by JEANNE FLEMING, PH.D. and LEONARD SCHWARZ
Question: I’m divorced and have quite a bit of money. Several years ago I was involved with a guy who, once he learned of my wealth, used me as his personal ATM. Recently I started seeing someone new, and I think I could get serious about him. Given past experience, I’m thinking it might be better not to tell him about my money. Would that be ethical, or is there a point at which I have to speak up?
Answer: If you’re becoming seriously involved with this man, you need to tell him. After all, you’d expect him to be forthcoming about his having five kids or having been addicted to painkillers, right? Well, he surely expects you to trust him with comparably important information, and justifiably so. Moreover, if you end up in a committed relationship, your resources are going to play a major role in your life together. Hence you need to be certain they don’t present a problem. This means confirming not only that he’s more honorable than your last guy, but also that he’s not threatened by your wealth. Keeping mum prevents you from getting a true assessment of your partner.
We understand that being exploited by Mr. Wrong has left you leery of revealing your resources. But believe us, the problem in that situation was his character, not your money. Your judgment surely has improved by virtue of that experience, and there are much better men around than that guy. We hope the man you’re seeing now is one of them. But you won’t know until you tell him about your wealth and see what effect it has on him and on your relationship.
Questions? Email Money Magazine’s ethicists – authors of “Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?” (Free Press) – at FlemingandSchwarz@right-thing.net.