Molly: [00:00:00] Honey. , it's time to talk about the money. Talking about money in relationships can sometimes feel a little bit awkward and when do you even bring it up? Hey babe. Got any debt? Uh, yeah, maybe the first Bumble date's a little bit too early, but you also don't wanna be walking down the aisle and, realize that your partner is up to their eyeballs in debt.
We don't wanna catch no STDs sexually transmitted debts. But we wanna be aware of it. We wanna be able to talk about it without it being awkward. So we've brought in an absolute expert in this space, Betsy Westcott. She's a money coach in Sydney and she's gonna be giving us all the hints and tips about how we can turn to our honey and say, let's talk about the money.
Betsy Westco, welcome to the show.
Betsy: Hi, Molly. Great to be back with you,
Molly: in today's show we're gonna be talking all about relationships and money because it's really important. And we've done a show about untying the knots, so about the separation and the divorce process. But yeah, we wanna talk about what are all those kind of things early on and during a relationship that we need to talk about, when it comes to money, cuz it's really important that we have these conversations.
I guess I'm just gonna kick it off with when should we start talking about money in a relationship? [00:02:00] Like is the first Bumble date too early?
Betsy: I don't think so. I think start the way you intend to continue, and in my opinion, it's never too early to have a conversation. I mean, look, you might not want your first Bumble date to be like, "So, what's your financial position? How are you investing?", that might be like a little too much too soon.
But absolutely you can talk about how you're gonna pay for the evening. You know, don't assume maybe they wanna split the bill, maybe they'd like to pay. Maybe you wanna pay, maybe you're that kind of gal but then, you know, as the relationship develops, there'll become natural opportunities to discuss money.
So it might be your first weekend escape together. Well, how are you gonna pay for that? How are you gonna budget for that? Who wants to contribute what? And then as the relationship develops, there'll be things like splitting bills, moving in together, managing day-to-day expenses and then, you know, as things get a little bit more serious with engagements, weddings, so on and so forth, then you can dive into those more experienced conversations.
But, start the way you intend to continue and you know, have healthy money conversations
Molly: Yeah. And I have to say, whenever I'm on a date, I do generally bring up, like by the end we will have talked about investing. I mean, I've got an easy in because they're like, what do you do? And I'm like, "Ladies, Finance Club", do you invest? but also, I'll be like, so what are your goals?
And sometimes their goals might be like, "Oh, I wanna buy a property". And I'll be like, okay, great. They've got money goals.
Betsy: Yeah. And the easiest one is to sort of, frame questions around like experiences with money and what did you learn and what was your first job. And you can pick up a lot of insights very early with questions like that. Because the first thing you kind of wanna understand is like, what's their money mindset and behaviors and those goals and and so forth. And you can, you can pick up a lot early.
Molly: Yeah, cuz if you grew up with very different financial backgrounds maybe you grew up where money was a little bit tight and they grew up where money wasn't tight, like you are gonna have very different mindsets around that, and that [00:04:00] can be a huge point of contention if it's not discussed and understood.
Betsy: And some people are taught, you know, it's rude to talk about money, so even the very concept of having a money discussion can be quite confronting for someone. So, identifying that early so that you can change your approach so that it's more inviting and supportive and curious and comfortable for your potential partner is important.
Molly: Yeah, and we did a poll last year on Ladies Finance Club, and so many people entered into the poll, but it was, do you know how much your partner earns? And although it wasn't a huge amount, I was still really surprised it was a, sitting around that 17% of people had no idea how much their partners were earning, or they obviously weren't discussing it.
And that to me was like, oh, wow how do you then talk about money and, take your relationship to the next level if you're just unclear on how much each other's earning? It was an interesting one.
Betsy: Oh, it's fascinating and I think that's really consistent. I think someone else some research on that. Maybe it was Finder, but that's very consistent. It was like one in five didn't know what their partners earned. And I mean I guess if you've only been dating for a couple of weeks, that's possibly okay.
But if you are living together or if you are planning a life together,
I hope you can chat about that.
Molly: What are some kind of important conversations you think need to be had in like those different stages of relationship?
Betsy: So in that dating phase, it's more about wanting to understand their money mindset or, what are their spending priorities, what are their financial goals? But then once you start joining forces as a couple where you have shared responsibilities, whether that's living together and paying bills together, or it might be looking to make an investment together or buy a property together. Or really committing to that relationship with a long-term commitment with a marriage, raising children together. That's where you want to have more, specific conversations like, well, how do we want to manage our money? What am I [00:06:00] bringing to the relationship? What are you bringing to the relationship? What framework do we wanna set up for managing money on the day-to-day?
