Should I tell my girlfriend about my savings?
July 9, 2014 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Should [or when should] I tell my girlfriend about my savings?

This is one that I haven't figured out. My girlfriend and I are moving at the end of the month to another state for me to attend school. By the end of the month (with some client payments coming in) I will have about $95,000 in my savings account, and about $30,000 in investments, no debt. We are late-20s, early 30's.

I have saved pretty extensively while living a comfortable, yet modest lifestyle over the last few years in anticipation for graduate school. As it turns out, my schooling will be mostly paid for with a modest stipend. I am paying for the move. It turns out that our lifestyles match up well, she makes less than I do, and while doing well saving and staying debt-free has to watch her spending more closely than I do.

I've avoided talking specifics of my finances to this point, because I feel kind of silly for one with that much cash sitting in a savings account (that's my next project, getting all of that in order), but also because I worry that it will change any sort of balance in the relationship, which up until this point has been very smooth and comfortable relating to finances.

Anyways, at what point do you talk about specifics? We've lived together for a while, and are renting a place in a new state together. Is it time to give a state of my finances? Or is ok to keep that part private until we start discussing joining finances, which we haven't done at this point.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (56 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know why your girlfriend has any need to know about your finances that don't currently involve her.
posted by saeculorum at 10:00 AM on July 9, 2014 [27 favorites]

I feel like the conversation about the state of your finances should occur BEFORE moving in together. I can't imagine moving in with someone and taking on the responsibility of a lease, utilities, etc together without knowing that kind of info. So, yes, I think right now is a good time to start talking specifics.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:00 AM on July 9, 2014 [31 favorites]

Is she giving up anything in terms of a job or potential finances in order to move to be with you? If so, I would strongly consider whether it's fair for her to be doing this without you having taking on some kind of responsibility for her financial well-being. This might sound tangential, but it's not, because if she doesn't know that you have some capacity to help her deal with any consequences of the move then she's essentially negotiating who-pays-for-what from a position of ignorance, and that's not really fair to her.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:02 AM on July 9, 2014 [33 favorites]

I don't think there is really a right or wrong answer here - some couples are more open about this stuff than others.

It sounds like you feel it's a secret you're keeping from her, though, and if that's the case and it's making you uncomfortable to not share it, I'd go ahead and tell her. If, as you say, you share similar ideas about saving and spending money, I can't see how it's likely to change your day to day life much.
posted by something something at 10:02 AM on July 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

Before we were married, I knew that my now-husband made more than I did, but because I was also fairly well compensated, we kept our finances separate and paid equal share of bills. However, he would typically (75% of the time) pay if we went out to dinner or a movie, etc. We both knew that the other had enough to cover rent and bills without it being a hardship, but didn't disclose specifics of income.

It wasn't until we actually got married that I knew how much he had in savings and investments, and how much he owed in student loans. We now have a joint cc and debit account, but still have separate cards/accounts as well.
posted by Flamingo at 10:03 AM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

At this point in your relationship, I wouldn't discuss specifics beyond how each of you are going to pay your share of the bills, and maybe any fun stuff (vacations, etc) that you plan together.

She doesn't need to know the total balance if she can trust that your income is enough to ensure that she doesn't have to support you.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:03 AM on July 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would say if you are living with your significant other, savings and finances are definitely on the table. My main questions would be about how you plan on splitting your living expense. I wouldn't feel like it would be 100% fair to pay smaller amount of the rent (if you were splitting it proportionally based on income) if you had a smaller income but comfortable savings. Do you plan on a future with this woman? (If not, is she aware of this as she moves out of state for you?) Being on the same page financially is really important for long term relationship success, and lies of omission about your net worth isn't exactly the healthiest place to start.
posted by fermezporte at 10:04 AM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think it is necessary to discuss longterm financial planning unless you are making a lifetime commitment to one another, through marriage, parenting, or just an agreed partnership.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:05 AM on July 9, 2014 [17 favorites]

To be more clear, if she's moving with you, she's making a HUGE commitment to the relationship. The idea of not sharing this stuff until you're married or until some sort of vague future date doesn't make sense to me, because moving to another state is such a huge, huge commitment to make to someone, and possibly a big financial risk.

Additionally, you should know what kind of support and resources she has on hand should she be laid off or have some other stroke of bad luck.

I mean, sure, she's not legally entitled to know what's up, but that standard seems sort of cold and overly secretive to me.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:08 AM on July 9, 2014 [21 favorites]

And to the point that this seems like a big "secret" that's weighing on you -- remember that $125K is not that much if it is the entirety of your net worth at 30 years old.

You could barely live 5 years in retirement on it, if you had to survive on it now. It's not enough to buy a house outright in a number of markets. You'd need to keep contributing many thousands of dollars per year to retire comfortably at age 65, and you're about to start living on a grad student's salary.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:11 AM on July 9, 2014 [14 favorites]

I think that you will get a nice split of answers here. And probably both options are good.

You can tell her or not tell her. You will get arguments in both directions.

But I agree with DarlingBri... its not her business.

HOWEVER, sometimes letting a potential life partner know about your networth/potential networth will give you information about them.

I know someone who will come into a decent amount of money in their 30's... And her partner stood to inherit even more... but once the partner said in passing- when you inherit I want to buy an airplane.

