International travel is the single best way to learn quickly whether you and your partner are compatible. Visit a foreign destination where neither of you has been before, neither speak the language, and the locals don’t speak your language. If you can’t work together to create a fun and memorable vacation experience abroad, you have no chance of building fun and memorable experiences together back home. By the end of the trip, it will be evident to everyone how compatible you are.
Example: I traveled to South East Asia with my girlfriend immediately after graduating college. Relying on only one another, we navigated through multiple countries and had the time of our lives. Our shared experiences included encounters with wild animals, emergency bathroom breaks, and plenty of getting lost moments. On the plane ride home, we shared our favorite moments and knew that neither of us was tired of the other. We are happily married and still traveling the world together today.
As each anniversary passes, your relationship grows and so does the price of gifts spent on each other. The exchanging of presents quickly escalates into a self-induced arms race between two people who should be building their financial foundations. Replace gifts by agreeing to split the cost of shared experiences. Examples include international travel (see above), learning a new skill, or attending events of common interest. If your partner isn’t interested, you’ll know the relationship is an investment worth selling.
Example: My wife and I charted a small sailboat on the Hudson River one summer day for our anniversary. Having no prior experience sailing, we hired a captain to teach us the ropes (pun intended). We spent a few hours learning how to sail, enjoying the beautiful scenery, and ingesting good wine and cheese. While neither of us has aspirations to earn our boating licenses, it was an experience that we shared and will never forget.
Liberating Transparency Transparency sounds dull and clichéd; that’s because it’s the best-known method to confirm financial compatibility. Sharing your financial health with your partner early in the relationship prevents unnecessary emotional and economic costs. Don’t be ashamed to share if you are in debt, your approximate take-home pay, or what you like to spend your money on and how much you try to save. If you are looking at your partner as a long-term investment and don’t know each other’s balance sheet, then you’re gambling, not investing.
Example: My wife and I very early in our relationship wrote on a napkin the average amount we spent on our lifestyles each week. We compared the two figures and made sure that neither of us increased our spending to match the other. The transparency was liberating; the more expensive lifestyle partner wound up lowering their spending to match the other. The extra money saved was deposited in an investment account each month. The savings grew and helped offset some costs of our wedding years later.