar JN

By personal experiance you start out with its your money and along the way it becomes our money and its fine if he is great but not if he starts spending it and not contributing his fair share then you have a lazy cheap problem. Enjoy the money on both of yourself and both of you mostly there you won’t feel cheated in the end.

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avatar MillionDollarJourney

As mentioned in the article, once the relationship gets serious, financial compatibility is just as important as any other aspect in a relationship. What I would suggest to the rich girl is to see how the relationship develops without the money. If it turns into something special, then she’ll know that the bf isn’t a gold digger. When she does break the news, i’m sure the BF will welcome the “surprise”, I know I would. :)

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avatar TheMightyQuinn

Tell after the engagement but well before the wedding. You want to make sure he’s with you because of you not money. Once you’re decided to get married, tell him and see how it affects him. If he’s a good person it won’t change how he feels. If he starts salivating at the prospects of blowing your loot, then he’s not marriage material.

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avatar plonkee

So, definitely before you move in with someone. They should also probably have a reasonable idea once you’ve decided it’s really quite serious. That doesn’t need to mean specifics, more like the level of precariousness of your finances, and any major plans you have.

Someone can’t use your money if you don’t let them.

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avatar Yana

I really like this page regarding the Tao of Perceived Poverty – not only to help oneself manage finances, but to gain by the mistaken notions of others. Or at least not lose/be taken to the cleaners.

I would never want to be loved or desired based on my financial position. Fortunately (!), when I met the love of my life, I was very poor and he was even more poor than I. Neither of us has to wonder what the other is in it for. On the other hand, while we are now great business partners in the best sense of the term, I recall when I was unattached being scrutinized by potential partners as to whether I’d make a good business partner. And in that case, it was not in a good sense of the term. These men looked at me in order to determine whether I would be a good partner in their personal quest for financial fulfillment. That can be a good or bad thing, and in the cases I recall, it was a bad thing. I do think it wise for a person having the goal of financial success not to ruin it by getting together with someone who would threaten that, but seeking a relationship with someone based on their earning/career/inheritance power is a different matter.

No, I wouldn’t tell my boyfriend if I were rich, and I would take care not to imply it in general. The right partner would not only focus on the right things, but had better have enough brains to learn a great deal about the person he/she is getting involved with. Financial attitudes reveal themselves soon enough, and they are far more important than the financial specifics in a relationship.

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avatar Stephanie PTY

Ahhh… the benefits of dating in college. Everyone’s pretty much broke, and the people who are being subsidized by parents stick out like a sore thumb.

I think financial disclosure in the early stages of a relationship doesn’t have to be about numbers – it should be about values. They should be trying to figure out if they share the same ideas about saving, spending, retirement, and a lot of other topics before getting into the hard numbers of what they already have. That can come sometime around an engagement or when people move in together.

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avatar James

Okay. This posting vexes me.

The fact that its even a question is a problem in my mind. If you want to have a real long term open healthy relationship with someone, you have to be honest with them. That means you should openly discuss money – even on the first date. To do otherwise sets a bad precedent.

But wait, you might say, what if the person you are dating just wants to be with you for your money. Well, I think its reasonable to expect that the average joe or jane can figure out if this is the case.

Best,

James

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avatar Amanda

It bugs me how taboo it is to talk about money. I wish my parents would have discussed their finances a little more with me when I was younger. I feel like I would have a better grasp of how much big ticket items cost and how far a salary will go.

I am getting married soon and my fiancee and I are completely straight forward with our finances. (And we have been long before the marriage proposal.) We both have access to each other’s accounts and statements. We both make decent money so there was no income disparity to worry about. I can see the hesitation to disclose a large income with potential suitors, but a serious relationship demands openness. Especially with finances.

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avatar Rachel

When I first dated my husband he didn’t tell me that he had money. He was obviously middle class but didn’t talk about money. I guessed he was probably well off as he had a good job and we discussed out financial situations on our third date.

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avatar John

I think it would be very unusual for someone not to leave tell tale signs. Wealth shows in where you live, the stuff you have, and topics you choose for conversation.

Even if you’re not flaunting it an observant boy friend will look around and start to ask questions. You can demure on the 2nd or 3rd date but if it continues you’ll quickly have trust issues.

Spill early and risk some financial exposure. If you don’t like the way it’s going and can’t come to a mutual understanding then throw the bum out.

It’s better to know sooner than later and a lot cheaper too.

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avatar Antonio De La Vega

There were a number of great points raised. First, I do see keeping wealth secret so as not to be exploited. I agree that a good time would be following the engagement but before the wedding.

Second, I also agree that we, as a culture, seem uncomfortable with discussing money. I, also, think that we don’t do enough to educate ourselves to make our money work for us.

In the end, wealth would have to eventually be discussed. If not, I could totally understand the mate feeling hurt and as if the wealthy person didn’t trust them enough to divulge.

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avatar Meg

For the record, it gets “serious” when you start planning a future together. Talking about living together, starting (or blending) a family, marriage, etc. If your financial strength (or weakness) is going to have a serious impact on those plans, you must divulge them.

And consider the flipside: when is it ethical to divulge that you are tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars in debt, that you have terrible credit, that you have an extremelly negative net worth?

If both people are older and have had families and careers behind them, for instance, I don’t think having a lot of money – or not – is really a major relationship issue. But if a 23 year old happens to have a $5MM trust fund, how can she honestly plan a future with someone without divulging that?

