Couples traditionally merge their finances, along with many other aspects of their lives. Although joint finances can be seen as symbolic of a strong partnership, many couples alternatively choose to keep their finances separate. Deciding how to manage bank accounts and expenses together should be a top priority for newlyweds and couples in long-term relationships.
Learning how to manage money together can be a rewarding way to bond with your partner.
The following 10 tips will help new partners more seamlessly plan together.
1. Initiate a discussion about money.
It’s best to start talking about finances before you and your partner get married or move in together. If you’re already sharing a living space with your partner, discuss the topic as soon as possible. Be honest and disclose your assets and liabilities – in other words, how much you own and if you owe anything.
2. Consider a shared bank account.
There are several benefits to sharing a bank account, such as allowing each partner equal access to money when they need it. Additionally, shared financial goals are often easier to accomplish when you combine bank accounts. However, joint bank accounts don’t work for every relationship. While older generations commonly shared their finances, a report from Bank of America found that millennial couples are more likely to keep their finances separate.
3. Create shared financial goals.
One great way for new partners to more seamlessly plan together is to discuss long-term financial goals. Whether you want to pay off debt, commit to a budget or become an entrepreneur, your goals will guide your everyday financial decisions. It’s best if both partners are on the same page with shared financial goals so neither partner is unpleasantly surprised by the other’s financial decisions.
4. Share your home.
If you are renting or buying your home, consider the legal aspects of sharing your home with your partner. Discuss adding each other to rent or lease agreements. Refinancing a mortgage is more complex but adding your partner’s name to the mortgage now can prevent inconvenience in the future.
5. Create a budget together.
Making a budget is another great way for new partners to more seamlessly plan together. A shared budget can stop arguments about money before they even begin. How you track your spending as a couple is another important decision. To simplify budgeting, you could stick to a cash envelope system – setting aside specific amounts of cash to use toward different expenses – or use software programs, like Tiller or Mint.
6. Build an emergency fund.
An emergency fund is an essential part of your financial toolbox. If you don’t already have one, it should be your top priority to build one. An emergency fund brings financial security into your relationship. With an emergency fund, you’ll have money available to manage unexpected expenses, such as if you or your partner suddenly become unemployed or if you need a major home repair.
7. Contribute to your retirement account.
Saving for retirement is crucial whether you’re married, single or in a long-term relationship. A retirement account can provide financial stability when your working years are over. Most employers offer a 401(k) plan, and you should take advantage of matching contributions if your company provides them.
8. Schedule a weekly money date.
The more often you talk about money with your partner, the easier the conversations will become. Check in on your finances and track progress toward your goals during a weekly money date. If the conversation becomes heated, it’s okay to take a break and revisit the discussion later.
9. Update your beneficiaries.
Updating your beneficiaries on investment accounts, savings accounts, 401(k) plans, IRAs and insurance policies is an excellent way for new partners to more seamlessly plan together. Along with creating or changing an existing will, updating your beneficiaries can ensure your partner gets access to your key financial assets if something should happen to you.
10. Trust your partner.
Honesty and trust are foundation blocks of any strong relationship. Unless you have evidence that your partner isn’t telling the truth, trust your new partner to handle money. Combining bank accounts can help you build trust with your partner.
If you haven’t already, begin a conversation with your partner about money now to more seamlessly plan together and achieve your shared financial goals. Working with a CFP® professional can help.