Ouch. In her mind that money should go towards investment and retirement... not a hobby....

And also 100K is not a lot of money. IT IS- because it is hard to get if you don't have it, but in the grand scheme of things, REALLY- to be comfortable... you want more.
posted by misspony at 10:12 AM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't move in with someone I wasn't planning on marrying. I wouldn't marry anyone I couldn't talk about finances with.

If you are 'partners' then you should know each other's financial situation. I don't know that you have to open your bank books to each other, but you shouldn't have a reservation about doing so. Presumably, you're 'partners' and you've made provisions, legally or otherwise for each other.

If you're dating and living together as a convenience, then all you really need to know is that you can make the rent and utilities monthly. Beyond that, it's more of a roommate situation than it is a partnership.

If you plan to marry though, or to be in a long term partnership, then you should probably discuss your finances openly.

Anecdata: Husbunny owned his parents house in KY. His parents told him not to tell me about it, so he didn't. I had no idea. I did know that when the floor needed replacing, we wrote a check, or that when the roof needed fixing, we'd write a check. I didn't mind helping them, why not, they were family. So we're all sitting around one evening during a visit and his Mom pops up with, "well, this will be yours to live in one day, actually, it's yours right now." My eyes about bugged out of my head. First, no thank you. Secondly, HOLY SHIT THIS DUMP IS OURS? Is it insured? Is it to code? WHAT THE HELL?

Then I had something to fret over. We never disclosed it on our taxes, so we had to thresh that out with the accountant. Then I had to worry about insurance, because it was unisurable. Then when shit started to fail, I worried about that.

One of the best days of my life was the day we signed it over to her Boyfriend for $0.00, I think he gave her some cash money, but on paper...nada. So now she lives with him, and they rent it out or something. Not my circus, not my monkey.

The point is, unless that wad of cash somehow affects her, and if you're just BF/GF, it doesn't, there's no compelling reason to tell her. But, once you decide to travel life's highway together, then it DOES affect her, and she should know.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:26 AM on July 9, 2014 [14 favorites]

I think you should tell her. I would hope that you don't think she's going to learn about this savings account and immediately expect that you're going to pay for everything. And since you aren't married or joining your finances, I think she doesn't need to be involved in your (long term) plans for the money. I still think you should tell her, though, especially if you plan to use any of this money to supplement your lifestyle. If she thinks you're living on a grad school stipend but you're say, buying yourself a new computer or whatever without blinking, I'd imagine she'd be confused and maybe concerned you're getting yourself into debt. In general I don't think it's fair to put your partner in a position of ignorance for no reason. And if you're expecting her to make the commitment of moving with you to a new state, but you don't respect her enough to share the general outline of your financial situation, what does that say about your view of her and your relationship?
posted by MadamM at 10:27 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Personally, I think the time to tell her was yesterday, especially since you are not only living together, but she's about to move to a new state for you, which sounds to me like a pretty significant commitment she's making to you.

I suppose people's answers are going to be very different based on the fact that everyone has different feelings towards things like marriage and joining finances. In my own life, living with my partner and having separate finances is about committed as we are getting. I have significantly more savings than my partner, which I told him about before I moved in. One of the biggest reasons I wanted him to know about it is that should unexpected things come up--illness, unemployment, car repairs--I have a safety net so would not have to stress about how to keep the lights on and feeding ourselves.

I'm curious about how you split bills at the moment and how you came to that agreement. If you've been splitting things 50/50 while you have been able to save up over $100k and she's had to watch every dollar, then yes, this conversation will probably change the balance of your relationship.
posted by inertia at 10:30 AM on July 9, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think moving out of state together means your relationship has advanced to the point where you should tell her. She's not a casual GF anymore, but someone uprooting her life to be with you. Honesty is important in relationships and if you don't feel she can be trusted with this information, then you have a problem you should address now, not later.

FWIW, I'm married to man in debt, but who makes much more than me. We have separate finances, but I know how much money he has and vice versa. I knew this when we moved in together.
posted by ohisee at 10:32 AM on July 9, 2014

Inbetween option:

Share what your income is, but not necessarily what you have access to.

You don't have to tell her everything.... but still be honest.

IE- Darling, I have x number of dollars to work with each month...

And decide in your mind what you will do if you both don't work out and she has moved for you. Will you give her a lump sum? Give her the deposit for a new place? Pay for flights home and 4 months living expenses?

I say that, because I moved to a new country for a boyfriend and it didn't work out. But he helped me get on my own 2 feet by subsidizing the rent after he moved out but before I got a roomate, continuing to pay the phone, internet, etc.... and each month its gotten less and less. I was completely paid for the first 2 months, then as I got my feet on the ground and got a roommate he started to pay less.

But when we first split (and I already knew and had a good idea of his income) he said I make x, your expenses are y... IE- I will help you, but don't take the piss. And I didn't and all is well.

He had ACCESS to much more money than that, but really-what was pertinent, was daily finances.... how much he could afford to help while maintaining his own security.

I did the same, I knew I could get money from other sources (but that was NOT ideal)- but you never know how people will act. What if he was a jerk and I suddenly needed cash? or travelling for work and couldn't help me? So I left those resources for emergency.

