The first time Rachel Chu has any inkling that her boyfriend, Nick Young, is rich, she's stepping into a fancy plane (complete with a bedroom suite) on her way to Singapore to meet his family. Earlier in the trailer for Crazy Rich Asians we learn that, up until this point, Nick changes the subject anytime Rachel brings up his family. And when Rachel, fresh from her shock over the extremely first-class plane ride, asks Nick if his family is rich, he replies, "We're comfortable." But, the Young family is much more than "comfortable." They're one of the wealthiest families in Singapore and Nick is "like the Prince William of Asia," as Rachel describes him later in the film.
This is a movie, so Nick's secrecy about his family's money and his willingness to let Rachel walk into a world of extravagance without knowing what she's getting into are kind of necessary as plot points. It's much more fun to watch Rachel enter Nick's hyper-glam life without a clue. But, if Crazy Rich Asians were real life, Nick's secrecy would not fly. "In a capitalist society, money is so integral to who we are that not having the discussion is like hiding some big part of your life," says Sallie Krawcheck, the cofounder and CEO of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women. Hiding and secrets aren't great for relationships, so Nick 100% should have told Rachel that his family is (crazy) rich before he put her on that plane to Singapore.
And you should 100% talk to your partner about your finances, too, no matter how rich you are (or aren't). Discussing money, whether you're a multi-billion dollar trust fund kid or your parents never made more than minimum wage, is important in a relationship. "I would want to know if my partner was wealthy," says Gaby Dunn, host of Bad With Money, a financial advice podcast. From her perspective, knowing your S.O.'s finances upfront is essential because it can determine where you go on dates, who pays for what, and can also tell you a lot about how compatible your spending habits are.
Someone who grew up wealthy may have completely different habits, priorities, and points of view on life.
Gaby Dunn, host of Bad With Money
Whether or not your S.O. comes from family money can also give insight into their financial values. "The way I grew up influenced my feelings on money and my spending habits," Dunn says. "And someone who grew up wealthy may have completely different habits, priorities, and points of view on life." She's not saying that people from totally different financial backgrounds can't be compatible, but that a class difference makes it even more necessary to communicate clearly about your financial goals and habits. If you're in a serious relationship, and you see a future with your partner, then you should be talking about the past, present, and future of your finances, not just the money you have right now.
Clearly, Nick and Rachel are serious (you don't fly just anyone to Singapore for a meet-the-fam visit). And, in a perfect world, they would have already discussed both their current finances and their financial backgrounds. But, Krawcheck doesn't really blame Nick for his reluctance to tell Rachel that he's rich. Living in the U.S., he's operating in a culture that places a lot of shame and stigma on money. And it can be difficult to open up about your finances, no matter how much your partner deserves to know. "In our society, there's no way to win about money and we receive messages from childhood that we are not supposed to talk about it," Krawcheck says.
Is the first date too soon? Is the 10th date too late? Do you bring it up when you're walking down the aisle?
Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest
Since money is so taboo, no one really tells us how to have these discussions, or when is the appropriate time to start talking. "Is the first date too soon? Is the 10th date too late? Do you bring it up when you're walking down the aisle?" Krawcheck says. Unfortunately, there aren't any hard-and-fast rules. But Krawcheck suggests easing into the conversation right from the start. As you're getting to know someone and asking about their family, their hopes for the future, and their career goals, you can also ask about their monetary values. "If you're talking about those hopes and dreams, you're sort of flirting a bit with the idea that you'll be at the other end of those hopes and dreams," she says. And if you're picturing a future together, that's a great time to say something like, "Hey, I'm up to my eyeballs in student loan debt," or "I'm really insecure about money because I grew up without any." (It's also a great time to say, "FYI, my family owns half of Singapore.")
Starting the money conversation can be terrifying, sure, but it's also necessary. And, it can bring you closer to your S.O. Just like staying silent about your monetary values and spending habits can drive you apart.
Having different financial experiences isn't necessarily a dealbreaker, but how partners handle the situation is essential. Maybe some people will never truly understand what it's like to grow up without money, just like some of us will never understand what it's like to grow up rich. But, each partner should do their best to empathize. "You absolutely have to be painfully honest about money and try not to judge the other person either way," Dunn says. "It needs to be talked about before money misunderstandings happen and cause unnecessary resentments." So, if you're serious about your S.O., don't pull a Nick.