Love and money

Dear Liz: I am in a new relationship with a great woman. I’ve talked a little bit about money and retirement with her (she’s 30). I am trying to let her know that it would be wise to contribute at least enough to her company’s retirement program to get the full match. What are some books or articles that would show her the importance of saving for retirement? I like her, but this can be a deal breaker for me. What is the best way to introduce her to personal finances without scaring her?

Answer: You could start by hopping down from that high horse you’re riding.

The fact that she’s not saving for retirement is unfortunate but hardly unusual. Many people her age have trouble understanding the need to start saving young for retirement. Even those who do may have trouble investing their money, thanks to the 2008 market crash and subsequent recession. A recent survey by MFS Investment Management of people with $100,000 or more in investable assets found nearly half of adults under 34 say they would never be comfortable investing in stocks.

Of course, millennials need to get comfortable with the idea of stock market investing, because otherwise they’re unlikely to grow their wealth enough to afford a decent retirement. Some books that can help them understand the principles of investing — and the importance of scooping up those free company matches — include:

•”Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back,” by Kimberly Palmer.

•”Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties,” by Beth Kobliner.

•”On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance,” by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar.

As you talk to your girlfriend, remember that few couples are on exactly the same page financially. Everyone has different family cultures and experiences growing up that inform how we deal with money. Asking her to talk about her background with money and taking the time to understand her perspective is a great place to start your conversations about finances. It’s certainly better than issuing ultimatums at this early stage.


  1. I’ve enjoyed reading your column in the past. However, I was a bit surprised to hear you were offended by the man who was concerned about his girlfriend’s retirement planning habits. Your suggestion that he “hop off his high horse he was riding on” gave your position away. He wasn’t claiming that she was a bad person for not having a coherent retirement plan. He didn’t suggest that she was unusual for people her age because she didn’t think about retirement. He was coming to you for advice on how to have the conversation. Most people come to embrace retirement, and the power of compounding, only after being introduced to the concept by someone else. It is not wrong for the reader to look at a potential life partner’s financial interest when determining overall compatibility. Unless I missed something in the original letter, I think the reader was prudent. I believe he is owed an apology by you.

    • Liz Weston says

      Nope. Huge debts, drug use, alcoholism–those might be “deal breakers,” in his words. Lack of retirement savings at 30? That’s taking “prudence” way too far.

  2. It’s unfortunate the original poster chose to include the sentence “I like her, but this can be a deal breaker for me.” as part of his inquiry. It appears the statement set the tone for Liz’s response. Had the statement been left out, there would have been no need to address it. I applaud him for at least being intersted enough to discuss a subject that could ultimately result in the girlfriend becoming fiscally smarter and more financially secure, whether he remains in the picture or not.

    After her admonishment, Liz did provide the advice he was seeking.

  3. I have to agree that is a ridiculous “deal breaker”. It is his choice to put money before love, but I am glad I didn’t date him.

    I am a 29-year old woman and saving for retirement. When my husband and I met, he didn’t know anything about personal finances and we are both still learning, thanks in part to Liz. The idea of not continuing our relationship because he wasn’t saving for retirement is laughable. If I had told him he has to save for retirement or I would break up with him, I think he would be best served by saving up for retirement and breaking up with me until I straightened out my priorities in life. I shared my knowledge with him and we’ve learned a lot together. Now he is starting to save for retirement too.

    I think Liz answered the question well. In fact, I’m going to check out some of those books for myself.