Living overseas is fun, exciting, and full of adventure. New food, new cityscapes, and new people; there’s so much to explore! But while living in a foreign country can be a great experience, it can also be emotionally challenging – especially if money matters aren’t well accounted. Even for individuals who have been living the expat lifestyle for a while, an honest audit on personal finance can be tough. It’s definitely going to be a lot more complicated for couples. Here are some practical money conversations for expat couples in Vietnam – and even if you’re currently (or perpetually!) single, this would still be a good place for you to start building a good financial foundation for your future.
Not ready to talk with your partner about Personal Finance? Try and have a conversation with yourself:Expat Personal Finance 101: Can you answer these 5 Important Questions?
It’s important for both partners to be on the same page about each other’s financial situation, and these conversation topics will help set the tone for all future money-related discussions.
- Money Conversations for Expat Couples
- How much are you earning?
- Do you have any debts or financial obligations?
- What are your financial goals?
- What is your spending style?
- How do you feel about financial and physical risk?
- How do you feel about giving financial support to your partner’s direct family, or even extended family?
- Do you want to raise a family while living overseas?
Money Conversations for Expat Couples
How much are you earning?
Taxes, retirement funds, and the cost of living can all be factors that lead to financial stress. We’ll be discussing them here as well, but before we get into that, let’s start with the most basic question – your salaries. How much do you make in a month? Or to take things one step further, what are your thoughts on joint accounts and/or financial transparency? These are questions that can be difficult to answer, especially if your partner is from a different culture where financial planning, or even just openly talking about money in a stress free way isn’t as commonplace. In some cases, it might not even be considered polite! But it’s an important question to ask, nonetheless. You need to have a good understanding of each other’s financial situation in order to make sound financial decisions together. Who knows, maybe your partner is earning a lot more than you thought and can help with some of the financial burdens you’re currently carrying! Or maybe even the opposite, and they expect you to help with their immediate family and extended family… We’ll get back around to this…
Do you have any debts or financial obligations?
Again, this is a difficult question to ask but it’s important to be aware of each other’s financial situation. If your partner has a lot of debt, it’s going to be important to factor that in when making financial decisions together. The same goes for financial obligations – if your partner is expecting a big financial windfall soon, it might not be the best time to make large purchases together. Student debt is something that a lot of people are struggling with, especially in the US. Maybe medical debt might be an issue that you haven’t considered. Are there any failed investments that the other partner is still paying off? There’s a lot to think about, and it’s important to have an open and honest conversation about it.
What are your financial goals?
This is a conversation that can help you understand each other’s financial mindset, and where each of you sees yourselves in the future. Do you want to buy a house? Start a family? Retire early? Travel the world? Or just bike around? There are so many different financial goals out there, and it’s important to have a general understanding of what each other is aiming for. Are you saving enough for life in general, or just life in Vietnam? Have you set up any investments? Are you even considering moving to another country in case economic opportunities present themselves? This can help avoid arguments down the line about financial decisions that might not align with each other’s goals. And as a related topic, are passports and nationalities of future concern? Each of us has a different financial journey, and it’s important to respect that. But if you’re in a relationship, you better damn well make sure you’re on the same path!
What is your spending style?
This is a conversation that can help you understand each other’s financial habits, and how those habits might impact your relationship. Do you like to save or do you like to spend? Do you have any financial vices that you need to be aware of? A lot of young expats come to Vietnam looking to enjoy a party-heavy lifestyle, and that can put a lot of financial strain on a relationship – especially if one person is trying to save while the other is trying to spend. Will you be eating out a lot, or cooking at home? What kind of lifestyle do you want to live? All of these questions can help paint a picture of each other’s financial habits. Expat couples in Vietnam might want to use this as a base to travel around the region; travel is a great way to gauge your partner’s spending habits. This might perhaps just be self evident and be something you learn about each other along the way, but perhaps a more honest conversation where you both set spending expectations would be beneficial.
How do you feel about financial and physical risk?
This is an important conversation to have because it can help you understand each other’s financial mindset, and how that might impact your future financial decisions. Are you both comfortable with taking risks? We’re talking about financial risk and physical risk. Does your partner have health insurance? Do you? Have you both had a fair assessment of your need for life insurance? Have you even heard of the term “permanent disability”? What about “public liability”? Do you have any investments? Did you go into crypto? These are just a few examples of questions you might want to consider, along with “Hey! Wanna go bungee jumping next weekend?”
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How do you feel about giving financial support to your partner’s direct family, or even extended family?
This is an important conversation to have, especially if you’re planning on getting married or having children. In a lot of cultures (Vietnam included), it’s expected that the man will provide financial support to his wife’s parents, and in some cases, her siblings. This can be a financial burden that not everyone is comfortable with, so it’s important to have a conversation about it. The same goes for financial support to your partner’s extended family. Do you feel comfortable giving financial support to your grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins? If not, why? Is it a financial burden that you’re not comfortable with, or is there another reason? It might get even trickier if it’s a female expat with a local male, as there might be an expectation from the local family for her to provide financial support, and might put gender roles into question. And of course, we’ve all probably heard of stories where a local partner is asking for help with “investments”. Those stories often end in tears.
White males dating Vietnamese females?Read more here!
Do you want to raise a family while living overseas?
All things considered, this is THE big one. If you’re already at that stage in your relationship where you’re considering bringing a new life into the world, then you definitely need to have a financial conversation about it. Having children is expensive, no matter where you are – but if you’re planning on doing it while living in a foreign country, there are a load of unique financial considerations to take into account. Perhaps the biggest question here would be “how will we pay for the kid’s education?” Tuition at an international school in Saigon will easily cost 15 to 20K USD per year. Have you set up an education fund? You’ll also need to chat about medical costs. Do you have maternity insurance? How will you ensure that the child is fully medically covered for the first few years of life? Perhaps, just as important, where will you eventually want to live? Perhaps, as a side note you might also want to consider how your financial situation will be affected if one of you wants to take time off work to raise the child.
Financial conversations can be tough, but they’re definitely worth having. They can help you understand each other’s financial mindset and spending habits, and can help you make informed decisions about your future financial planning. This list is obviously not exhaustive, but it’s a good starting point for financial conversations that expat couples need to have. These are just simple issues. We haven’t even gone into the deep stuff like writing wills, life insurance, divorce, financial considerations of raising third culture kids, passports and nationalities.
Maybe we’ll write a 102?
At any rate ,go ahead and have that chat with your partner – you might be surprised at what you learn about each other! And who knows, you might even find that you agree on financial matters more than you thought.
Do you have any other financial conversation tips for expat couples? Let us know in the comments below!