So I always made him aware of my INCOME, but not what I actually had access to.

And one time I actually did run out of money, and he was on a business trip, so I was happy I had a bit of cash in an envelope...

So I think a nice little mix of doing what is in YOUR best interest/ doing what is in her best interest... is the best idea. She should be doing the same.

My ex and I had VAGUE ideas of each other's resources and worked accordingly.
posted by misspony at 10:34 AM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

she makes less than I do, and while doing well saving and staying debt-free has to watch her spending more closely than I do.

This sentence makes it sound like you know the state of her finances pretty well. Has she shared this information with you?

How are you planning on splitting up the bills in the new place? If I found out I was scrimping and saving to remain debt-free while paying equally towards bills when my partner was financially able to shoulder more of the financial responsibility, I would be annoyed I think. It would also bother me that you had the luxury of peace of mind in case of a financial emergency why I was potentially worried about that.
posted by CheeseLouise at 10:34 AM on July 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Just offer to pay for stuff. Don't disclose absolute details until marriage or at least engagement. Maybe not even then. Don't let her struggle financially though. If you know how much she makes, maybe pay for joint stuff or rent or whatever other living expenses so she can save. Just say, "I have savings I am planning to use for living expenses during grad school."

Don't get too excited- the money will go fast if you're in school for years and not working.
posted by quincunx at 10:38 AM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

My girlfriend and I are moving at the end of the month to another state for me to attend school.

This is kind of a can of worms. If you read extensively on gender issues, women very routinely make choices of this sort. I would not likely move in with you or move to another state with you without marrying you. Women very routinely move to follow their man and it very frequently hurts their ability to seriously pursue a real career of similar value to his. (In a nutshell: You moving to go to grad school is highly likely to improve your future earning capacity. Her moving to be with you is highly likely to hurt her future earning capacity. And this is a very, very normal/stereotypical gender-based thing.)

You haven't given a lot of details here but you need to think hard about how much you feel you "owe" her. She is, de facto, making a big commitment to you and that commitment may cost her substantially for a very long time to come.

It turns out that our lifestyles match up well, she makes less than I do, and while doing well saving and staying debt-free has to watch her spending more closely than I do.

I strongly suspect that the above bit -- about her making a de facto big commitment (with big financial consequences) to you while you have left her in the dark about your financial situation -- combined with this detail is why you feel unsure what to do and are asking for advice. Because the reality is that if you live about like she lives but have enough income to sock away substantial savings while she lives that way because she simply can't afford more, you don't actually know if you and she really "match up well" in terms of personal values. I think you are nervous about telling her because you either have no idea how she will react or because you have seen hints that if she thought you had money, she would promptly ramp up her spending levels.

And, unfortunately, this is a really bad time to try to decide whether or not to tell her because if she does promptly ramp up her spending and expect you to cover it, since you are a) living together and b) she is following you to a new place, there is no easy out for you. I agree with others who have said this is information she should have already had. But now that you have committed to grad school, if you have any reason to believe her response will be "Whoopi! Party Time!" it might be better to keep your (sorta dirty) little financial secret to yourself until you can find a good reason/opportunity to divulge. Like if you do get married or start looking to buy a house and can go "Oh, uh, yeah, I have enough for a down payment. No big." or whatever. You have kind of put yourself in a position where how you tell her will matter. Maybe your next anonymous ask should address that in specific: What is a good, polite excuse for finally saying "oh, btw, I kind of forgot to mention I haz mullah. Whoops." (Not that $125k is Big Bucks but it's nothing to sneeze at either.)
posted by Michele in California at 10:39 AM on July 9, 2014 [23 favorites]

I feel like $125k is not that much money, by the time you are 30, especially if you live in a high cost of living area. The rule of thumb many personal finance blogs say is that you should have 3x your annual salary in assets by the time you are 30. Fidelity says you should have 1x your annual salary in your retirement accounts by 35, if you plan to retire by 67. (Obviously, if you want to retire earlier, you should have more saved up.) Since you'll be in school, you won't be saving much for the next several years, either, so you'll have to play catchup later.

If you are moving in together, you should share your financial situation, but maybe just the rough outlines (that you are comfortable, no need to worry about necessities). Even with separate finances, it's good for her to know you're financially responsible. And if she does start expecting you to pay for things, it's a huge red flag. In which case, better figure out earlier than later. Sorry to be a pessimist, but it has been known to happen, that one partner is only being frugal until they get their "big break." Meanwhile, the other partner wants to continue being frugal forever.

Maybe if you get married and are considering buying a house, bring up that you have enough for the down payment.
posted by ethidda at 10:41 AM on July 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Unless you have another $125k+ in your 401k you aren't mentioning, you don't have enough money to be spending any more than planned. Having past money should not affect bill payment ratios.

That being said, she should know at this point, but nothing should change because of it.
posted by flimflam at 10:44 AM on July 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I can understand your concern about changes that might come about if you talk openly about your savings. When two people have different attitudes about money, it can have a serious impact on their relationship.

