Every so often a debate resurfaces on social media about heterosexual couples and the way in which they manage their finances. Because women tend to take on the majority of household duties, it’s sometimes argued that they shouldn’t be expected to split the bills 50/50 with their partners. But with women increasingly becoming the breadwinners of their families, sometimes that split is more about necessity than equality. Still others make the point that splitting the bills down the middle is more like having a roommate than a romantic partner, leaving more than money to be considered when it comes to handling finances in a relationship.
“I think that it should not be split 50/50 but it should really be split based on the percentage of income that they earn,” said accredited financial counselor (AFC®) and co-founder of Trinity Financial Coaching, Willa J. Williams. “If the female earns more, her percentage should be higher. If the male earns more, his percentage should be higher.”
To the argument that splitting bills down the middle is like having a roommate, Williams had this to say:
“A relationship is more than paying bills so I wouldn’t think that paying 50/50 means having a roommate. I believe that if you earn more, your proportion should be more.”
According to Williams, one of the greatest problems that couples face when it comes to their finances is not how bills are split, but a general lack of transparency altogether.
“When you begin to talk about income and your household finances, you often begin to get a different picture of the person. When you’re building a relationship and everything is new, you want that person to see who you want them to see. You don’t really want to take that mask off. And sometimes that mask doesn’t come off until they start talking about finances and you realize that they have X number of dollars in student loans out there and they have high credit card debt.”
When it comes to discussing finances, couples shouldn’t stop at discussing their current financial status. They should also have a candid conversation about how they will manage their money in the future. A study conducted by Bank of America found that 28 percent of millennial couples are opting to manage their finances separately.
“To manage finances separately really means that you are putting your money together for household expenses but then you also have a separate account for personal goals and purchases that you want to make outside of the household expenses,” said Williams.
Some would caution couples against managing their finances separately. Even a few studies have suggested that couples who do this are more likely to split. At the end of the day, Williams said it’s all about trust.
“I think it’s perfectly fine that someone would have an account for their own personal expenses and they don’t have to ask permission when they want to make a purchase. You’re an adult. You should have the freedom to do what you want to do”
That said, she advised that couples still maintain a shared account to take care of household expenses.
“There should be a mutual account for household expenses. You both should feed into that. But then you should also have an account where they can make their purchases as they want to. Separate accounts are not a bad thing to me at all. There has to be a level of trust in your relationship and that level of trust is practiced and depended upon when you do have your separate accounts.”
As for those studies that suggest couples with separate finances are more likely to split, Williams said that the likelihood of breaking up increases due to the mindsets that some people with this arrangement choose to adopt — not the way that their bank accounts are divided up.
“If you’re thinking we’re more likely to split because of that and you’re thinking, ‘I have mine and you have yours. I’m gonna take care of mine and you take care of yours.’ Well, yes, you’re establishing an environment that’s maybe conducive to us going our separate ways,” said Williams. “If we establish a single one for our household, then maybe I have my little stash and you have your little stash, we’re fine”