What could be more romantic? Cozy evening by the fire, sharing a delicious meal or decadent dessert, gazing into your boo’s eyes, and chatting about … finances!
No, we’re serious.
Lots of people know that money troubles and fights about money are a leading cause of divorce. But did you know that getting the couples-budgeting balance right has loads of benefits?
A recent study out of Cornell University found that “couples who pool all of their money (compared to couples who keep all or some of their money separate) experience greater relationship satisfaction and are less likely to break up.” This was particularly true for low-income couples.
But how do you get there—especially if you have a complicated relationship with money? Maybe your parents frequently fought about cash flow, so your first instinct is to flee the room whenever that topic comes up. Maybe there’s a bankruptcy in your past, or you’re embarrassed because you’re not as financially secure as you’d like to be.
Well, with love in the air as Valentine’s Day draws near, below are some basic rules of engagement for discussing how to manage finances as a couple.
1. Start with honest conversations about your finances.
We know, it can start out awkwardly. There are lots of psychological hang-ups that can make it uncomfortable to come clean about our true financial circumstances—even, or sometimes particularly, with the one closest to us. But remember, you’re considering spending your life with this person, so a foundation of trust is vital.
If you’re just dipping your toe into the couple money management pool, start by checking out our blog post about Having Money Conversations with friends. You’ll find practical tips for getting the money talk started in ways that can help to forge stronger and more supportive relationships.
2. Get on the same page about financial goals.
Among the major reasons couples who pool finances do better is that it reframes the conversation from “me” to “we” and “mine” to “ours,” which, in turn, generates a strong sense of being on the same team. When you’re in it together, you can accomplish so much more than each of you could probably do alone.
Is a new car or paying for a child’s college a top priority right now? Have you always wanted to have your own business? Dreaming of a second home for family vacations? Or are you hot to join Team FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early)?
Both of you should really give this some deep thought and be honest about what you want your money to do for you.
3. Start a shared budgeting system.
With your goals defined, you’ll be in a position to put together a plan to save money as a couple and achieve them. If you’ve been doing personal budgeting before pairing up, you may already have a system the two of you can use. If not, be sure to check out our blog post on online budget tools, including BluPeak’s own Money Management tool—an easy-to-use solution for tracking and viewing your complete financial picture.
Whatever system you choose, it basically comes down to listing all your sources of income on one side of the “ledger” and listing all of your essential and discretionary expenses on the other.
Even if you’ve decided that one person will manage the money day to day, it’s important for the two of you to start the process together so you both have a solid grasp of the money coming in and going out. Doing so can head off misunderstandings and disagreements arising from inadvertent overspending.
4. Decide on joint or separate accounts.
While the research cited above argues in favor of couples sharing all of their finances, we know lots of happy couples that have come up with a wide range of personalized financial arrangements. For example, plenty of couples successfully manage finances with hybrid arrangements, where there is a joint account that both contribute to, and each person also has their own separate account.
You and your partner need to do what works for you, and this could change over time. For example, if one of you has a blemished credit history, it might make sense to keep finances separate until that person has had time to repair their credit score.
5. Plan periodic “financial” dates.
If you’re like most couples, your financial goals will change over time. Early on, you might be all about snagging that first home or starting a family, while later on you may shift toward other experiences and power-saving for retirement. The key to long-term couple money management success is to make sure it’s an ongoing conversation.
Inject some fun by making a date of it and taking some time to focus on the great stuff you’re achieving together. At first, when you’re trying out your budgeting system, you may need to have weekly dates, which can taper off once your new habits are established. But be sure to revisit your shared goals and plans at least once or twice a year to ensure you stay aligned and your financial plans still make sense for whatever stage of life you’re in.
Ready to get started with couples money management?
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