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Merging Finances as a Couple: Three Options for Success

The Path Toward Combining Finances Will Look Different for Every Couple
Kathy Longo, CFP®, CAP®, CDFA Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Merging Finances as a Couple: Three Options for Success

Your money can feel like a very personal matter. Our behaviors and motivations around money are unique to us, encompassing our upbringing, experiences, and current situation in life. This can make merging finances as a couple a complicated process if it’s not approached in a thoughtful and intentional manner. If you and your significant other are considering merging finances as a couple, it’s important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. How you go about merging finances will depend on the comfort and trust present in the relationship, your relative income levels, the dynamics of your relationship, and more.

Ultimately, you have three options:

  1. Keeping your finances completely separate
  2. Keeping your finances partially separate
  3. Fully combining your finances

Below we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each option, as well as ways to determine which option might be best for you and your spouse or partner.

Option 1: Keeping Your Finances Completely Separate

When keeping finances completely separated as a couple, each partner keeps their individual bank accounts, makes their own money, saves their own money, and spends their own money. Typically, this means that shared bills are split evenly, or divided up so that each partner is spending relatively the same amount on shared expenses.

Pros

  • Easier to work toward individual financial goals
  • Retain your independence, meaning you don’t need to run purchases or investment decisions by someone else
  • Less complexity in determining who gets what if the relationship ends

SEE ALSO: Families and Finances: Communication is Key


Cons

  • Only works if both partners are making a livable salary on their own
  • Splitting expenses can be tedious
  • If your incomes are disproportionate, splitting of expenses can become complicated. (For example, if the partner who earns more wants to go on a vacation, is it fair to make the partner who earns less pay for half?)

Option 2: Keeping Finances Partially Separate

With this option, there’s a shared account that both partners contribute money to, and it’s used for shared expenses. For everything outside of those shared expenses, each partner maintains their individual accounts.

Pros

  • Retain some of your financial independence with money you can spend as you wish
  • Clarity on joint expenses because there is an account specifically for those bills
  • A solid fail-safe should the relationship not last since not everything is combined

Cons

  • Requires clear communication and collaboration to ensure that the joint account has sufficient funds at all times
  • Complexity in determining who puts how much in the account each month, especially if there’s a significant income gap between partners
  • A lack of trust or a varied perspective on money could mean anxiety about the other partner’s finances

SEE ALSO: How to Discover Your Money Story


Option 3: Fully Combining Your Finances

This last option is exactly what it sounds like: A couple joins all their accounts and they choose to earn, spend, and save their money together.

Pros

  • Complete transparency with how much each partner is earning and spending
  • Requires no strategizing
  • Easier to navigate in a single-income household or when there’s significantly disproportionate income

Cons

  • If partners have different money habits, it can be risky giving over complete access to your finances
  • Makes working on individual goals more difficult
  • Requires collaboration in envisioning what you want your future to look like and which financial goals you want to prioritize

Determining What’s Right for Your Relationship

The best way to determine how to merge your finances as a couple is to sit down and talk openly and honestly about your finances when you’ve both had time to prepare for the conversation. Share your money story, your beliefs and attitudes towards money, your current financial situation, your long-term financial goals, and what options make you the most comfortable moving forward. It’s important that the conversation is honest and that both partners keep an open mind when listening to where their partner is coming from.

Regardless of where you are in your relationship, it’s never too late to begin having discussions about your finances. If you’re considering merging your finances as a couple, it can be useful to have a financial advisor by your side to help you determine which option is best for your unique situation and to help you plan for the transition. Whichever option you and your partner choose, you want to emerge on solid financial footing with a strong financial plan in place. If you’d like to talk with an experienced member of the Flourish Wealth Management team about how to most effectively combine your finances as a couple, please reach out today.

About the Author

Kathy Longo, CFP®, CAP®, CDFA

Kathy Longo, CFP®, CAP®, CDFA

Kathy Longo brings over 25 years of expertise and experience to Flourish Wealth Management. Kathy is wholly dedicated to improving the life of each client and finds joy in making complex matters simple and easy to understand. She excels at asking the right questions, uncovering new possibilities and implementing the most advantageous strategies for success. Playing such a pivotal role in her clients’ lives remains an honor and a privilege. After earning a degree in Financial Planning and Counseling from Purdue University, she began her career at a small firm in Palatine, Illinois where she worked directly with clients while learning to build a viable, client-centric business. Over the years, she gained extensive knowledge and wisdom working as a wealth manager, financial planner, firm manager and business owner at notable, various sized companies in both Chicago and Minneapolis.

 

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