Whether you’ve always had an open dialogue with your partner about finances or only recently had the money talk, there are a lot of things to consider before combining finances. We’ve outlined nine of the most important ones below.
What bills will you combine or keep separate?
If you’re considering moving in together and/or getting married, it’s likely that this list will shift at least slightly. A simpler example is your cable and Internet bill. You won’t need two accounts for the same household. A more complicated example is your rent or mortgage payment. You’ll have much more to consider depending on if you’re going to or from properties that you rent or own and whether or not both partners can get approved for a lease or mortgage.
How will you divide bills?
You’ll need to decide how to divide the bills that you’ll share. Some couples simply go 50/50, while others base their payment amounts off each partner’s income.
How will you handle your debt?
Some couples want to tackle all of their debt together, whether it was something they took on individually or jointly. A common example of this is student loans. Some couples may decide to work together to pay down this debt as quickly as possible. Others feel it’s not their responsibility to pay for their partner’s past choices or want the satisfaction of paying off their own debt.
What are your goals and future plans?
This can range from building an emergency fund to traveling, and from starting a family to continuing your education. Acknowledging what you both want to work toward, together and independently, will guide how you should be allocating funds in order to make those goals and plans a reality.
What are your individual styles?
You may both be savers, spenders, or a combination of the two. You’ll want to know this upfront so you can work together to improve any negative habits and find balance if you have different styles.
Break-ups, divorces, unexpected illnesses, or deaths can throw a couple’s individual and combined finances into a windstorm if there’s not a preexisting agreement about how these situations will be handled. Since these topics can be touchy and may require tax or legal advice, it’s wise to meet with a professional counselor, legal professional, or tax advisor to help you plan.
Who has the best benefits?
If you’re getting married, you may have the option of using each other’s company provided benefits. These can include medical, dental, vision or life insurance. In some instances, you may be able to carry double coverage. You’ll want to review employer policies and plans to see what makes the most sense financially.
What else impacts your situation?
Raising a child, caring for an aging parent or grandparent, or having an income that waxes and wanes with the season will certainly affect your finances. Make sure you’ve considered all special circumstances such as these.
So, what are the options?
There are three general options to choose from when combining finances. Of course, the specifics will look slightly different depending on your unique situation.
- Combine all finances: Some couples prefer to go all in and combine everything. They’ll swap out individual checking and savings accounts for joint ones and agree to pay all bills and debts together. This option may require some extra work in order to shuffle accounts around or add joint owners.
- Keep finances separate: Other couples are happy to leave their finances separate. They may keep accounts in one person’s name and just rely on tools to transfer money back and forth as needed. This option can be risky if a couple takes on debt together, but the loan is only in one person’s name – if the couple separates later, one person may be left without official ownership of the asset or carry all the responsibility.
- Have a mix of shared and separate finances: Many couples don’t fit completely into either of the above categories. While they’re in it together, they may still want some independence when it comes to deciding how to spend and save money. In these cases, having a mix makes the most sense, as long as both partners can agree on the breakdown.
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.