“Whatever you into, your woman gotta be into, too, and vice versa… or the [thing] ain’t gonna work. lt ain’t gonna work. That’s right. lf you born-again, your woman gotta be born-again, too. lf you a crackhead, your woman gotta be a crackhead, too… or the [thing] won’t work. You can’t be like, ”l’m going to church, where you going?” ”Hit the pipe!” That relationship ain’t going nowhere, but two crackheads can stay together forever.” – Chris Rock
We all know the statistics. The number one cause of divorce is MONEY. And why it is money comes in all kinds of forms from a partner who does not help with the bills, disagreement about financial roles, spends too much, disinterested in their financial future, takes too much risk with the money they have earned (or too little), and the list goes on and on and on. For African Americans money is even more complicated when it comes to partnering. African Americans are dead last in median income, median wealth, and the only ethnic group where the women outnumber the men in employment. All of which leads to an already complicated issue of partnering with someone for the long-term even more so. Money brings about extremely strong emotions in people and African Americans are no exception. In fact, one could argue that because are financial situation is so dire that it adds even more stress and complexity than most. The majority of us are brought up with the stresses of money as the only conversations about money we have ever overheard – because we certainly were not allowed to participate in family conversations about money besides, “put that back, you know we can not afford that”. That along with a strong religious undertone of money being the root of all evil it is no wonder that the median net worth of African Americans has not moved in over four decades and is by some accounts trending downwards. So who you partner with and their attitudes towards money, as Chris Rock so eloquently put it, need to be aligned. We decided to put together four questions to help you determine whether the he, she, or they is right for you. A clarity you should try your best to establish before you even enter into a relationship.
If you had to pick a number, how much would you like to be financially worth? Do not let them be vague on this. They can not say rich, wealthy, or comfortable. There has to be a number. Rich, wealthy, or comfortable means very different things to different people. Two people can say they want to be rich, but one thinks that means being worth $5 million and the other may think that means $50 million. The further those numbers are apart or closer together will give you some valuable insight.
Why do you want to be worth that much? This is vital to give you insight on a person’s priorities. If they tell you they want to be able to buy whatever they want, acquire all the latest fashions, travel the world, they want to be able to send their children to the best schools, or they want to donate $25 million to their HBCU over their lifetime. This questions will all give you insight to their motivations and if those motivations align with yours.
Would you be willing to live with our parents, have roommates when we got married, or share a car for a few years? This is a question of sacrifice gauging a person’s sacrifice level. How badly do they want to get to that number to do that thing they said they want? The early years of financial sacrifice for a couple make all the difference in the world and while many say they want to achieve something, many are not willing to do the hard and uncomfortable things
What is your risk tolerance? Risk. Reward. They go hand in hand when it comes too investing and financial building. If one of you wants to start a business and the other just wants to save money in your savings account, then you are world’s apart when it comes to risk. There are obvious compromises to risk. Perhaps you agree to hit a certainly dollar amount in your savings account before pursuing business. Or perhaps you agree that owning a rental property portfolio is the middle ground. Whatever it is, your risk tolerance needs to be understand and agreed upon. This is particularly important because things can and often will go wrong, that is why it is called risk. When it does go wrong does it create a wedge between the two of you or does it cause you both to dig in and work together through it?
In the end, it is often hard for people to talk about money when they meet someone they like. It is even harder to realize that your financial views maybe so far apart that you simply do not make a good team and at the end of the day to be financially successful it requires teamwork. One of you can not be playing basketball and the other playing soccer. Financial goals being aligned will dictate so much of how you live your lives that to not have them aligned is a sure fire way to kill a relationship and yet many people do not think to discuss money until after they are together and sometimes not even then. They do not realize the detriment of differences until it rears its ugly head. In this new era of mental health, make sure you discuss what it will take to have financial health as well.