Should I Combine Finances With My Significant Other?

combining financesMost couples give up their financial autonomy when things get serious in their relationship. They might choose to share a bank account or split household bills 50/50. They essentially become a financial union. But is this lifestyle right for you?

Before you combine your finances with your significant other, read this guide, which bursts to the brim with tips for financial planning.

Sharing Finances in a Relationship

In relationships, money matters.

Research shows that more couples choose not to divorce because their finances are so intertwined. In these circumstances, a couple who spends together, stay together.

You know how it goes by now. You meet someone you like. You get engaged. You get married. You share a bank account.

It’s the way it’s always been.

But more couples are embarking on alternative financial paths. They stay financially independent. They keep separate bank accounts.

This is particularly true for young people. Research from Bank of America suggests that millennial couples are more likely to hold separate bank accounts than previous generations.

The Pros of Sharing Finances With Your Partner

Typically, couples don’t earn the same amount of money as each other. Usually, there will be a “breadwinner” — someone who contributes more to household costs than the other. Income inequality in a relationship can be tough. It can lead to arguments. It could lead to a breakup.

Sharing finances, though, could provide a solution.

When both partners have access to the same pool of funds, there’s likely to be less financial tension in the relationship. This means no arguments about who paid for the last date night. Or who settled last quarter’s electricity bill.

This can only work if there is trust in a relationship, of course.

But trust is just one part of the equation.

Partners might not have the same attitude when it comes to money, and this could lead to frustrations in the relationship. One person might be a big saver; the other a big spender.

Research shows that 76 percent of couples feel they share the philosophies of their partner regarding money matters.

But is this really the case?

A couple is made up of two different people, whose individual upbringings, beliefs, emotions, and goals will all influence their spending and saving habits.

The key to a successful financial relationship is communication. Partners need to discuss their financial goals and motivations with each other. If one partner likes to spend and the other likes to save, there needs to be a compromise, especially when they share finances.

“Similar to a power struggle issue, but isolated only to issues with power over the money, the spouse earning more sees the money as his or her own, and believes that he or she has the right to spend the money at will,” says Money Crashers.

The Cons of Sharing Finances With Your Partner

Sharing finances with your partner won’t solve all your financial woes, though.

In fact, it could result in even bigger disagreements.

The problem here, again, is income inequality.

If one partner earns more than the other, he or she might resent the other’s spending habits. Essentially, the partner who earns less is spending the money of the partner who earns more.

It can be tricky.

Then there’s the question of debt. If one partner is in arrears, there could be tensions if they share finances.

Sometimes, combined finances just won’t work.

Discussions about household money lead to arguments among 45 percent of the general population and, for some couples, these arguments just aren’t worth the hassle.

They decide to keep their finances separate, instead.

Choose What’s Right for You

There’s no right and wrong answer here. You and your partner need to decide whether you want to share your finances and whether you think it will work out for the best. Sure, you’d rather be talking about other things, but this is a conversation you need to have.

But when is the best time to have “the talk”?

When things get serious.

If you are planning on cohabiting with your partner or talking about engagement or even marriage, you need to discuss your finances. It’s as simple as that.

You don’t have to actually share a bank account, of course. In fact, there are many alternative financial relationships you can enter into that will benefit you and your partner.

You can both pay household bills at a rate that’s proportionate to your income, for example.

“The main advantage is that neither partner feels the pressure to ‘keep up with’ or ‘budget down to’ the earnings of the other partner. In other words, their income disparity doesn’t cause a lifestyle clash,” says The Balance.

Alternatively, you could take things as they come and decide whether to pay for a large bill or other expense separately or together.

Takeaway

Sharing finances is a big deal. If you don’t like it, it could lead to a breakdown in your relationship. Do it right, though, and you could strengthen your partnership. Like anything, it’s always a good idea to talk about money before you enter into a long-term financial union.

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