What are our goals? What are our joint goals? And what happens if, you know, X, y, Z happens? What if I lose a job? What if you lose a job? What if we start a family and one of us isn't working? What if one of us gets sick? Starting to have those more I guess serious conversations as well as the fun ones around what kind of lifestyle do we wanna create?
What kind of legacy do we wanna build together? And ensuring you are sort of knocking those off. So, you know, dating very much mindset, values, behaviours. Moving in is definitely talk about how much do each of you earn because it's very, very unlikely that you're gonna earn exactly the same amount.
So within that context then, how do you wanna split bills, manage unexpected costs, put money towards long-term goals or even short-term goals. At the buying property stage that can be a really big one. Particularly given how expensive property is. Often you might be receiving a gift from one or both sets of parents if you're lucky enough to, so well, what are the expectations around that?
What are the legal implications of that? Is it a gift? Is it a loan? How much are you contributing? What kind of structure do you wanna put in place for ownership and for the loan?
Molly: Are you a believer in like prenups or in America they're referred to prenups, Australia, we call 'em binding financial agreements. If someone's coming in with a lot more assets than the other partner, are you a believer in let's get that written out and contracted?
Betsy: Look, I don't think there's a one size fits all approach. I'm a big believer in having a conversation about it. So the binding financial agreement, it's really a planning tool and it's an insurance policy which says, you know, what if things don't work out, how would we like to divide our assets that we [00:08:00] have brought to the relationship and that we've, accumulated together?
I do think it makes a lot of sense in that scenario that you described where one person's coming with a lot more assets than another. So that it's just very clear that if things didn't work out, do those assets get divided or, you know, does that remain with the individual that brought them in. Another point in time where binding financial agreements are a, a really sensible thing to consider is that if you are coming into a relationship where it might be your, your second or third serious relationship, particularly if you have children, from a previous relationship, your affairs are a lot more complicated.
You've got other people to think about and be responsible for. So having a good, healthy conversation around, what are we bringing in to the relationship how are we gonna manage it? And what would happen if things didn't work out, I think is a really healthy conversation.
It's a good insurance policy to put in place, and it's a much easier conversation to have when things are happy and joyful and loving than when something's gone wrong and you might not feel so fond of that person.
Molly: So important. And actually when we were speaking to the family lawyer, she said that one of the biggest mistakes I see couples make is actually not having that difficult conversation early on. Going, okay, let's say this doesn't work out. How are we gonna split things? And then again like, yep, if you do get that binding financial agreement hopefully you know, it stays in the drawer never to be opened.
But again, as you said, it is that kind of insurance policy.
Betsy: I know there's a belief that binding financial agreements aren't worth the paper that they're written on, but that's not really true. I mean, there is a method in which you need to prepare them so that they are effective. And times where they can be set aside is that if there was a real imbalance of power when the document was prepared, if one of the parties didn't get access to independent legal advice, then [00:10:00] yeah
the agreement might not be valid or deemed valid in a court of law. But assuming that that's not the case, assuming that you're not putting pressure on someone to sign it, you know, because if they don't sign it you won't marry them or they won't get their visa or something like that. Then, you know, they, they are a really helpful contract and agreement between two parties saying, look, if things don't work out, this is just how we're gonna divide
Molly: think that's a really good point as well. If you are gonna get one, make sure it is with our family lawyer and they do this every day because Yeah, I know we've seen it in the news where the prenup doesn't hold up because they didn't get those experts to actually write it up
Molly: So what is a good way couples can split bills if they are kind of earning different amounts? You know, there's no, it's no secret that in Australia there's still a healthy pay gap. So let's say one party is coming in earning more than the other. do we work that?
Betsy: Okay, well first of all, there is absolutely no one size fits all, but I can definitely share some of the more common practices that I've observed. But what I will say is that just like no two individuals, no relationships are the same there is no perfect generic plan that's gonna suit everyone. everyone. It, I'm gonna sound like a broken record, but it really comes down to having healthy conversations with your partner around, how do we want to come together as a financial team? How do we wanna manage things? So some couples really like to go 50 50, we pool the money and then, you know, we divide how we contribute evenly.
So you might sit down and look at all your shared expenses and say, okay, cool, if we have a thousand dollars of shared expenses every month, I'll put in $500 to cover my portion, and you put in $500 to cover your portion. Some couples may like to [00:12:00] calibrate it based on, you know, if you, if your partner owns 20% more than you, then he might put in an extra 20% to cover bills than you do.