You've been saving that money for a reason -- when you tell your girlfriend, tell her what the reason is. Retirement, buying a house someday, having kids, or just wanting to feel secure... your reason is your reason, and you're telling her now because the impending move involves a deeper commitment than before, in your mind. It's not necessarily a bad sign if she's taken aback because she's been carrying around assumptions that weren't true... listen while she talks about it. Her initial reaction could give way to acceptance and respect for your provident ways.

If a lasting shadow might be cast on your relationship because of your financial choices, it's much better for both of you to find that out before the move.
posted by wryly at 10:45 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

How secure is your grad school financing/stipend? Can it be withdrawn? If it's not 100% gauranteed, I think you would be excused from treating this money as "available" until after you finish grad school. I think it would be important to tell your girlfriend that you have enough money to cover grad school even in a worst-case scenario. That's important information for the medium term.

As you go through school and your relationship progresses, you can expound on how much you have and what you're going to do with it now that you're not spending it on school.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:54 AM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would feel very strange leaving a savings account unmentioned entirely, but it's certainly reasonable to mention that you have a financial cushion and that's why, say, you're not fretting about how to get by on a modest grad school stipend. I have a healthy savings account and money in CDs (though it's not a tenth of your total assets). I'm sure I've mentioned specifics to my partner of nearly three years by now, but in passing, and I doubt he remembers how much is there. He does know that I have a little extra that's more or less for long term use, and that it would come in handy in the event of an emergency or a long stretch of unexpected unemployment. I'd certainly tell him precise numbers if he asked, but at this point it has no bearing on our shared life together. If he got in a terrible accident, that might change things. Day to day life won't.
posted by tapir-whorf at 10:57 AM on July 9, 2014

Has she shared all her finances with you?
Is there anything else you or her are keeping from each other? Why? Does this fall in the same camp?

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:58 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I completely agree with wryly. It's a scary thing to tell someone, but you want to know now how they will handle it, not later. You're getting very serious with your girlfriend, I would at least give her a ballpark figure or an impression of 1) how secure you are 2) that this money is for the future.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:01 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you erred in not disclosing this sooner. Here is how I would do it in your shoes:

Tell her that you have been putting aside some savings to cover anything unforseen while you are in graduate school. Given that you have these savings and she is making this commitment to you to come and be with you and live with you in another state, you'd like to take some money out of these savings to pay for the cost of the move. Then you'd like to leave the rest of it alone for now to cover any emergencies in the next few years.

If, during your grad school time, there are any true emergencies (sudden need for a new car, health issue, etc) generously offer to pay for it with your savings. Then at the end of grad school, if both woman and savings are still with you, merge the two by using the savings as a down payment on a home to start your life with her. If woman is not with you, use it to start your working life.

If she knows this is the plan, I don't think she'll worry about the specific number. If you are offering to pay for the move, cover any true emergencies and then use whatever is left to start your life together, she'll be happy. After all, she would have a vested interest in not spending it if she knows it will be your nest egg for your life with her, won't she?
posted by JoannaC at 11:04 AM on July 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

I am generally pretty into separate finances (although for various reasons that is temporarily not a thing in my relationship, it was our preferred situation for years), and for not needing to disclose exact details. But yeah, if I were making the commitment to move to another state with someone, I would want to have some idea of his or her financial status. And how or if I could expect that to affect me - for example, if I were moving for someone else's job but the move made it hard for me to get re-established, would my partner be willing to cover the rent for a few months, or some other form of temporary increased assistance?

I don't think you need to talk about exact dollar amounts. I do think that as part of the move planning, you should be saying "I've got a chunk of savings, I'm willing to earmark X amount for moving expenses or a cushion to help float me through grad school" or "I'd rather save it all for the future but I wanted you to know it's there in case of drastic emergencies" or whatever.

This doesn't have to be a big deal, but it does seem like you're at a point where it's going to become a big deal if not defused soon. If nothing else, it's stressing you out enough to be asking about it here, and I think you'll feel better if you have the information in the open.
posted by Stacey at 11:12 AM on July 9, 2014

The idea that 95k is, definitively, "not" a lot of money is absurd. It completely depends on your circumstances and goals.

I've avoided talking specifics of my finances to this point, because I feel kind of silly for one with that much cash sitting in a savings account (that's my next project, getting all of that in order), but also because I worry that it will change any sort of balance in the relationship, which up until this point has been very smooth and comfortable relating to finances.

I would question how "smooth and comfortable" the "balance" of your relationship has been if your girlfriend is sharing bills with you but is not privy to your actual financial situation. As others upthread have pointed out, in heterosexual relationships, women are often socialized to enter into economically precarious arrangements that disproportionately benefit their male partners. Do you know more about her finances than she knows about yours? Is she making greater sacrifices in terms of her future career and potential earnings than you are, by moving to another state? The fairness of your financial arrangements really depends on whether there is, in fact, balance, in the degree to which both of you are sacrificing as you build a life together.

Personally, I would not move in with someone before discussing finances. I sure as hell would not move a second time -- to another state -- before being clear on where things, financial and otherwise, stand.

By the way, I wonder why this person is your "girlfriend" rather than, say, your fiance or life partner.
posted by Gray Skies at 11:12 AM on July 9, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think this should be mutual, and at a time you're both comfortable with (but definitely before you decide to get married or otherwise combine finances).

