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QA with 'Get Naked' author Manisha Thakor

'Get Financially Naked' with your honey -- or face big money woes, she says

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There's an elephant in America's bedroom that no one wants to discuss.

It's not Leno vs. Letterman. Or Paula vs. Ellen. It's not those commercials with the bathtubs.

Manisha Thakor, co-author,
'Get Financially Naked'
Thakor

Manisha Thakor, above, co-authored "Get Financially Naked: How To Talk Money Get Financially NakedWith Your Honey." In the book, she and co-author Sharon Kedar advocate opening a conversation about money -- even if it's difficult. Financial choices have become trickier and talking about them have become taboo, neither of which is conducive to good relationships, or to long term wealth.

It's money -- that forbidden subject.

Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar, two certified financial analysts, hope to break the ice and save a few million relationships in the process with "Get Financially Naked: How To Talk Money With Your Honey," their step-by-painful-step guide to talking about the least romantic topic ever.

The authors contend that starting a dialog early about money and finance can make relationships stronger and better able to weather the storms of misfortune.

But money? On a first date? After a first kiss? Really?  

CreditCards.com hooked up with Manisha Thakor for a chat about love -- and the M word.

CreditCards.com: First off, snaps on the title of your book.

Manisha Thakor: Thank you! (chuckles) We had to get people's attention, because it wasn't a topic that they innately want to discuss. Couples would rather discuss erectile dysfunction than talk about this, honestly. It's the last taboo. Talking about money really is more intimate than talking about sex. It is amazing to me the lengths to which couples will go to avoid discussing what I like to call the pink elephant in the bedroom.

CreditCards.com: How did it get that way?

Manisha Thakor: The reason I typically give is, we're not educated about personal finance but we're expected to understand it. The emotion I see most when I'm out talking about the book is shame. The financial landscape has grown geometrically more complex over the last 30 years. Where our parents weren't educated about personal finance either, their financial options were fairly limited, so they were able to self-educate on the subject. Now, we're bombarded with so many financial choices that even something as simple as picking a credit card can make your head spin.

CreditCards.com: Not on this site! But it's true: Men and women do handle finances differently.

Manisha Thakor: Yes. For men, I think there is societal pressure to "man-up" around this subject. A lot of that has to do with the nature of our country. America is about the American dream, about rugged individualism, and if you aren't able to make the most of your situation, you're not living the American dream so you're a failure. That's opposed to other societies where other elements of your identity come into play, like your family's history, your roots.

For women, you can get a group of women together and they will happily tell you how much weight they gained through pregnancy and were unable to shed, or what goes on physically in their bedrooms, but they will not tell you how much their household spending exceeds their household income or what kind of revolving balances and interest rates they have on their credit cards.

CreditCards.com: So we shouldn't be surprised that the subject doesn't come up when dating.

Manisha Thakor: Society doesn't encourage us to consider financial responsibility as one of the elements that we evaluate or incorporate in a relationship. When you meet someone special, it is very socially acceptable for your friends to ask you, are you emotionally compatible, physically compatible, intellectually compatible? But nobody asks if you are financially compatible. It's just not part of the lexicon.

CreditCards.com: It does seem like kind of a buzz kill.

Manisha Thakor: Well, we do say if you're ready to take your clothes off, it's time to strip down financially. If you think you've found the one, this typically is a make-or-break element for long-term relationships, so you might as well start talking about it right out of the gate. This notion that you could get married and not know about each other's finances is one we think needs to be exploded. It's just gone on for way too long.

CreditCards.com: As you point out in the book, marriage historically has been more about money than love.

Manisha Thakor: Absolutely. I mean, if love developed a couple hundred years ago, great, nice side benefit, but that wasn't what the institution entailed. And as the institution evolved to become more romantically driven, I don't think our vocabulary and social openness to including the economic piece evolved with it.

CreditCards.com: Which sex is more likely to broach the subject?

Manisha Thakor: I think it totally depends on the couple. I mean, 40 percent of women are now the breadwinners, either by desire or default, in their household, whereas 20 years ago it would have been the man. That's not the case anymore; it's both sides, and it really is couple specific.

CreditCards.com: One of the biggest pachyderms in pajamas here is credit card debt, or what you term "credit carditis." How volatile is the topic for couples?

Manisha Thakor: Part of the reason we wrote "Get Financially Naked" is because people clearly need both a language and a guide book. If, at the point that you think you've found the one, you disclose to each other any financial blemishes in the same way you might disclose any sexually transmitted diseases, that is the most effective way to make sure that whatever pieces of credit carditis lurk in your history aren't going to blow your relationship to smithereens. If you have one partner who has a history of accruing debt and you don't talk about that until after marriage, you quite literally could end up in a because-of-debt-did-we-part situation.

CreditCards.com: Especially when so many live beyond their means in part to attract the opposite sex.

If you have one partner who has a history of accruing debt and you don't talk about that until after marriage, you quite literally could end up in a because-of-debt-did-we-part situation.

-- Manisha Thakor    

CreditCards.com: Especially when so many live beyond their means in part to attract the opposite sex.

Manisha Thakor: That totally happens. In my 15 years in institutional money management, I cannot tell you how many people I met who made not only six-figure incomes but seven-figure incomes, people who made over a million dollars a year, who were routinely spending more than they earned. They had these external images that bore no resemblance to their internal financial reality. The recession was a blessing there in that it basically snapped two primary lines of credit that people were using to live that way: easy access to home equity loans and easy access to credit cards. It's tougher, but the damage is still there in the past and it's going to take a long time to repair.

CreditCards.com: That's where a certified financial planner can help, right?

Manisha Thakor: In certain religions, part of the process of getting married is going through premarital counseling, and a component of that is discussing money. I think this is a wonderful way to kind of formalize that process. It can be as simple as finding an hourly fee-based financial planner that you would pay by the hour at rates similar to a psychologist, and running through a list of your prospective household financial statements.

CreditCards.com: As opposed to the whack-a-mole approach where you deal with your finances piecemeal, whenever one pops up.

Manisha Thakor: Right! The planner can give you a framework.

CreditCards.com: So what's so wrong about just asking your friends for advice?

Manisha Thakor: Oftentimes they don't give correct financial advice. The golf course is a classic example. I cannot tell you, in my previous life as a portfolio manager, how many times clients came in with the most cockamamie ideas they had heard on the golf course.

CreditCards.com: Especially if your foursome included Bernie Madoff.

Manisha Thakor: Exactly!

CreditCards.com: How can a couple recognize and capitalize on each others strengths?

Manisha Thakor: We include in "Get Financially Naked" a financial compatibility quiz. The idea behind the quiz is for each partner to assess their knowledge, interest and behavior with regards to money. The goal is not for you to become the same; it's to identify where there are gaps so you can plug the hole. If both of you lack knowledge or interest in a certain area, you can get outside help. If retirement planning makes your head spin, you can go to Garrett Planning Network (www.garrettplanningnetwork.com) or the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (www.napfa.org) and find yourself an hourly, fee-based financial planner no matter what your financial circumstances.

More than a call to action, our book is a permission to act, to encourage people that it's not only OK to bring up this subject; it's a great investment in your relationship. It can bring you closer.

See related: CreditCards.com survey: Credit card debt becomes the new taboo, Come clean about debt before it damages your relationship

Published: March 25, 2010


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