The rules have changed. The days of men-as-the-only-breadwinners are over and there's a lot more non-traditional relationships, cohabitation and “it’s complicated.” No matter what stage of relationship you’re in, talking about money, early and often, is critical to your long-term success as partners. A survey by TDBank founds that 74% of millennials discuss financial matters weekly, and they’re happier in their relationship as a result.
The truth is, discussing money with your significant other can be hard, especially if your finances aren’t as great or as straightforward as you’d like them to be. I still remember the day I started to share my financial details with my husband-to-be, wondering if it would impact our relationship in some way. Instead, that awkward conversation became productive — helping us have many more conversations about finances in a more transparent and honest way as our relationship evolved.
The number one question we get from couples is about how they should merge their finances. Should they go all in or keep things totally separate? Should they plan for the best case scenario or the worst? How do other people do it?
Based on our research, we’ve developed this guide to combining your financesto help you get started.
This guide is targeted at couples who are just moved-in together or are recently engaged. We’ve also heard from many married couples that found this exercise beneficial.
One of the best money personality tools I’ve seen out there is Olivia Mellan’s Money Harmony quiz. It’s short, it’s free, and she has a book you can buy if you want to dig into your personalities further. We’ve included some discussion questions in the Combining Finances Guide to talk through once you’ve gone through the quiz.
According to an Experian report, 59% of divorced adults attribute their divorce (in some part) to financial issues — so the consequences of not doing so are very real. We suggest starting with calculating and then sharing your net worth, which looks at your assets (everything you own) and your liabilities (everything you owe).
Pro-tip: You can easily pull this information together on Zeta. Once you’ve got this high-level view of your finances, you should also cover your overall income and even your credit score. These three financial indicators will give both people a good understanding of the financial footing you’re on.
To help you consider each model carefully, I’ve listed them out in the Combining Finances Guide, along with a practical steps on how to implement each model.
For example, my husband and I choose not to fully integrate our finances as we each have very different risk appetites. When I shared some of the investment goals I have for the near-future, it made it clear to us that keeping our money separate would give me the financial freedom to pursue those goals without making him feel like he’d have to come along for the ride. Here are some example goals for a couple, Mike & Maya, that you can check out for inspiration.
My own financial journey led me to found Zeta, a free tool focused on helping couples navigate their finances together. We’ve spent countless hours talking to couples and financial advisors about what works or doesn’t.
Thanks to Jessica Skeete and Gordon Macrae.
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