Do you know details of her finances? If so, I think you should disclose yours for parity. If not, you can ask her whether she thinks you two ought to share that information, or wait until later... or if you don't feel comfortable sharing yet, don't bring it up.
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:13 AM on July 9, 2014

You don't have to have a big talk about your savings and investments. I mean, I wouldn't hide it if it came up in conversation, but it's not a "sit down we need to talk" kind of issue. If you personally believe saving is that important to you, the real question should be from your end - does she have a good amount saved and invested? If not, why not?

And please do not listen to people telling you to pay some pretend alimony if things don't work out. People split up all the time and no one gets a bonus check unless a court orders it.
posted by Willie0248 at 11:15 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I will echo JoannaC that, actually, this may be the perfect time to tell her and couch it in terms of "Uh, gee, I was saving up to cover grad school and did not expect to get a stipend. (etc)" But if I were you, I would think hard about how to present that information. Because this is kind of Big News and this sort of "um, gee, you don't happen to know everything about me yet" moment shows up in romantic comedies over and over and over and very frequently goes very wrong. Which is a fairly good indicator that it is a cultural norm that this sort of event often goes badly. If you are clear ahead of time about what you want to communicate, it is much more likely to end well than if you just sort of blurt it out without much preparation.
posted by Michele in California at 11:26 AM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Upon other comments: before I moved to the New Country with my now ex-partner- he had assumed all financial responsibility for me. Or I would NOT have moved. We were very clear with one another about that.

I left paid work to go somewhere where I had to learn a new language etc....

So I had no qualms about him helping me get settled independently after we split.

This comment makes me cringe:

"And please do not listen to people telling you to pay some pretend alimony if things don't work out. People split up all the time and no one gets a bonus check unless a court orders it."

Do what YOU want to do OP. My ex has said that I am a really kind person and deserve to land on my feet. That has meant he helps me out financially. I am, in return, his friend and hold him in high esteem...because he knows what I gave up, and what he can give me, what I deserve as a person and he is a damned good guy.

But if he had kicked me to the curb like a piece of trash because he was JUST FINISHED. Ouch.
posted by misspony at 11:28 AM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am stunned and freaked out that people don't think this is something to be shared. Wow, we sure are all weird about money! Why would you be secretive about having some savings??? You sound like a really nice person and I think you feel a little strange that you haven't shared this yet.

Your savings are just a fact. It's a fact, in this case, that informs the upcoming move that the two of you are making to a new state for your schooling. Sit down and have a chat about money. (And if she gets weird... well, better to know now!)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:57 AM on July 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

Upon reading your question again, it sort of really strikes me that without additional details, it seems incredibly selfish of you to ask your girlfriend to move to another state, give up whatever employment she had and re-arrange her life for you to attend graduate school without disclosing your one hundred thousand dollar nest egg.

We'd need to know:

- What is she giving up by moving? What does she stand to gain, financially or otherwise?
- Will she have a new job that is as good as her old one? Will she also be attending graduate school?
- Does she have any savings?
- Is there any other detail that could make this not look so damned selfish on your part?
posted by Gray Skies at 11:58 AM on July 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Really the bigger question is, what are your plans with this woman? What you should tell her depends on what your intentions are? If you still have one eye out the door and are still just trying each other on for size then there is no reason for her to know more than you are financially secure and she won't have to support you. If you can see a future with her then you can start telling her things that will have an effect on her future. I mean her knowing it exists doesn't mean she gets access to your money or anything and if she changes her attitude toward you because of it, isn't it better to know now rather than later.

Having said that I'd tell passing strangers my financial situation good or bad if they'd sit still long enough to listen so I may not be a good judge of these things.
posted by wwax at 12:01 PM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Are you going to marry her eventually or is she "just" a girlfriend?

By now I would have given her an indication that you had "some" amount in savings, especially since she's moving with you.

You should discuss how to split finances and bills, given your relative difference in income / finances.

If you are on the marriage track, then you just start bringing money up. I never had a 'come to Jesus' financial discussion with my partner, but over time I came to know how much he has, and I've divulged my assets. We're both feeling comfortable that we're coming into this relationship equally. If you're not feeling financially equal, then discuss that and see where you are and aren't comfortable. Your $120k becomes "our" $120k after you get married. Are you ok with that? And her attitude may surprise you. I know someone whose partner out earns her by 2-3x but she still won't let him touch her student loans even though he has $$ to spare.

You don't know how much she has in $avings. Maybe she has more! Maybe she has a rich old aunt. You never know.

$120k is a good amount, but far from gold-digger material if that's what you're worried about. Especially if you have the same financial outlook on spending vs saving.

If you are not on the marriage track then there's not much to divulge aside from the fact that you have "some" amount in savings and decide what feels fair given your relative incomes and relative risk with this move.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:05 PM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes, it should be shared. It doesn't need to be a whole sit-down, intense discussion, but also doesn't need to be hidden as though it were a life-changing amount. Yes, it's a good chunk of change, but unless you also have significant retirement savings that you're not disclosing here, it's not really a ton of money. Certainly not retire-at-30 money (following the 4% withdrawal rule, this money would give you an annual income of only $5000).

