If you’re married, engaged or in a relationship where you share day-to-day expenses with a partner, broaching the topic of how to blend your finances is essential. It’s a subject every couple should discuss and revisit from time to time. For couples thinking about combining their finances for the first time, learning to communicate about money, sharing in bill paying, pooling incomes and discussing savings and retirement plans are financial steps that should not be overlooked.
Co-mingling finances works differently for every couple, and there are many ways to go about it. Making the decision about whether to share everything, maintain independent accounts – or something in between isn’t always easy. To avoid confusion about who pays for what and arguments over differences in money habits, couples should consider the following while discussing their financial choices.
Start with Understanding
A candid conversation about money habits and styles is a great first step to identify how to manage funds in a new relationship. If two individuals have very different philosophies when it comes to money, keeping some independence may help maintain a healthy relationship and protect your joint financial wellness. If you’re on the same page – both savers, for example – togetherness in all things financial can create a stronger relationship and financial efficiency. It’s also important to discuss different “what if” scenarios. Talk with each other about how much each partner would spend on a new furniture purchase or vacation, for example. And remember to discuss how you each would approach an unexpected financial event such as a job relocation.
Establish a Working Budget
Relationships bring many shared expenses – monthly rent or mortgage payments, groceries, gas, clothing and more. It all adds up. Couples should pencil out their fixed shared expenses together and talk about how each expense will be paid. Once an agreement is reached, revisit the monthly budget plan periodically to ensure all the bases remain covered. As you work on the budgeting process together, you will each gain a better understanding of how your partner approaches money.
Agree on a Plan
In addition to careful budgeting, couples should agree on how they will combine money to manage certain expenses. A good compromise is to establish a joint checking account in which you each deposit a portion of your income. Some couples may agree to also maintain individual accounts that can be used as each person wishes – no questions asked. Agree on how much money you will save together, and to establish an auto-transfer from the shared pool so that saving is easy and automatic.
Equally important to the budget creation and planning process is ongoing, honest communication about money – saved and spent. Couples likely won’t enjoy a healthy financial relationship if secrets are kept about money. Set aside time each week to pay bills and talk about money together. These planned “money talks” will keep any financial mistakes from affecting other areas of your relationship.
While there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for blending finances, having regular conversations about it is important for all couples – whether newlyweds or retirees. Couples should consider sitting down with a financial advisor who can help them talk about different options and determine what might work best.
Jeff Mushen, MSF, CFP, ChFC, is a Financial Advisor and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner ™ with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in Edmonds, WA. He specializes in fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for six years. To contact him, go to his website at www.ameripriseadvisors.com/jeffrey.m.mushen.
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