Everything You Need to Know About Couples Finances

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I’ve been married for almost four years now. When Paul, my husband, and I got engaged around 5 years ago, we decided that it was time to combine our finances. Not only did we combine finances, but we combined our debt loads and found that we had a total of $25,000 more to pay down.

That’s the thing with combining finances or otherwise dealing with finances as a couple: there are pros and cons. His and hers can include extra income and other financial perks, but it can also come with extra debt and a whole different perspective about how to deal with money (that you or your partner may not agree with).

When dealing with couples finances, there are issues that tend to creep up that I would like to discuss below in an attempt to make the process as smooth as possible.

Know that Two People = Two Different Personalities, Wants, Needs, and Thoughts

The number one thing you need to allow for whether you are combining finances for the first time or are years into dealing with finances together is change. You may feel strongly about the way that money is spent, and so may your partner. The truth is that the money is now both of yours and compromises must be made for the sake of being fair.

From experience, I can tell you that this is sometimes hard to stomach. For example, my husband wanted a flat screen television while I could have stuck with our old television until it died with us. While we were paying off our debt, we tabled the issue. After our debt was completely paid, I could no longer deny that we could afford the luxury (besides, the man had waited three years!). So we purchased a reasonably priced flat screen. On the other hand, being a financially-oriented person, Paul knows that saving the maximum in our retirement accounts each year is a priority for me. He has not said “no” to us doing this, even though if he were alone, he would probably not save as aggressively.

It’s both give and take that works the best.

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Hold Periodic Meetings to Help Establish a System that Works for Both of You

Dealing with finances as a couple is likely not going to come naturally for the two of you. This is especially true if you have been used to working on your own finances for several years.

So having periodic financial meetings to catch each other up on bills, issues, and just talk about money really helps the partnership evolve. Not only that, but you will notice that a money system that eventually works for you as a couple will evolve as well. It may not be overnight, but after a while things will begin to run much more smoothly. You can also use free online tools like ReadyForZero to help you both see the situation as a whole.

Get a Clear Picture of the Future You Each Want

If you don’t know where you are going, then it’s going to be quite hard to get there. When dealing with finances as a couple, you need to know where each of you individually wants to go in the future, and then where you both want to go as a couple. Some good questions to ask are:

  • When do you want to retire?
  • If you want to be parents, does one of you feel strongly about a partner staying home with the child or about daycare?
  • Do either of you want to go to college at some point or otherwise further your education?

These questions will help to open up discussion about the future so that you can start to gain a picture of what types of categories and events need to be included into your budgeting.

Decide on the Application of Your Finances

How are you going to dole out any budget that you are making? Questions you need to ask yourselves are whether or not you want separate, joint, or both types of accounts, if you want to use cash, plastic, or both types of payments, etc. Do you have direct deposits set up? Will you set up automatic withdrawals on pre-agreed amounts to certain accounts, or otherwise how will that money make it over to where it’s supposed to be?

I’ve given you some of the advice needed in order to successfully lay the bricks of a solid financial life with your partner. If you are looking for more information, check out this free guide to Handling Finances as a Couple.  Remember, practice makes perfect (or at least makes good)!

Image credit: dnberty

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  • CynicFan2

    If you aren’t able to handle the frank, open and honest discussion to write down a pre-nuptial agreement, get it reviewed by an attorney and signed off, you probably aren’t emotionally ready to be married in the first place.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bwfeldman Benjamin Feldman

      Interesting perspective! Thanks for your comment.