It seems like your relationship is progressing to a "new" level. This should be part of the discussion about future goals - marriage (which may or may not include a ring and a wedding) some day? purchase property some day? have children? does she (or do you) plan to stay at home with the children? at what age do you want to retire? do you want to do a lot of travel? do you have aging relatives that you plan to house/care for/support financially?

These are the important financial questions that you two should discuss. Your current savings is part of these discussions.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:23 PM on July 9, 2014

Since you are moving in together I would make a point of mentioning. "I have some savings. It's enough to cover a chunk of medical bills." (Or "It's enough to cover a few months living costs, if we have to.")

If you make a serious commitment that you are in it together until the end, then you will probably want to sit down and make serious long term financial plans. But right up until you are sitting at the kitchen table talking about retirement funds and investments you don't need to talk numbers.
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:39 PM on July 9, 2014

Separate from my opinions on whether and when you should start talking about finances with a romantic partner, I think you should look verrrry hard at this sentiment:

I've avoided talking specifics of my finances to this point...because I worry that it will change any sort of balance in the relationship, which up until this point has been very smooth and comfortable relating to finances.

For me personally, that would be a sort of red flag that I was doing something that didn't feel totally ethical or consistent with my vision of myself as a good person. Because if you're worried about "changing the balance" that sort of implies that you like the way things are set up now but you suspect that if your girlfriend had fuller information about your relative income and savings she'd prefer to set things up differently, in a way that is more financially advantageous to her.

I'm not saying that you are under any moral imperative to take on more of the bills or that a 50-50 split isn't right (it's my preferred method), but the fact that you're potentially achieving that outcome by keeping your girlfriend in the dark is less-good than if you got the same place when you both knew the full situation and she agreed a 50-50 split was fair.

Having her give up her job and follow you somewhere to further your education and career would make my uncomfortable feelings with this even more acute. If you believe she'd be unhappy with your current set-up if she had more information than I don't think it's particularly kind to let her make that sort of sacrifice for the sake of your relationship when you're keeping her in the dark to make sure that financial negotiations in your relationship keep going in your favor.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:49 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
Thanks for all of your perspectives, from the varied replies it seems that my question has no straightforward answer. But you've given me good things to think about.

I'm a little surprised at the comments about how I'm a bit behind on savings. Maybe that might be true! After having lived in a major metropolitan city earning relatively modest sums for the city I'm in (40-50k/year over 8 years), I'm proud to have a buffer and no debt. The graduate program is 2 years, so I will get back at it once I'm done. The program will be cover tuition, health insurance, and a small stipend that will basically cover my rent.

"You sound like a really nice person and I think you feel a little strange that you haven't shared this yet."

This basically is what it comes down to. She's known that I have been saving a lot for graduate school, it's just we haven't had a frank discussion about the actual numbers. There's just never been an appropriate time to get into that. I'm not worried about any increase in spending habits, etc. But I want to make sure that we have a cushion in this moving venture.

"What is she giving up by moving? What does she stand to gain, financially or otherwise?"

My girlfriend is leaving her job. She's been with her company for about 2.5 years, and there isn't anywhere for her to move up. She is excited for this move, as we are moving to a booming city that offers much more opportunities than where we are at currently.

"Will she have a new job that is as good as her old one? Will she also be attending graduate school?"

She's already interviewed for a position that is a step up in terms of her skillset, and it's looking very promising that she will get the job. She does not plan on going to graduate school at this time.

"Does she have any savings?"

She does, she feels comfortable with her savings and is debt-free. I am paying all of the moving expenses and some new furniture purchases for our new place.
I want this move to be as least disruptive to her financially as possible.

"Is there any other detail that could make this not look so damned selfish on your part?"

A bit harsh, wouldn't you say? It's been known for the last year and a half that I would be applying to graduate schools out of state. We've had many many discussions about moving, about how I have no expectation that she accompanies me, but am flattered that she has decided to. I know how disruptive it is to her life. She has wanted to move and have the chance to switch up her job, and focus on some other areas of her life. We thought very hard about the final decision on what school to choose after I was accepted to my choices. We chose the place that would provide a comfortable lifestyle and opportunities for the both of us (and our pets). I ended up turning down graduate school at Yale, as location became a larger factor in my decision. I mention this only to highlight that these decisions have been with our future in mind, and not just mine.

"It seems like your relationship is progressing to a "new" level. "

This also hits the nail on the head. Up until this point, 2 years together, it's just been normal day-to-day life, pay the rent, pay the bills, pay for groceries, that's it. With this next step, we're both a bit more dependent on each other, so it seems appropriate at this point to get a bit more detailed in discussions.

