Couples Embrace the Least Romantic Date Ever: The Money Date
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Couples Embrace the Least Romantic Date Ever: The Money Date

The case for making financial plans over candlelit dinners

By JULIA CARPENTER
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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Cocoa and Coffee Prices Have Surged. Climate Change Will Only Take Them Higher.

Some chocolatiers and coffee makers say they will have to pass on the extra cost to consumers

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Global prices for cocoa and coffee are surging as severe weather events hamper production in key regions, raising questions from farm to table over the long-term damage climate change could have on soft commodities.

Cultivating cocoa and coffee requires very specific temperature, water and soil conditions. Now, more frequent heat waves, heavy rainfalls and droughts are damaging harvests and crippling supplies amid ever growing demand from customers worldwide.

“Adverse weather conditions, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, have played an important role in sending several food commodities sharply higher,” said Ole Hansen , head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.

The spikes in prices are a threat to coffee and chocolate makers across the globe.

Swiss consumer-goods giant Nestlé was able to pass only a fraction of the cocoa price increase to customers last year, and it may need to adjust pricing in the future due to persistently high prices, a spokesperson said.

Italian coffee maker Lavazza reported revenue of more than $3 billion for last year, but said profitability was hit by soaring coffee bean prices, particularly for green and Robusta coffee, and its decision to limit price increases.

Likewise, chocolatier Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Spruengli said in its 2023 results that weather and climate conditions played a major role in the global shortage of cocoa beans that led to historically high prices. The company had to lift the sales prices of its products and said it would need to further raise them this year and next if cocoa prices remain at current levels.

Hershey ’s chief executive, Michele Buck , said in February that historic cocoa prices are expected to limit earnings growth this year, and that the company plans to use “every tool in its toolbox,” including price hikes, to manage the impact on business.

In West Africa, where about 70% of global cocoa is produced, powerhouses Ivory Coast and Ghana are facing catastrophic harvests this season as El Niño—the pattern of above-average sea surface temperatures—led to unseasonal heavy rainfalls followed by strong heat waves.

Extreme heat has weakened cocoa trees already damaged from heavy rainfall at the end of last year, according to Morningstar DBRS’s Aarti Magan and Moritz Steinbauer. The rain also worsened road conditions, disrupting cocoa bean deliveries to export ports.

The International Cocoa Organization—a global body composed of cocoa producing and consuming member countries—said in its latest monthly report that it expects the global supply deficit to widen to 374,000 metric tons in the 2023-24 season, from 74,000 tons last season. Global cocoa supply is anticipated to decline by almost 11% to 4.449 million tons when compared with 2022-23.

“Significant declines in production are expected from the top producing countries as they are envisaged to feel the detrimental effect of unfavorable weather conditions and diseases,” the organization said.

While the effects of climate change are severe, other serious structural issues are also hitting West African cocoa production in the short- to medium-term. Illegal mining poses a significant threat to cocoa farms in Ghana, destroying arable land and poisoning water supplies, and the problem is becoming increasingly relevant in the Ivory Coast, according to BMI.

The issues are being magnified by deforestation carried out to increase cocoa production. Since 1950, Ivory Coast has lost around 90% of its forests, while Ghana has lost around 65% over the same period. This has driven farmers to areas less suited to cocoa cultivation like grasslands, increasing the amount of labor required and bringing further downside risks to the harvest, the research firm said.

The Ivory Coast’s cocoa mid-crop harvest—which officially starts in April and runs until September—is expected to fall to 400,000-500,000 tons from 600,000-620,000 tons last year, with weather expected to play a crucial role in shaping the market balance for the season, ING analysts said, citing estimates from the country’s cocoa regulator. Ghana’s cocoa board also forecasts a slump in the harvest for this season to as low as 422,500 tons, the poorest in more than 20 years, according to BMI.

Neither regulator responded to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, extreme droughts in Southeast Asia—particularly in Vietnam and Indonesia—are resulting in lower coffee bean harvests, hurting producers’ output and global exports. Coffee inventories have recovered somewhat in recent weeks but remain low in recent historical terms. Robusta coffee has seen a severe deterioration in export expectations, while Arabica coffee is expected to return to a relatively narrow surplus this year, said Charles Hart, senior commodities analyst at BMI.

The global coffee benchmark prices, London Robusta futures, are up by 15% on-month to $3,825 a ton. Arabica coffee prices have also surged 17% over the last month to $2.16 a pound in lockstep with Robusta—its highest level since October 2022. Cocoa prices have more than tripled on-year over these supply crunch fears, and risen 49% in the last month alone to $10,050 a ton.

“Cocoa trees are particularly sensitive to weather and require very specific conditions to grow, this means that cocoa prices are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as drought and periods of intense heat, as well as the longer-term impact of climate change,” said Lucrezia Cogliati, associate commodities analyst at BMI.

Cogliati said global cocoa consumption is expected to outpace production for the third consecutive season, with intense seasonal West African winds and plant diseases contributing to significant declines.

Consumers hoping for a return to cheaper prices for life’s little luxuries in the midterm may also be in for a bitter surprise.

“There is no sugarcoating it—consumers will ultimately be faced with higher chocolate prices, products that contain less chocolate, and/or shrinking product sizes,” Morningstar’s Magan and Steinbauer said in a report.

“We anticipate consumers could respond by searching widely for promotional discounts, trading down to value-based chocolate and confectionary products from premium products, switching to private-label from branded products and/or reducing volumes altogether.”

The record-breaking rally for cocoa and coffee is likely more than just a flash in the pan, according to Citi analysts, as adverse weather conditions and strong demand trends are likely to support prices in the months ahead. The U.S. bank estimates Arabica coffee futures in a range of $1.88-$2.15 a pound for the current year, but said projections could be lifted if the outlook for 2024-25 tightens further.

At the heart of it all, climate change is set to play a major role, as the impact of extreme weather events could exacerbate the pressure on cocoa and coffee supplies, according to market watchers.

“I don’t expect prices to remain at these levels, but if we continue to see more unusual weather as a result of global warming then we certainly could see more volatility in terms of cocoa yields going forward, which could impact pricing,” said Paul Joules, commodities analyst at Rabobank.

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