You’ve finally met the right person. You look forward to sharing a future, a home, a life together. But what about sharing your money? Whether or not to combine finances is a significant life decision that neither partner should take lightly.
There’s not an out of the box black or white answer to that question. In fact, there are several options when it comes to sharing finances with a partner. You can combine a little bit, like opening a shared checking or savings account or combine everything down to your spare change.
Ultimately, it’s up to each couple to make the decision that’s best suited for their circumstances. Below are a few tips to determine whether combining finances is right for you and the various options available.
- Do we have a financial plan? – There may be little benefit to combining finances if there isn’t a plan in place. A financial plan, including budgeting, investing, and saving, can guide your family’s vision for your financial future. Sometimes there is an obvious answer to whether to share finances based on your longer-term financial goals.
- Are we on the same page? – It takes two to combine finances, but sometimes one partner is more hesitant. Make sure to talk through any underlying feelings that might create resistance to joint accounts or to keeping things separate. This can be a great ice breaker to discussing the broader options for combining financials, as outlined below.
- Who will be primarily responsible for money management? – In relationships, one person is often more interested in personal finance and shoulders the responsibility. But it’s possible both parties may want a say in day-to-day financial management. Depending on your situation, it may be easier for the primary household financial manager to combine accounts instead of having loads of different accounts at various vendors.
- Can we accept each other’s debts? – A commonly cited reason for not combining finances is resistance to taking on debt. Think deeply about if you can handle seeing your significant other’s debt or if it’s going to cause undue stress.
How Do You Combine Finances in a Relationship?
There are several ways to combine finances with your partner, should you choose to do so. The options range from keeping things separate to going all-in on joint accounts. There’s no one easy answer for every couple, and your perfect solution might be a combination of the following options.
Keep in mind that there’s no pressure to combine finances immediately after you marry or enter into a committed relationship. Combining household financials can happen at any time and may make more sense at different points in your relationship, such as job changes or paying off a substantial debt.
Keep Money Separate
There is nothing wrong with recognizing that combining money isn’t the right decision for your relationship. In fact, it can lead to less stress and greater happiness than if you tried to force something that’s not a fit.
Maintaining independent accounts means you’ll need to develop a solution for paying household expenses from your personal funds. So you’re not entirely off the hook from shared money conversations.
Be sure that if you decide to keep money separate, it doesn’t mean keeping your spouse in the dark about all things finance. It’s essential to maintain a general understanding of what goes on behind the scenes if something happens to either spouse.
The last thing you probably want for your partner is to leave them in a bad spot financially when they’re already dealing with your loss.
With a shared account system, each person continues to operate their accounts but also chooses to create one or several accounts with shared access for both partners. These shared accounts are often built on monetary contributions from each side and can be funded in different ways.
Sometimes the split is based on how much salary each person makes. For example, someone who makes $25,000 with a partner making $75,000 would have a 25%/75% contribution split, respectively.
Another way to contribute to a shared account is by choosing an exact amount, say $600 per month, or enough to cover the household bills, to go into the shared account with all other income funneling to private accounts.
Keeping some accounts sacred can be a blessing for couples who would react negatively to seeing how much their wife spends at the salon or how much the latest guy’s night bar tab really was. As a bonus, it also makes it much easier to keep gifts a secret around the holidays!
All Joint Accounts
Perhaps the boldest of all options when it comes to shared money management is creating joint accounts for everything. Using joint accounts means both partners have the same access and ability to invest or remove money from accounts. You’ll both need to be present to open these accounts and agree that all decisions regarding the joint accounts are to be shared.
Trust is perhaps the single biggest factor in choosing this option. While everything is going well in your relationship, joint accounts make money management much more transparent and easier to manage. But issues have arisen if one partner decides to call it quits and help themselves to their piece of the shared pie (or even some of yours!)
Some experts advise waiting until marriage to open a joint account, citing the messiness of dividing funds after a breakup. But at the core, a joint account is just a shared management system where two (or more) people have access to the funds involved. So use it at your peril.
The Bottom Line
Remember that whether you decide to keep finances separate or combine them is something only you and your partner can decide together.
Discuss the options, listen to each other, and choose the financial combination that makes sense based on your relationship’s unique money management style.