Thanks all.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:50 PM on July 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

I would let her know that you have some retirement savings, and that you'll be trying to make ongoing contributions to that. This let's her know that you have some money tucked away, you're trying to be fiscally responsible, but that it's not "available" money, so the amount doesn't really matter. (If it's important to her to know the amount, then let her know. But chances are this leaves it abstract without being a secret - I personally prefer to not think of savings as real money, else I might spend it ;) )

Later on, if you get married and/or expect to retire together, then you'll both want to figure out your retirement savings plans together anyway. I'd think the finer details can wait until then. The main thing is that you both know roughly where each other stands and what you're each trying to do.
posted by anonymisc at 1:30 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

My answer doesn't really change with the update, but I am glad you are covering the moving expenses as I think that will keep her on an even keel financially speaking. It isn't that you have an obligation, more that it will help you maintain that balance you like. Telling her you have some savings that might be available now because of the stipend sounds like the perfect opportunity to start opening that area of your life. As you say your lives are becoming more dependent and it is the time to consider what that means and discuss with her what couples financial model works for you. Ask is filled with half the couple asking what is "right" and as you've read here, there is no universal. Actually, some of those prior Asks are a pretty good read for ideas on how couples manage these issues.
posted by dawg-proud at 2:27 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have extremely mixed feelings about this one. My first thought is that you shouldn't let love blind you to certain worst-case scenarios. e.g., you share the savings info with her; you live together and build trust; you give her access to the funds (joint account); she develops a major addiction; she blows through your savings.

Yes, she is making a big move by changing states to live with you while you go to school, but she is an adult with agency. If she is choosing to prioritize love over practical matters (if she'll be taking an income hit to move, e.g.), that is her choice. No offense, but she could find another local guy and stay put if love + local security is her preference. No one is forcing her hand. She is surely aware that there is a risk inherent in the move -- that the relationship might fail, that she might find herself single and in lessened financial circumstances, etc. But you are taking a risk, too.

I think until marriage is on the table, there is no reason to disclose your savings. Whatever arrangements you two choose to make, as a team, to divvy up the living expenses, should be based on the assumption that you will NOT need to tap into savings -- you'll be living within your means, right, so why is the savings an issue?
posted by nacho fries at 2:55 PM on July 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think it's a bit weird not to disclose if things stay as they are, with the money in your savings account. I think that's what bugs me (and maybe some other people). Because if it's in savings, in my mind, it's a buffer for life stuff that goes wrong, and that is peace of mind your partner totally should have if she's your partner.

It would be totally different for me if it were invested somewhere for the future. Maybe it's just that it's so much harder to get at that way, or that it's clearly earmarked for FUTURE THINGS not now things. The chunk of money I have in my 401k doesn't even really feel like my money. I contribute to it and keep an eye on it, but it's not like I'm going to yank it out for any reason short of utter catastrophe.

So to me, a middle ground would be to put the vast majority of that in an investment account (where it probably should be anyway; yikes) and then you can say to your partner, "I make X amount of money to help support us and have X smaller amount in savings. And I've got a retirement fund, but that's not in play" while being as vague or specific as you like about the amount.

I think people just *expect* a retirement fund to not be in play, whereas they expect savings to be used for something.
posted by kythuen at 3:12 PM on July 9, 2014

She's known that I have been saving a lot for graduate school, it's just we haven't had a frank discussion about the actual numbers.

So it isn't actually a secret and it isn't actually as big a deal as you are presenting it. You just haven't put firm numbers to it. With the surprise of getting a stipend and moving to a new state together, this is the perfect time to flesh out those details without making it into drama, if you so desire (and it sounds like you do).

"It seems like your relationship is progressing to a "new" level. "

This also hits the nail on the head.

This is probably the real source of your nervousness: Oh. My. God. COMMITMENT.

It's really okay. People survive that. Honest.

Best of luck with your move.
posted by Michele in California at 3:21 PM on July 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Is it time to give a state of my finances?

That's a broad category. My advice would be to think about how you're defining it. Are you lumping assets and debt together under that umbrella ("finances") and concluding that when it's time for her to know specifics about one, it's also time to disclose the other? If so, is that something that makes sense to you?

For me personally, there would be two spectrums: (1) the level of commitment, from dating to relationship to cohabitating to marriage; and (2) the various financial disclosures, from "you should be forewarned that I have crushing credit-card debt" or "um, I gamble often" to "I own three houses on two continents" or "sweet, my IRA is pretty flush." These spectrums would intersect differently and not necessarily in parallel. Why am I disclosing something? Is there just an abstract reason my partner should know Fact A or B about my assets/debt, or is there some concrete know-what-she's-getting-into reason?

I'm a little surprised at the comments about how I'm a bit behind on savings. Maybe that might be true!

Oh for Christ's sake just ignore half the comments in any relationship AskMe. Good luck with your school program.
posted by cribcage at 3:53 PM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

If living with someone serves as a midway step between dating and marriage, it may well be there is a reasonable midway ground between financial opacity and financial transparency. That probably includes concrete trust attached to specific numbers when it comes to talk about shared living expenses, but beyond that, it's up to you.

There's also the matter of whether the assets you're talking about are really more a part of your financial future instead of your financial present.

If the relationship is likely to be there when those assets start to be an important part of day-to-day life, it's probably worth talking about specifics. If that's not planned out yet, leaving that conversation for the future is reasonable (though not required).
posted by weston at 4:25 PM on July 9, 2014

It's a lot of money if you're young. I'm not young and it's still a lot of money. Get it invested so it earns. Consider investing it in IRA, 401K or Roth IRA, as research dictates. You're doing great just being debt-free, so having savings means is even better. You may want to start setting financial goals, like whether you want a house, travel, etc.

