Couples Embrace the Least Romantic Date Ever: The Money Date | Kanebridge News
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Couples Embrace the Least Romantic Date Ever: The Money Date

The case for making financial plans over candlelit dinners

Mon, Sep 18, 2023 10:09amGrey Clock 4 min

To set the mood for poring over budgets and savings goals, Tierra Bates and her husband, Gregory, get dressed to the nines and head to dinner at a fancy steakhouse.

“We’re discussing things, but we’re celebrating at the same time,” said Bates, a school therapist and real-estate agent in Shelby, N.C. “Treating ourselves while still talking about the goals we have in mind.”

This mix of romance and finance has been dubbed a money date by financial advisers and others in the business of building wealth. The idea is to carve out time for the sort of conversations couples often dread by making it an event to look forward to.

Advisers and relationship counsellors say couples who go on regular money dates can better manage their spending, saving and investing. Since disagreements over money can strain marriages, having regular open discussions about financial decisions in a fun and intimate way can help address any troubles before they become a source of resentment.

“I have even suggested to clients, ‘Have the money date in your sexy clothes,’” said Christine Luken, a financial coach based in Cincinnati. “Just go ahead and have it naked—as long as you get the money stuff done.”

Bates and her husband plan money dates throughout the year. In January they set goals for the year, then they set up shorter quarterly follow-ups, as well as brief monthly check-ins for short-term concerns and week-to-week budgeting.

At their August check-in, Bates and her husband visited a local food hall and hired a babysitter to keep the focus on the big conversation: the Bates’s back-to-school budget.

Talking about something as stressful as the school year can bring up a lot of emotions, Bates said, but the money date gives them a specific time to work through everything together. Plus, doing it with good food and adults-only time makes it more enjoyable.

The art and science of the money date

Turning financial planning into a date might sound like a mismatch, but science backs up the premise. It is a form of temptation bundling, pairing a less exciting task with a more exciting reward, that research suggests can actually help people change their habits, said Scott Rick, associate professor of marketing at the University of Michigan.

“Pair the want with the should in order to entice you to do the should,” he said. “Get each other money date presents. Open the nice bottle of wine. Say, ‘This is the night we order in from the best restaurant in town.’”

You might have to spend money to make better money decisions, as counterintuitive as that might seem. As Adam Kol, a financial therapist based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., likes to remind his clients: “You don’t get bonus points for having a money date if you’re sitting in a dark room and you’re in a miserable mood.”

Box-office receipts

When Megan and Bronson Allen got married in 2019, the Chicago-based couple pooled their finances. They also set up a regular recurring calendar invite that prompted them to sit down together to go over savings, investments and personal-account expenditures.

Megan will pop a big bowl of popcorn and project their laptop onto the TV screen so they can review the money-date agenda items almost “more like a game or a movie that’s playing,” Bronson said.

They have taken their laptops to a coffee shop and cozied up while reviewing coming travel and other big purchases. They also tried a double money date with Megan’s brother and his wife.

“It’s about finding ways to make them kind of lighthearted, like a date and not like a chore,” said Bronson, a 33-year-old software designer.

Their money dates can take several forms, Megan, a 28-year-old product designer, said. Sometimes they look at the calendar and plan travel spending for the month. Or they look back at the previous month’s budget and compare it to the bank statement.

Then there are pitch days, when one of them makes the case for an especially big purchase or financial goal. On a recent money date, Bronson made the case to take some money from their shared account to invest in a new road bike for his triathlon training, laying out his plans as he and Megan mixed drinks.

“I’ve been running the numbers, and this is what I’m thinking, and this is the account it would come from,’” he told her.

They landed on a compromise: Bronson would sell his old bike to invest in the newer one.

Making a first money date

For couples looking to set up their first-ever money date, Kol recommends reviewing the most recent credit-card statement as a duo. When both partners are looking at the transaction history, they are better able to get on the same page about what needs to be done about recurring subscriptions or spendthrift tendencies.

“It doesn’t have to be ‘I can’t believe you spent this, we need to cut this,’ but instead ‘Let’s make sure nothing weird is going on here. Let’s make sure our kid isn’t charging $700 to Candy Crush,’” he said.

From there, you can build onto your money dates and introduce different themes or topics to organise them. For example, maybe one month you and your partner review your respective student-loan payment plans, and the next you could price out travel options for a coming vacation.

