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Q&A: 'Dating Our Money' author Leslie Greenman links love, money

Women need to make savvy choices in both personal finance and men

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Ladies just can't help it -- we must shop till we drop, make "charge it" our motto and aim to land a wealthy husband to take care of us, right?

Uh, no.

Both sexes should be financially secure, but women in particular need to step up their game, says financial planner Leslie Greenman.

Greenman is the author of "Dating Our Money," which offers female love-seekers the vital information necessary to make savvy choices about both money and men. Greenman knows of what she preaches. At 35, when her husband died, she became a single mom of two young boys. When she began to date again, she soon discovered that even with her background and expertise, getting taken advantage of is all too easy. Hence the book and her astute advice.

Leslie Greenman, author,
'Dating Our Money'
Dating Our Money

Dating Our Money

Widowed at 35 with two young sons, financial planner Leslie Greenman relates both her biggest financial mistakes as well as dating mistakes in her new book, "Dating Our Money." Greenman likens her tales to "Sex and the City" meets financial planning.

CreditCards.com: In "Dating Our Money," you are incredibly candid about your own money mistakes. How hard was it, as an established financial planner with a reputation at stake, to come clean?

Leslie Greenman: Yes, I have tried to be brutally honest about past money mistakes. I think women are amazing at multitasking and balancing endless balls in the air. Unfortunately, we often fall short in some area of our life and finances are usually it. I know women who run large, successful businesses who have never taken the time to complete a will or purchase life insurance. However, they are often too embarrassed to admit it. I want women to know they are not alone. Women worry endlessly about everyone else but forget to take care of themselves and, usually, their finances. 

CreditCards.com: Because you were so open, have you found that it gave others the courage to admit their own past foibles?

Greenman: This book seems to be passed from sister to sister or friend to friend because it is very relatable. Everyone has had life throw them an unexpected curveball, whether death, divorce or disease. The list goes on. I hope this book empowers women and stirs them to action. Ninety percent of women wait until a crisis to create a financial plan. We need to be more proactive. We work too hard for our money to ignore it.

CreditCards.com: When dating, your first inclination is show how fabulous you are, so the other person will like and admire you, right? Where does the subject of money fit into that?

Greenman: Absolutely, I want you to be fabulous on a first date. The No. 1 thing men find attractive in women is confidence. When you take the time to take charge of your finances, you will radiate confidence. Then you will attract the right men to you and not the ones who will take you and your wallet on a ride!

CreditCards.com: It's a touch awkward, though, to bring up credit and other financial matters. Do it in the wrong way and you can sound like you're bragging -- or worse, not terribly successful with it. Any tips on how to approach the topic and keep your dignity?

Greenman: Yes, it is absolutely a sensitive subject discussing finances on a first date, and I would not address it directly. I approach the topic of finances by waiting until the check arrives, then I reach for my wallet and offer to pay my half with cash. I then drop some small hint like, "I don't use credit cards and only pay for things with cash." Then it is important to be quiet even if there is the uncomfortable 15 seconds of silence. You will be surprised by the responses you get. Try it!

Men have very quickly revealed to me how much they have in credit card debt or told me that they love that I only pay with cash. One man said he wished his ex was more like me because she racked up a credit card bill of almost $70,000 on a jointly held credit card. He was stuck paying off the mess!

CreditCards.com: You cover quite a few differences between the sexes when it comes to the way we handle money. Can you go over just a few of them -- and how it can cause conflict?

I will admit that I have stopped dating even the best kissers because I knew they were a financial mess. I was not willing to carry another person's financial burden. Continuing the relationship was not fair because I knew it would never work.

Greenman: Money is the No. 1 reason for divorce in America. You cannot ignore your partner's spending habits. Usually one person is the spender and one the saver in each relationship. This can cause conflicts down the road in a relationship if there is not clear communication. I will admit that I have stopped dating even the best kissers because I knew they were a financial mess. I was not willing to carry another person's financial burden. Continuing the relationship was not fair because I knew it would never work. The warning signs were already there.

I often get asked questions like, "Should I date a man who recently declared bankruptcy?" You can find the complete answer at the end of "Dating Our Money" in a chapter called "Valuable Questions from Readers." There is no simple answer here. What you are looking for is, has the other person learned from his mistakes? Has he stopped using his credit card? Do you feel he has truly changed? Women usually have very good instincts. They just have to remember to listen and follow them instead of getting lost in the heat of the moment!

CreditCards.com: Obviously you wrote the book from a female perspective. How have men reacted to your revelations? Do you think there's anything threatening in what you've written?

Greenman: I have been absolutely shocked by what men have said. Many men have walked up to me and said, "I am MAD at you!" I think, "Oh no, What did I say?" They respond, "Why did you write this only for women? We need this book as much as women or even MORE." They love it! This book is not written in any way to threaten men. I would have to use a lot more sports analogies when describing managing money if I wrote the book for men. 

CreditCards.com: Finding love is such a hard thing in itself and it has spawned an entire industry of self-help and instructional manifestos. Some address financial matters, but in a totally different way than you do. For example, in "The Rules," women are told to wait for the man to pay for everything during the courtship process. Your thoughts on that?

Greenman: The world is constantly changing. Men have told me they are often scared to offer to pay on the first date now because there are so many female activists who get offended with the concept of a man paying. Yes, I am old-fashioned and want the guy to pay on the first date. After that, I believe each couple can create their own rules that work for them. One person may be recently unemployed so paying for lots of dates may not be in his budget.

CreditCards.com: The current state of the economy is so tough right now. So many people are out of work and struggling to get by. How is this depressed environment changing the way we hook up?

Greenman: I think a lot of people just aren't in the mood... Yes, dating is very expensive. I recently read a statistic that the average single person spends $239 a year on online dating sites. Men can spend between $100 to $150 per month paying for first dates. It can cost a lot. I don't want people to date when they are feeling really down. When you are feeling sad and alone, you don't attract the right people who will push you to be better. I want women to take the time and invest in themselves. Learn a new skill or go volunteer until they gain the confidence to date again.

CreditCards.com: OK, so let's say you are unemployed and looking for love. You don't want to go into debt paying for dinners and movies, but how many coffees and walks can one couple take? Any ideas?

Greenman: "Love don't cost a thing" doesn't seem to work in this society anymore. Love does demand our time and energy. In each relationship, we have to weigh whether this is worth our time. Do we see a future? If I am with the right person, I don't care if we just go to a bookstore and hang out for hours, but if I am with the wrong person, even an expensive dinner seems to be endless. I always love dates that are nontraditional like biking, go-kart racing, going to a climbing wall or just walking in a park. Being creative is more effective than spending lots of money. There are plenty of free concerts, art openings and festivals to attend each weekend. Be resourceful -- it is a wonderful trait for life and love!

CreditCards.com: Final thoughts on love and money? Come on, Leslie -- give us some hope!  

Greenman: You need to invest in yourself before anyone else wants to invest in you! Make sure you know your worth so you only invest in relationships that won't leave you emotionally and financially bankrupt. You deserve the best! Love is definitely out there when you least expect it.

See related: Identity crisis: Why women need their own credit, Dating and social media scams top 2011 list of scams, Plastic love: How to protect your credit while online dating

Published: January 25, 2012


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