Some people prefer to join all their finances in shared accounts and have complete transparency. Many couples as far as I can see, like to share the bills, but then maintain some independence and discretion around their, let's call it the fun money spending. The discretionary spending, just so that there's, you know, a little bit of independence and autonomy there as well.
There's definitely lots of approaches, like you can use apps to kind of split bills and transfer things together. There's apps like Beam it is a really good one. If it's just sort of one-off bills, that's actually one I tend to use with friends more than anything. Being like, girl, you all need $20 for tacos,
Molly: Yeah, I know Briony and I, my sister and I, we have a very lengthy splitwise that has been going on for a long time, , but it all kind of like evens out or it's like someone's really behind on the splitwise. We'll be like, okay, I'll get, I'll get this big item because it's, it's a great way just to kind of take the headache out of it.
Betsy: Yeah, nobody's got time to like keep that list in their head. Get an app to help you.
Molly: Totally. And I love what you say as well about having your fun money separate and having that kind of financial independence as well. Cuz I'm a big believer in like every woman should have their emergency fund in their name that only they can access because life happens and sometimes you just need access to money and when things
you know, might not work out or something happens if anything's frozen you still wanna make sure that you can always pay your mortgage repayments, your electricity you know, or if you need to leave, you've always got money there. That means you can take yourself from a situation.
I really agree about that. I think it is important. Say you've got a joint account but you might not be married or if, you've got like a s. Secondary access to a partner's account. If they [00:14:00] were to pass away, if the account's just in their name and you are like a signature on it, that account gets frozen.
And same goes with things like credit cards. If you are the secondary card holder on your partner's credit card and they pass away, that account gets frozen. If it's a joint account, the account ownership transfers to you as the surviving partner. But that can take a little bit of time. You might have to go to the bank to kind of sort that out.
So I, I do agree it's always important to receive your income into your own personal account and then move funds across to join accounts. That's my personal view. I just think it's really important, particularly for women to just have control of where their cash goes.
And it doesn't mean you need to hide that from your partner. It doesn't need to be a secret account. For my partner and I, I have an individual emergency savings account, so does he, and then we have a joint emergency savings account. And he knows that they're there. I know that his is there. It's, it's all out in the open, but it just means we have a little bit of autonomy and for us, we also have
individual play money accounts because how am I gonna surprise him with something exciting if he can see what I'm buying?
Molly: Also, I don't want anyone judging me on how much my hair costs because I think they would be shocked to know how much, like just being a woman, sometimes bloody costs
Betsy: Yeah I think we all just need a little bit of independence. I mean, not to say that sharing everything is bad, it really depends on the individual.
Molly: And you touched on it before, but with secret accounts cuz I was again reading an article and people do have secret accounts. I know a lot of like books and the gurus of the finance world say, be treated as you'd wanna be treated, you know, shouldn't keep anything a secret.
But again, a lot of these books are written by white privileged men who aren't in that position where, okay, I'm gonna be really screwed if shit hits the fan. What are your thoughts on secret accounts?
Betsy: It's about 10% of couples have either a money is secret and that could be hidden like accounts or it could just actually be like, I haven't told you about this debt that I have over [00:16:00] here.
So I think that secrets is, is a bit of a red flag. You know, if you feel like you can't be open with your partner about the fact that you have your own emergency savings, it's probably a red flag in your relationship already. So I advocate for having really open, honest conversations about money and if you're in a position that you feel like you can do that, that's probably a sign and that you're in a healthy relationship.
So yeah I think it's a bit of a red flag.
Molly: Yeah, absolutely. And I think if you are listening to this podcast and you are thinking maybe there's a few red flags in your relationship when it comes to maybe, you know you don't have much control over your money or your money is kind of being taken out of your account by your partner or anything like this, this is where you should definitely kind of seek the help of financial counselors cuz you might be experiencing on some level of some financial abuse, which is actually incredibly common in this this country.
Betsy: Yeah, it's scary actually, isn't it Molly when you, you do read those stats. And I think there's varying degrees of red flags, isn't it? Like the ones that you are listing there are those really avert big red flags. If someone is preventing you accessing your money, preventing you ability to earn money, pressuring you into either paying for things or taking on debt being secretive about money with you.