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avatar Margo

My stepsister inherited a decent bit of property and $ when her father passed away. Her investments did well, too. She and her now-husband dated several years before he found out she had somewhere in the 200-500K range in assets. (She’s the lowest-maintenance female I know, so it wasn’t detectable). She finally told him when she bought a car. He commented “ouch, the payment must hurt” and she finally laid it out for him.

Had she told him any sooner, it probably would have freaked him out. Big differences in income OR assets are hard to get over. It wouldn’t be easy for her to talk about either – for years, she wouldn’t spend her dad’s money because it was like losing her dad all over again.

I wouldn’t have had that chat until a couple years into the relationship, either, at 18 (she’s now 25).

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avatar Mike

Tell him when he asks why he’s signing a pre-nup.

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avatar Tim

I’m in the shouldn’t really give a rats patunia category in telling your bf/gf if you have money or not from the beginning. why wait until you are quote serious unquote? i know this is a shock to many people, but people act funny around money, so why invest (money theme here) so much time and energy into a relationship hiding the big dirty money secret, with the possibility of setting yourself up for a let down if the bf/gf ends up being funny about money (there is probably some copyright thing about “funny about money” since the phrase was used on Sex In the City)? so there you are, successfully hiding your dirty money secret, you fall in love with what you perceive as the “real” guy or gal, because he/she doesn’t know about your dirty money secret, then you finally tell him/her about the dirty money secret, he/she acts differently b/c of all your money. wouldn’t you rather find out how the person acts around you knowing they know you have money, rather than blowing your investment of time and energy to find out later? ok, i’m being redundant.

bottom line: people are funny about money. bite the bullet up front (well, maybe wait until you are going steady) and you will see the person’s true colors about money. of course, there is still the risk that the person is good at hiding intentions, but if you have substantial resources, then you ought to prenup and that should be clear up front too. if person is funny about prenup, then move on. after all, you worked hard (yes, even trust fund kids) for the money, so protect it in case the person ends up being a terd. you managed risk in your investments, so why wouldn’t you manage risk in a marriage? ok, now i’ve rally gone beyond the original post topic, but fairy tales do have a story after “the end”…

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avatar Del

I can tell if a woman has money, long before she admits it. On her dating site, she will have a pro photo, she can’t help but brag about being “a successful business woman”. When we go on the first date, she drives up in an Esclade, BMW or Mercedes. She wears diamonds, she spends more money on dog grooming than most spend on themselves, she has a housekeeper, a gardner, and then to your surprise, she goes ahead and picks up the check when you take her out for her birthday.
Having money is hard to hide, so women need to approach it as if the man already knows. A deal breaker would be if the man asks for money from his lady. A decent man would rather go hungry than ask his lady for a dime. And even a decent man would struggle with accepting help, even if it was offered and even if he sorely needed the assistance.
Money issues will arise, but in the strangest ways.

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avatar Joe O'Brien

If the gal’s unattractive she must keep her wealth a secret until the guy’s on the hook – otherwise, it’s very likely her money is the lure. And, face it, in twenty years the money will still look good but beauty is a fleeting thing and is likely gone by then.

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avatar lrnng2lve

I say the point of life is to live with excellence, and that includes money along with love. I don’t see why I would have to compromise between the two. Making money and living well is part of who I am, it’s part of the lifestyle I enjoy living, and my hobbies and activities reflect that viewpoint. I enjoy the many forms of wealth, and I think that’s obvious to people, so I don’t really have to hide anything.

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avatar Jerry

This really upsets me because “no or omitted honesty” is still a plain ole lie!! There is no cleaning that up! Period. While a student maybe struggling with financial difficulties, another maybe able to afford the “pizza or concert tickets”. Being honest “up front”, means that the two parties can make mutual decisions together (building both trust and understanding). I’m a realtor and as an adult, I know how to say, “no or I can’t afford this or that”! If she has a problem with that, then she should ‘take a hike’ or pay for whatever (she wants). If, I had a wealthy gal-pal..I won’t ‘be a materialistic opportunist’ but “if she offered to “gift” me something, I’d take it but not before (we discussed) whether “gifting me this or that” made her feel used or abused. We’ve ALL heard of “buyer’s remorse”…meaning, when another does or buys something and then regrets it after it’s done. My feelings are ‘just be responsible for your actions’ and make wise ones!

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avatar Morningglory

You should tell him. I have had a millionaire wanting to spend thousands on me and I was bothered because I was still in college at the time. I felt it was wrong.
Or better yet TEST him a little if you are concerned about him using you.
I hate men like that. And unfortunately I hate him who USE their effin money to get a girl to sleep with them or just to have fun. Either way it is a bad situation.
You are smart so test him and do tell him.
Hope things work out. I hope he is the RIGHT man for you. Not everyone is the same.

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avatar Comment deleted

Comment deleted at the request of the user.

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avatar Kemet

You should not feel bad because he has money. His parents have done well that has nothing to do w/him or you. You have a chance to make money and do well for yourself. Now if after college you r still poor then fill free to feel bad. But do not let the actions of parents decide your opinion of your own self worth. In my opinion someone who pays their own way through school and is able to get decent grades on their own is worth far more than a person who lives off of others success (not that there is anything wrong w/that) but recognize your greatness and perservearance for what it is and do not short change your accomplishments. It’s akin to making the playoffs in the nba sitting on the bench while Kobe scores or getting the last seed in the playoffs and starting! Don’t envy the coattail rider!

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