Navigating Finances in a Long-Term Relationship
Choice is central to financial wellness. There are many lifechanging events people experience that affect their finances; getting married or entering into a long-term relationship included. Just as one person’s financial history may be a maze, combining two financial histories can result in an entanglement of accounts, savings, assets, investments, debt, loans, budgets and goals. Where should a couple begin? The first step to figuring out joint finances is to share goals, boundaries and expectations. It is much easier to sort out the particulars of money management when both parties are on the same page.
We’ve put together a list of topics couples can use to discuss their overarching goals, attitudes and preferences about money.
Financial accounts take many forms, from checking and savings accounts to certificates of deposit and more. Curating a financial portfolio is tied to your unique financial wellness goals, and it is important to inform your partner about those goals. List out the financial accounts both you and your spouse have. Consider what accounts you may want to be joint or separate. Is it a priority for you to have certain joint accounts? Would you prefer to retain separate financial accounts? Or a combination of both? Which ones should be joint or separate, then? It is especially relevant to go over financial accounts before or soon after getting married, to decide how you will manage finances as a couple.
Bills and Living Expenses
Paying bills and tending to various living expenses are part of life. Those expenses may look different after getting married. Acknowledge your expectations about paying bills, including which accounts expenses will be paid from. Will one person be responsible for bills, or will each person handle specific expenses?
Spending and Saving
Don’t immediately assume that your partner has an identical mindset to you when it comes to spending and saving money. Clearly communicate your expectations when it comes to being kept in the loop about purchases. Are you okay with your spouse making large unplanned purchases without you knowing? Do you expect you and your partner to discuss all purchases or only those over a certain dollar amount?
Be just as upfront about your saving goals. Let your spouse know what you are saving for, be it a comfortable emergency fund or special vacation. Set clear boundaries when it comes to putting aside money each month.
Debt and Assets
Many people have acquired debt and/or assets of some form. Whether a student loan, auto loan or mortgage, debt is a major factor in financial wellness and can impact your spouse’s finances. Do you both view debt as something to pay off together or something to handle individually? Recognize not just existing debt, but future debt; will both parties be taking out loans or only one person?
Similarly, current and future assets, from houses and cars to investment income, should be discussed. List out the assets each party has and decide whether the other person will be added.
Avoid unnecessary pitfalls in your relationship by honestly and openly communicating your preferences and expectations about money. Financial wellness is a key part of overall quality of life. Making informed choices about your finances allows you to take control of your money and decide how it will be used. Financial wellness as a couple may look a little different than financial wellness on your own, but you have options when it comes to shaping your financial future.
If you’re not sure how to start this conversation, consider taking this simple quiz with your partner. Answer the questions to gauge financial preferences. Talking through the results together can spur a deeper conversation about both parties’ attitudes towards money management, helping you both get on the same page.