Those are some pretty big red flags and, and may stack up to what is known as financial abuse. Other red flags which might not be as terrible could be just things around like spending habits, you know? if someone has a spending habit where they use money as a way of self soothing. So, you know, every time they have a bad day, they jump online, click add to cart, and it's, you know, a bunch of new lipsticks from Mecca or some new golfing t-shirts or something.
In isolation, not such a bad idea. But if that is something that happens regularly and it's something that they don't really have a [00:18:00] lot of control of, that's a little bit of a red flag in that maybe they haven't developed the right skills and tools to cope with, you know, challenges and hardships in their life and they're, they're soothing with a spending habit or a gambling habit, which has the propensity to escalate.
So whilst it might not be an immediate deal breaker, it is something that you want to sort of get curious about, understand, have a conversation work with them to help over overcome because it could turn into something bad. So, yeah, there's, there's varying degrees of red flags. I don't think all red flags in a relationship are a deal breaker, but they're definitely something to be mindful of and try and address as early as possible before it does turn into something a bit more dramatic.
Molly: , And, if you are a saver and your partner is a spender, opposites attract, how do you manage that? So, you know, can a spender and a saver live happily ever after? And how do you make the other part and not feel so restricted or they might feel like you're trying to dull their spending shine. How does that work?
Betsy: so yes, long story short, spenders and savers can live happily ever after. I think it's really important to spend time understanding what are your values, what are your priorities when it comes to managing your money, and find common grounds. So what are we working on together? And I think, you know, if you do have that
spend, save, dichotomy, going on. also talking about h how are we gonna divide up our roles? So an example of how a spender and saver might work together is that they might have, okay, these are our joint bills and expenses that we both contribute to. Then there's these joint goals that we're working on.
But outside of those two things, we have financial independence. So the one that likes saving can, you know, put money toward other things that they wanna save for or, or just choose to have a lot more discretion on how they spend their money. Versus [00:20:00] the one that likes to spend still has that autonomy to express themselves and, you know, buy those experiences or purchases that makes them feel happy without feeling restricted and stifled.
And what I really like about this approach is that you're taking care of business early and upfront, taking care of bills, taking care of goals, and then giving yourselves the independence and freedom to kind of, you know, live your best financial lives on, on the spending side.
Molly: Yeah, no, absolutely. So ladies, a spender and a saver can live happily ever after. I love the tip as well around, have an agreed amount. Like okay what do I not have to tell the other person about if it's from a joint account, so anything over a hundred dollars, it has to be discussed.
But if it's like, $50, cuz I'm getting some cleaning products for the house or something like that, we don't have to have that conversation. But if it's over a certain limit, then like, let's just have a quick conversation about it to keep everything really transparent.
Betsy: Yeah, and that comes back to that framework for managing your money. So it's not just the practical, like I'm transferring this amount to this account, and that one there. But it's what are kind of the ground rules for how we operate as a financial team? So that's a really great example of a ground rule where it's like, if it's a purchase over a hundred bucks or $500, we need to have a chat beforehand.
And, you know, if it's a hundred bucks, it might be a quick little text. Hey, just fyi, I'm gonna buy this that cool with you. If it's, you know, I'm gonna upgrade the car, that might be a little bit more of a detailed conversation.
Molly: Yes. because it does happen and I hear and know people where they'll just literally, they'll do that. They will go out and buy a car and not talk to the partner and the partner's like, uh, you just made a really big financial decision without me.
Betsy: Yeah. Absolutely. So yeah, those ground rules for how we spend money and also who's responsible for what as well, which can also be a source of conflict. If you haven't really decided, you know, who's gonna pay for the bills and who's going to negotiate the mortgage interest rate every couple of years, and who's going to ensure [00:22:00] that the wills are up to date. If that inadvertently falls to one person that can create resentment and create issues.
So if there's one person in the relationship who loves doing that they might be really happy to do it. But again, it's, it's that we've jointly decided that this is our approach. We're both aware of what the expectations are and what's gonna work for us, and we move forward based on that decision rather than just assuming.
And then realising later that one thought A and the other thought B. And that's why you're having a fight on a Tuesday evening.
Molly: Yeah, . And I've heard you, um, talk about this before and I love the concept of it, but having like date nights where you actually make time, take it to a neutral space and you have that conversation regularly about those goals and any kind of questions that are coming up or any concerns.
Betsy: Yeah, it's about being proactive around what do we want for us? How do we wanna manage things? And look, it doesn't have to be every month, maybe every quarter. I'd say don't go more than six months without a money check. I feel like might be too far, but just say, Hey, let's put some time aside. We don't have any distractions. You know, if you've got kid, kids are in bed or kids are at the grandparents. We've sat down, we've come prepared as well.