Sharing your finances is obviously an issue to you. I'm pretty open, but the dollar value of my savings wouldn't come up. I'd maybe stop being worried about it, let it come up naturally. Good luck w/ grad school.
posted by theora55 at 4:27 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Per your update:

I'm sorry for the harsh tone. The way you presented the story initially sounded rather selfish. The additional details are helpful.

If you've told her that you have been saving a lot for grad school, then, as Michele in California said, it isn't a secret or a big deal. The main reason you have for telling her the actual numbers, I'd suggest, is that it has to do with presenting an accurate portrait of your individual and collective financial risk in moving for your grad program. The fact that you're getting a stipend changes things. She should probably have a good idea of precisely how.

I shared your question with my partner and she thought that this could be a great opportunity for you both to learn more about the relationship and grow together. If you disclose the amount and she starts acting weird or entitled, that's good information. But if you've been together all this time and get along well, chances are, things won't change at all. The upside, though, is that you'll be on a more even playing field, with her having as full a picture of your finances as you have of hers.

The main thing, I think, is to be clear about your intentions for your savings. Because it is your money, decide before you talk to her what your preferences are about what to do with it. What do you know for sure? Do you want all of it to go toward retirement? Are you willing to set aside some of it for an emergency fund for the both of you?

Don't worry too much about the balance issue. Whatever happens after you disclose can be an opportunity for you to grow closer together. I don't endorse thinking of things in a relationship as a "test" per se, but this is one instance where her response and subsequent behavior might give you a good idea of what your future together might look like.

Also: You should be proud of your savings! Way to go!
posted by Gray Skies at 4:31 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Consider, also, if she knows that you will not be earning during grad school and she expects to get a better job in the new city, she might be feeling that the burden of having to be responsible for any unexpected expenses might well fall to her, because she (hopefully) will have good earnings. For this reason, disclosure now of this cushion you have might be seen as taking that potential worry off her plate.

Congratulations to you both, by the way, for avoiding debt and managing to save. As others have said, being debt free and having the discipline to save is very commendable. As it has come up, now might be a good time to have a little conversation about attitudes toward money, how important saving is to each of you, what your goals are and how much of a 'tightwad' you each happen to be. It's good to know if you are in general agreement about money.

Disclosing the amount of your savings is just a natural small step commensurate with the increasing commitment to the relationship that planning this move together represents. Don't sweat it. It's not some big guilty secret like you'd failed to disclose that you're an heir to a fortune or have large private income or something.
posted by Anitanola at 4:29 AM on July 10, 2014

You're moving together to another state. Of course you should tell her. Just, hey, this has never really come up but I thought I should let you know that I have pretty substantial savings in X amount.

You also have an emergency savings account that is too big and investments that are too small. You need that money to work for you, or else it is just losing value.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:36 AM on July 10, 2014

Also, are you serious about this relationship? Are you going to marry her? And if not, does she know that?
posted by J. Wilson at 5:41 AM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Never ever ever tell anybody how much money you have or expect to get.
posted by telstar at 8:39 PM on July 10, 2014

We've had many many discussions about moving, about how I have no expectation that she accompanies me, but am flattered that she has decided to. I know how disruptive it is to her life.

There is something about the way you've phrased this that makes it seem like you are not 100% serious about her. If you want to marry her, I think you would have the expectation or at least hope that she would go with you, and not merely be 'flattered.' What I am saying is, if she is looking for marriage, be incredibly honest with yourself and her if you don't see that in your future together. Don't waste her time letting her follow you around if you know deep down you won't want to marry her. She may still want to move to the new city, but please don't waste her precious time.
posted by curtains at 9:19 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I honestly see no reason not to tell her, and plenty of reasons why you should.

You mention not wanting to disrupt the balance of the relationship, but what you have now is not really balance because it sounds like you guys haven't talked about what "balanced" means to each of you. Some people think each partner should pay 50% no matter what each makes; some people feel that the person who makes more should contribute a little more. Some people think one arrangement is appropriate before marriage and another arrangement is the right thing to do after marriage. Have you two explicitly talked about what you think is fair when it comes to dividing your expenses?

It sounds like she shares your values in terms of saving and living within her means. So why would you be afraid to tell her that you've been able to do exceptionally well at that? $120,000 is a great deal of savings for someone your age (considering this economy), but as others have said it's not necessarily change-your-life money right now, especially since you'll be investing it. She has no access to it or claim to that money. And wouldn't you want to know if she felt like she should? It would be a huge misalignment in your values and I generally think it's better to surface those things sooner rather than later.

It sounds like you've just kind of been going with the flow for the past two years, which is somewhat understandable. But I think with this move to a new state your relationship has possibly gone to another level and there are some conversations that need to happen around money and marriage to make sure everyone's on the same page, or at least reading from the same book. Does she see this as a bigger commitment and the lead up to getting engaged? Or is it just the same old, same old but in a new state? You don't know unless you talk about it.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying you should propose to her or are now obligated to marry her because you moved together--I'm saying that you guys need to be clear with each other about where you each think this relationship is going, and if marriage is one the table in the future, how far away you think that future might be. I say that because there would be no question for me that I would share this information with someone I viewed as my partner, but it doesn't sound like you view her that way, and she may have a different idea about that.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 4:30 PM on July 11, 2014

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