If you and your partner have decided to combine finances, you’ll need to start taking steps to make it happen. Open and honest conversation will continue to be an important part of this process, so you should plan to work together or check in with each other as you’re going through these steps.
Bills & debts
Once you agree whose name is going on each bill, you’ll need to decide how to track them. Using an app or creating a cloud-based spreadsheet such as Google Sheets allows you and your partner to access and update the document. You should have columns that identify the company being paid, the amount, who is responsible for actually making the payment, and the due date so you can track your progress each month.
You need to decide what success looks like for each goal you’ve set. For example, if you’ve decided on building an emergency fund, you’ll have to agree on what that means. Do you want to build an account that could keep you afloat for three months? Six months? Longer? Then you need to determine how you’re going to track it. To streamline your recordkeeping, you could include this in your bill spreadsheet mentioned above.
Make sure you’re in agreement on a timeline for future plans such as buying a home or having a child. These are both big commitments that require a lot of planning, financially and otherwise. Set timelines and open any related accounts (i.e. a savings account specifically for your future home’s down payment).
While it may seem depressing to focus on the “what if” questions of break-ups, divorces, unexpected illness, or death, it’s important to make sure you’re prepared if one of these situations occurs. Make appointments with any legal or financial advisors or professional counselors to complete any necessary paperwork and work through the process together.
Get information from both of your human resources departments and review the plans and policies. Figure out how to maximize your benefits and make sure you find out deadlines for enrolling in benefits so you don’t miss out. Most companies offer a limited period of time after a “life event” such as marriage or the birth of a child to make the change. After that, you typically have to wait until your company’s next open enrollment period.
Set the date(s)
In addition to agreeing on when you want to be done combining finances, set dates for regular communications about money. These times should be focused on reviewing your financial situations and determining if your plan is working for you. Decide how often you want to have these talks and commit to them once they’re scheduled. It may not sound fun, but it’s practical and can help address concerns upfront before they cause problems or resentment in other areas of your relationship and life.
Want more tips on how to combine your finances? Watch our blog for more From “Me” to “We” posts on options to consider and getting started, and find more money management tips and resources on our WalletWorks page.