Like if there's things that need a little bit more information or, or input. Say, Hey, I wanna talk about this on our money date. So that your partner's not blindsided by what you wanna bring up. you're just setting yourself up for success.,
And I think we were, um, running an event. This was BC before Covid, it was an event in Sydney on Love and Money, and someone said about having, I think it was an open mic night with their partner as well, where like once a week they just have this little period of time where anyone can bring anything up.
And I was like, I love that so much.
Betsy: I I do like that. It was actually a practice for families where, you know, sitting down to the dinner table, you talk about three good things that happened in your day and three things that challenged you and then a buffalo. Just something you wanna talk about. [00:24:00] I dunno why it was called a buffalo, but I was like, cool.
Molly: And then just finally, if you are with someone and you find out they do have a debt or, you know, what are some ways that you can I guess support your partner on that kind of journey?
Because for them to be quite open about their debts, it can be an extremely like big challenge for them. So what are some ways you can support a partner who has that debt.
Betsy: So always come with a, I'm curious, I wanna understand and give your partner the benefit of the doubt. You love this person at the end of the day. So you wanna be non-judgmental, you want to be supportive. So understand what kind of debt is it? Cause there's a big difference between I've got a hex debt.
I spent a long time trying to become a doctor or an engineer or whatever profession. Versus I've got a gambling debt, which I've been keeping a secret for a long time because you know, with something like a gambling debt, there's the money concerns, but then there's also the behavioural stuff.
And so it's not just about paying off the debt, it's how do we address the behaviors that were driving that that got you to that place in the first instance. And how do we ensure that we have the right support and practices in place so that you avoid that again, and, making sure that they have the motivation to avoid that again.
So being really curious to understand what and why
Betsy: And then what's the plan to repay it? So, what's the minimum repayments for that debt that they need to make? And then what are some other opportunities to pay that off sooner and quicker? Is it, you know, refinancing it to a cheaper interest rate?
Is it prioritizing more of the money from their discretionary budget, going to pay that off. So, you know. can you forego the gym subscription, or I'm probably trying to think of a better one, but, you know, every second dinner out or something to try and prioritize paying off that debt?
Or is there opportunities for you to make more cash elsewhere to start paying off that debt? And just, know, being an accountability [00:26:00] partner, not a policeman.
That's a difference thing. You don't wanna be policing your partner, but you do wanna be, you know, checking in with them and supporting them and helping them.
Molly: And I guess if you are also kind of struggling a little bit, or you're having trouble with these conversations, a great person is to go talk to a financial counselor or a money coach like yourself.
Betsy: Yeah, so financial counselors are going to be really supportive if you are struggling with managing your cash. If you do find yourself in more debt than you can kind of handle. A Financial counselors are gonna be really supportive. If it's the conversations that are challenging or developing a money management framework
a financial coach is gonna be a great person to talk to. You can talk to a financial advisor. Although the fees to get that kind of specific financial advice might not make sense. So a coach is probably better because they're more focused on the behavior and the cashflow framework. So we will depend a little bit on your circumstances, but get support, get help, because we're not born knowing how to have these conversations. And often the role models around these things that we grew up with might not have been the best. So just if you were like wanting to become, you know, a great swimmer or a fast runner, you'd get a coach.
The same goes for your money. Get a coach, get some support.
Molly: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Betsy, for joining us. Where can we find you online and kind of what services do you offer?
Betsy: Yeah, so I am a financial wellness coach. As might have been mentioned in the beginning with my background, I am very financially literate. I have been qualified as a financial advisor, but what I love focusing on is understanding why we do what we do with money. Helping people build their financial literacy and helping them sort of develop frameworks in which to improve their financial wellbeing.
So I work with individuals in a one-on-one basis, but I spend a lot of time [00:28:00] working with couples. It's kind of my specialty because we enter our relationships often expecting that our partners will have the same money behaviors as us, and they don't. And then it's like, well, how do we navigate their lives?
It's all very fraught with emotion and energy. So I kind of come in and help be that mediator and that coach to help them on their way. So you can find me on my website, betsy westcott.com, which talks about all my services there. And then if you wanna get social with me, I'm on Instagram at Betsy Westcott.
I'm on Facebook at Betsy Westcot and LinkedIn at Betsy Westcott.
Molly: Awesome. Thanks so much Betsy. And you can check her out there.