“Having that monthly touchpoint allows you to feel like ‘OK, if I have a concern, it’s not going to go on indefinitely. I’ll have a chance to talk to them, I don’t have to confront them,’” Kol said.


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First, the good news for office landlords: A post-Labor Day bump nudged return-to-office rates in mid-September to their highest level since the onset of the pandemic.

Now the bad: Office attendance in big cities is still barely half of what it was in 2019, and company get-tough measures are proving largely ineffective at boosting that rate much higher.

Indeed, a number of forces—from the prospect of more Covid-19 cases in the fall to a weakening economy—could push the return rate into reverse, property owners and city officials say.

More than before, chief executives at blue-chip companies are stepping up efforts to fill their workspace. Facebook parent Meta Platforms, Amazon and JPMorgan Chase are among the companies that have recently vowed to get tougher on employees who don’t show upIn August, Meta told employees they could face disciplinary action if they regularly violate new workplace rules.

But these actions haven’t yet moved the national return rate needle much, and a majority of companies remain content to allow employees to work at least part-time remotely despite the tough talk.

Most employees go into offices during the middle of the week, but floors are sparsely populated on Mondays and Fridays. In Chicago, some September days had a return rate of over 66%. But it was below 30% on Fridays. In New York, it ranges from about 25% to 65%, according to Kastle Systems, which tracks security-card swipes.

Overall, the average return rate in the 10 U.S. cities tracked by Kastle Systems matched the recent high of 50.4% of 2019 levels for the week ended Sept. 20, though it slid a little below half the following week.

The disappointing return rates are another blow to office owners who are struggling with vacancy rates near record highs. The national office average vacancy rose to 19.2% last quarter, just below the historical peak of 19.3% in 1991, according to Moody’s Analytics preliminary third-quarter data.

Business leaders in New York, Detroit, Seattle, Atlanta and Houston interviewed by The Wall Street Journal said they have seen only slight improvements in sidewalk activity and attendance in office buildings since Labor Day.

“It feels a little fuller but at the margins,” said Sandy Baruah, chief executive of the Detroit Regional Chamber, a business group.

Lax enforcement of return-to-office rules is one reason employees feel they can still work from home. At a roundtable business discussion in Houston last week, only one of the 12 companies that attended said it would enforce a return-to-office policy in performance reviews.

“It was clearly a minority opinion that the others shook their heads at,” said Kris Larson, chief executive of Central Houston Inc., a group that promotes business in the city and sponsored the meeting.

Making matters worse, business leaders and city officials say they see more forces at work that could slow the return to office than those that could accelerate it.

Covid-19 cases are up and will likely increase further in the fall and winter months. “If we have to go back to distancing and mask protocols, that really breaks the office culture,” said Kathryn Wylde, head of the business group Partnership for New York City.

Many cities are contending with an increase in homelessness and crime. San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., which are struggling with these problems, are among the lowest return-to-office cities in the Kastle System index.

About 90% of members surveyed by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce said that the city couldn’t recover until homelessness and public safety problems were addressed, said Rachel Smith, chief executive. That is taken into account as companies make decisions about returning to the office and how much space they need, she added.

Cuts in government services and transportation are also taking a toll. Wait times for buses run by Houston’s Park & Ride system, one of the most widely used commuter services, have increased partly because of labor shortages, according to Larson of Central Houston.

The commute “is the remaining most significant barrier” to improving return to office, Larson said.

Some landlords say that businesses will have more leverage in enforcing return-to-office mandates if the economy weakens. There are already signs of such a shift in cities that depend heavily on the technology sector, which has been seeing slowing growth and layoffs.

But a full-fledged recession could hurt office returns if it results in widespread layoffs. “Maybe you get some relief in more employees coming back,” said Dylan Burzinski, an analyst with real-estate analytics firm Green Street. “But if there are fewer of those employees, it’s still a net negative for office.”

The sluggish return-to-office rate is leading many city and business leaders to ask the federal government for help. A group from the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition recently met with elected officials in Washington, D.C., lobbying for incentives for businesses that make commitments to U.S. downtowns.

Baruah, from the Detroit chamber, was among the group. He said the chances of such legislation being passed were low. “We might have to reach crisis proportions first,” he said. “But we’re trying to lay the groundwork now.”


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