Show Me the Money, Honey.

How to deal with the question of cash in your relationship.

Money may not buy you love, but can it buy you stability? The fact is that the number one thing that married couples fight about is money—and it’s reported that 30 percent of married couples who fight about money will end up getting a divorce. Tacky as it may sound, when picking your future spouse, it’s best to find out about their finances early on. So how does one bring up money, or even just assess if the person that you desire is indeed financially compatible with you?

The key points to look for financially in a partner are what a person owes, owns and earns. Debt comes in many forms. Just because you have a college loan does not mean you have poor credit or are in major debt. Earning potential is what is important. If the person owns an apartment or home, has a good steady job and is paying off school loans on time, take that as a good sign. On the other hand, if he or she is older and are still renting, changing jobs frequently and leaning on you to pay the tab, there may be a problem. When involved in a long-term relationship, take time to observe how your significant other spends his or her money. Does he save smartly and spend wisely?  Or is she a reckless spender always looking for bigger and better bling? Is she enjoying her money and does this enhance her life, as opposed to being very tight with money and always worrying?

There are real life consequences to financial distress. These include things like the ability to pay a mortgage or home equity loan, buying or leasing a car, and making credit card payments on time, which, if not done, will put you on a fast track to a bad credit score. When looking for a life partner, you certainly don’t want to inherit his debt and consequently end up spending your own money to settle things.

In terms of finances in a relationship, knowledge really is power: Along with looking for someone with the right age, education, location and family goals, certainly one would want to find a mate who is financially compatible. Talking about money early on in the relationship is your best bet. Bring up the topic tactfully. Pick a neutral, calm time when there are few other major stressors happening. Volunteer your financial information first and certainly be open about how you view money or any debt that you have incurred. Talk about your parents and how you were raised regarding money, and whether this was a positive or negative influence on you. Express your future goals, such as where you would like to live, how you would like to educate your children and the kind of career path that you see yourself in. Also discuss lifestyle desires—things like vacations and the like.

The most important qualities that one ought to be seeking in a significant other are for he or she to be responsible, family-oriented, organized, hard-working and kind. Realistically money does play an important role in planning your future together. You want to be able to lay out some sort of vision of how expenses, both short term and long term are going to be addressed. Don’t let these realities become the 400-pound gorilla in the room. Monetary concerns will be an aspect of your future relationship by default, so as a couple, you each need to express your expectations head on. Don’t  leave your finances to be part of the fairy tale euphoria that comes with love…