When you’re newly married or in a serious relationship, the discussion of whether or not to merge finances can be a daunting one. Combining finances is not for everyone, and many couples choose to keep their money separate for a host of reasons. There are plenty of discussions surrounding couples who decide not to mix their money, however, not much advice is offered on how to successfully merge finances for those who choose to take the route of joining their accounts. We spoke with two financial experts who offered four actionable tips for couples looking to combine money. Here’s what they had to say:
Have the talk
“Before you tie the knot, it’s important to have a serious conversation with your partner about your financial state of affairs. Being open and honest with one another about what you make, owe, and own is important,” says Lacey Cobb, CFA, CFP®, director of advice solutions at Personal Capital, an Empower Company. “After all, once you’re married, you’ll share one another’s debt (or riches). It’s not always fun, but that can mean working together to pay off your partner’s debts. You should also make a financial plan for how you’ll manage your finances once you’re married. Will you keep your finances mostly separate or combine them into a joint account? Will you set a cap on purchases that can be made without the approval of the other partner?”
Handle money conversations with care
“When talking through finances at this stage in your relationship, tread lightly. These conversations often have a lot of emotional baggage,” Cobb went on to advise. “It’s important to remain aware of your partner’s insecurities and approach the conversation with an open and empathetic attitude. This can be a great time to get a financial advisor involved. They’ll help you look at your finances objectively, take the emotion out of the discussion, and work with you to put together an actionable plan.”
Determine your shared goals
“It’s important to be aligned on your collective goals when combining finances,” Alok Deshpande, CEO of SmartPath, a financial wellness platform, told MadameNoire. “There are six decisions in relationships that impact money.”
Among the six decisions include strategies for tackling debt, whether you have plans to own a home, whether or not to have children and how many children you can comfortably afford, how much each person will contribute towards their retirement, and how much money should be spent on leisure activities such as vacations.
Make room in your budget for individuality
“You were individuals before coming into the relationship and you each had things you liked to do,” Deshpande went on. “Relationships evolve your tastes, but you still need the freedom to be you. I recommend creating a budget for individual freedoms and that is the money for each to spend on discretionary items.”
One of the easiest ways to maintain your individuality and independence is for each partner to maintain at least one separate account. The shared account can be used to pay bills and other household expenses and the separate accounts can be used towards personal hobbies and recreational spending.