No one likes to fight with their partner. Yet, money can be a very contentious issue for many couples. In fact, finances are a frequent problem for many couples, even those that are otherwise happy.
Fortunately, there are many possible solutions that can help you manage your finances in a healthy way. Perhaps you’re struggling as a couple due to finances. Or maybe you’re in a new relationship and are unsure how to manage your money. Perhaps you’ve ended a marriage or long-term relationship in the past and are nervous about how to manage money in your new relationship. There are many ways to approach money challenges with your partner.
Is there a perfect way to manage money that all successful couples use? Not really. It really depends on your unique goals and situation. Here are four solutions to consider:
Ideal for couples who want to maintain their financial independence, with this option, couples keep separate accounts but pay shared expenses together. Each person contributes to the “home” bills. In this case, the partner who earns more usually contributes a higher amount to paying bills. However, each partner also keeps their own savings individually.
One couple I know who did this is Nick and Elena. They had been dating for about a year when they decided to move in together. However, Nick also had a child from a previous relationship who stayed with him 50% of the time. So, they decided not to merge their finances for the time being. Nick, who earned a bigger paycheck and also wanted an extra bedroom for his son, covered the rent. Elena covered most of the groceries and the cable bill. They also started a small emergency fund together should any unexpected expenses show up. It was a great solution for their situation.
Instead of each person paying bills from their own accounts, the couple creates a shared account from which to pay expenses. Each couple contributes a proportional amount of their earnings to the shared checking account. For example, if one partner earns $50,000 per year and the other person earns $150,000 per year, the partner who earns $50,000 per year should contribute to 1/4 of the bills. Each partner also keeps their own savings account. The joint account should cover all living expenses and may also include a cushion for emergencies. Additionally, couples might also save together for extras, like vacations.
Molly and Jason used this plan, which was ideal for their situation. They are in a committed long-term situation. However, they have very different interests. While Molly loves raising horses, Jason spends a lot of time restoring old cars. With this plan, both Molly and Jason can easily pull money out of their own accounts for their special interests and personal purchases. This can help reduce disagreements about how much each partner spends on their hobbies, fashion, or “wants” in general.
In this plan, couples share their bank accounts and all of their finances. However, there are limits that help ensure that couples communicate about their budget and spending. For example, couples can set a spending ceiling. Couples might decide that if either partner is going to spend more than a certain amount such as $100 or $1000, they talk it over first. Similarly, couples might include “fun money” for each partner in their budget. That way, each partner is allowed to spend a certain amount each month on their hobbies and interests without consulting the other. Couples should also talk through how much money to keep in savings, an emergency fund, a vacation fund, and more.
Just like some couples practice conscious uncoupling and physically separate, you can practice this but just financially without ending your relationship. Some couples just don’t do well together financially! Perhaps you have different spending priorities or money habits. Or maybe money is just a hot-button topic for one of you and you want to stop the conflict but want to stay together. You should consider a postnup that can legally separate your finances and future growth by organizing objectives and expectations. In this example, you separate all finances including checking, savings, assets, and liabilities.
Start talking about money! If it’s a very difficult topic for you and your partner, you can always bring in a certified financial planner or a family mediator. A professional can help you determine the best way to manage your money as a couple, prioritize goals, and plan effectively. Remember, your partner isn’t the enemy. If you work together, you can solve money issues as a team!
Elaine King is a Certified Financial Planner Professional ® and Florida Supreme Court Family Mediator who has helped thousands of couples. Contact her to set up a call today! For more tips, follow Elaine King on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.