What do you get when you combine relationship dynamics with finances? A topic that few people like talking about. But whether you want to or not, the discussion of whether to combine finances with your spouse is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a couple. For better or for worse, what a newlywed couple does with their finances can set the tone of a marriage.
Do you fully combine, keep completely separate accounts, or do a little of both? Whatever you decide, the absolute worst thing you can do is ignore this issue, as financial stress is one of the leading causes of divorce.
Here are some tips to help you navigate through this potential minefield.
Talk about it early
By early we don’t mean early in the relationship, but rather early in the marriage process. If you haven’t already begun sharing finances with your significant other and marriage is on the immediate horizon, it’s time for a discussion. Discuss salaries and future earning potential. What kind of expenses, assets, and debt do each of you have? Do you plan on making any big purchases in the future, and can you afford those purchases? The absolute last thing you want is to sign a legal document and then realize you and your spouse lead drastically different financial lifestyles.
The benefits of combining finances
This is perhaps the simplest solution, where you and your significant other simply deposit all of your money into the same accounts and live off that. However don’t assume that the simplicity of this choice means it requires any less thought. It requires absolute trust, and a true understood expectation that everything is shared, even if one person makes significantly more than the other.
The benefits of completely separate accounts
If you value your financial freedom, then this may be the best option for you. Separate finances means you won’t have to make any changes to the way you’ve been doing things. It also means you get to delegate who pays for what, giving you the peace of mind of knowing you aren’t responsible for certain expenses.
The benefits of doing a little of both
Marriage is all about compromise, which this very option is. Sharing some, but not all, money with your partner gives the benefit of not having to stress about shared expenses while simultaneously maintaining some security and independence.
Who’s responsible for actually paying the bills
Don’t forget to figure out who’s job it is make sure all bills are paid. Assuming the other person is doing it will get you into trouble fast, so your best bet is to assign bills to each of you or designate a set time every month to review and make sure everything is in order.
Manage your spending
Getting married is bound to unearth some new spending quirks in your partner. One of the biggest problems newlyweds have is letting the rose-colored glasses of marriage cloud their spending judgement. It can be very tempting to signify the beginning of a new life with buying all sorts of new stuff. Being conservative during this time may make you seem like a party pooper, but the absolute last thing you want is to be overspending at the beginning of a potential lifelong relationship.
In many ways you may be saving when getting married! If you are just moving in together, going forward, you will only need one bottle of ketchup, one internet plan, and can buy paper towels in bulk. Calculate the savings and actually save it. Even if it’s only saving $20 per month, it can really add up!