Marriage and money: When should women talk about it?
Best practices for women discussing marriage while dating, retirement planning
Writer’s note: This post was originally published on Medium’s “We Need to Talk” and has been moved to the new Substack blog in July 2023.
Women and money. It’s a taboo topic. You can usually tell when a topic is taboo by looking for stock photos about it. In 20 minutes, the featured image above is the first one I could find of a woman (instead of a man) counting cash, the only one I found that didn’t look like she sells drugs and I almost lost hope of finding a minority woman handling finances.
The photo search parallels what inspired this post. Recently, I’ve run into several women who don’t know how to talk about money — without worrying about whether they sound like gold diggers or “pocket watchers” with their significant others. It’s a strange perspective. In order to buy a home, pay bills, handle child care or even grocery shop, money is going to come up. So tiptoeing around the topic doesn’t make any sense to me.
However, in a recent discussion, a woman suggested taking random pop quizzes in the middle of money talks with her husband. The kind of mindless quizzes you’d find in a Cosmopolitan magazine. Deep sigh. I couldn’t stop my eyes from rolling. I don’t get it. I don’t understand moving in with someone or dating them seriously or marrying them to still be scared to talk about finances. But I’m also not married nor living with a significant other, so what do I know? It’s way easier to judge the game from the bleachers.
So I decided to find an “athlete” out on the “field” who was qualified to tell me how married women can approach talking to men about finances. After 35 years as a credit union manager, she’s now retired. Math is her favorite subject. And she married a man who has worked in banking for almost four decades. They celebrate their 43rd year of marriage this August. You can call her Gwen Vaughn. I know her as “Mom.”
Shamontiel L. Vaughn: Hey, Mom, when do you think is the ideal time that women should start asking men about money?
Gwen Y. Vaughn: I think definitely before you move in together. If you don’t, you might have some huge arguments. [Your father and I] didn’t argue about money though. He didn’t have any credit. I had credit at that time. We figured out how to get him some credit. He still doesn’t like credit, and I had too much credit. We’ve done pretty good, but we did have to work out those issues.
SLV: What’s interesting is in those listicles about why people get a divorce, Marriage.com says finances is number 2. But Divorce.com has it way at number 11. I know you’ll never watch reality shows with me, but there’s this show called “Love Is Blind.” And on season one, one guy was so stressed about his fiancee having $20K in student loan debt. After they got married, he ended up selling his house to pay off her loans since she never really had a career to do it herself. I always felt like he would resent her later, but they’re four years strong!