It’s not surprising that survey after survey the focus on money is usually the cause of many heated marital debates. Living in a partnership with someone can hit some rocky ground when the individuals have ideologies about money that vastly differ from each other. Relationships don’t come with a manual that teaches us how to think and feel about money and therefore we are left with what we have learned through our parents or what we have read from a book.
It’s so important very early on in a serious relationship that discussions about money surface from time to time. Having a healthy conversation about finances is critical in relationships where both parties have made a commitment to move in together and build a life together. There is nothing more awkward than having your partner move in where they see that they no longer have to pay rent or electricity. Suddenly they have a fist full of cash and mistakenly think that shouting you take-out meals once in a while should cover it. Oh, boy!
Finding the right balance will take a little bit of effort but once you have a system in place that you both agree on it takes away the need to make financial judgements about yourself or your partner and gives you the joint responsibility about your spending habits.
My wife and I have three accounts: mine, hers and ours. It’s that simple. My wife works a casual job so her wages are always somewhat sporadic given the hours she works. My budget focusses on our household expenses and I keep an agreed amount for myself. The rest goes into OUR account for savings. My wife usually earns enough to send money to her family overseas and she keeps an agreed amount for herself. The rest goes into OUR account. On those weeks that she doesn’t earn enough she takes what she needs from OUR account which includes money for herself. We talked about our financial NEEDS very early on in our relationship and we both have access to ALL the accounts: no need to stash money in the sock draw (Yes, I had to do that with a past partner). On the occasions that we want to buy big ticket items then we will always talk about it first.
Now, arguments about money are not always about money, right? Sometimes it’s about respect, control and self-esteem. You might be the bread winner of the family while your partner tends to the children so it is very critical that your partner doesn’t see the money as yours and therefore a handout and you shouldn’t feel that you are ‘losing’ your money because your partner doesn’t have a job.
When those big life events come knocking like marriage, children and retirement you should always have a plan. Will you need two cars: who will pay for them? What school will your children attend, private or public? Will you buy the Winnebago and travel the country?
Preparing a budget is also a good way of managing your joint finances. Write down all your bills and divvy them up between you both according to a proportionate amount; who earns the most pays the most. I recommend revisiting your discussion about money as things change such as pay rises or layoffs. And it’s never too late to start planning for retirement.