How To Merge Finances With A Partner




As a financial planner, oftentimes I get asked, “What’s the best way for me and my spouse to join our finances?” This question typically comes when both partners have either discussed or disagreed on how to save or spend.

Thankfully I’ve had the luck of being married for six now going on seven years with a pretty successful track record of financial decisions. I’d like to attribute some of our marital success to my professional background, my wife not thinking I’m a loon, and her openness to talk about money. Money is already a taboo subject amongst some people in the U.S. but when you’re of Hispanic/Latin descent, the level of taboo skyrockets. Growing up, my parents never taught me about money, spoke to me about family finances, let alone tell me how important it is to a marriage. So whether you’re married, a newlywed, or thinking of marriage, I wanted to share a few tips that have helped me maintain a happy home while joining my wife and I joined our finances


Start Slow and Open a Joint Account


Let’s start off by acknowledging that change is hard and major changes are even harder. I’d categorize joining your finances with your spouse under the latter. So how do you two begin? Slow. It is inevitable that you and your spouse will be living in the same place and eating the same food so you should start off by splitting those expenses. Some expenses are fixed like your rent or your Netflix subscription so those are easy to split. Other expenses like food, groceries, and going out aren’t so black and white.


So how do you keep track of these varying monthly expenses? My preferred method is opening a separate account for variable expenses in addition to the fixed expense account and having each person contribute a set amount of money. This way you both understand where money is being spent. I’ve seen a lot of couples use a joint credit card for this and split the bill but I’m not a fan of debt until expenses are understood.


Give Yourselves an Allowance


Part of joining your finances comes with compromise, however, the truth is there will always be something you don’t want to compromise on. This can be anything from your visit to the nail salon every X amount of times, fishing trips, or whatever hobby you may have. Joining your finances with your spouse does not have to come at the expense of losing yourself or your identity.


I’m an advocate for keeping separate accounts for separate and personal use. I call these the “don’t ask me what I’m spending on” fund. It doesn’t fail that most times there is one spouse more stringent about the family budget than the other and they can’t help themselves but point out expenses they don’t agree with. In my experience, every person sees the world differently and has a different set of things that are important to them. Neither spouse should make the other feel like their values or hobbies trump the others.


Save Together


Inevitably, you both will want to travel together, afford a house together, and spend on big-ticket items together. This comes with the territory of sharing your life with someone. Saving, together, for these kind of items should come after a few months of opening joint checking accounts and going through the motion of tracking your expenses. The time spent, in the initial few months, of joining your finances should help give you two a clear picture of how much money you have leftover after expenses.


Saving together for big-ticket items is a huge step in joining your finances with someone! This marks the beginning of making financial decisions together. It builds trust in each other and shows that the household is rowing in the same direction.


Your Debt Is My Debt


Debt is a very sensitive topic when it comes to combining finances. Especially if one spouse has been more prudent about getting into debt than the other. I’ll preface my stance on couples handling debt by saying that even though certain debts may not be in the other person’s name, it will affect all steps above from how much they can contribute to bills, to their personal fund, and to saving together.


With that said, when my wife and I combined finances, I took the stance of “your debt is my debt.” The priority a couple places on paying debt down varies by couple. Whatever priority you two decide on, it should meet some basic guidelines.

  1. Don’t fall behind on payments.

  2. Be sure you are both on the same page as to how fast you want to pay debt down.

  3. Understand you may have to delay some things because of debt. AND THAT’S OKAY

Have the money conversations


I cannot stress how important these talks are to long-term relationships. It is becoming well-known fact that finances are one of the leading causes for divorce and breakups. The money talk is just that, a conversation. Talking, listening, and understanding each other’s views on money is only the beginning. Make a plan with your spouse. It doesn’t have to be this exhausting plan with numbers, statistics, and color graphs. Put pen to paper and write something down.




 


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MyLife Financial is a fee-only financial advisory firm providing objective and independent advice virtually. Our clients are busy professionals that face daunting questions of how today's financial decisions will affect their long-term financial success. Everything written is strictly for informational use only. Please seek the advice of your CPA, Attorney, or financial professional before implementing any strategies.


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