Managing your money can be difficult enough when it’s only you to worry about. However, combining your finances with a partner can be even more of a challenge. Don’t expect to get it all right straight away. The two of you will need to work a few things out and give yourself enough time to do so.
Talk About Your Finances
It’s smart to talk about your individual finances well before you decide to combine them. If you haven’t started to talk about money yet, start having these conversations as soon as possible. If you plan to get married, you should be prepared to go over what accounts you have and any debt that you are working on paying down. You also should be very clear about how you expect any money to be handled to protect your financial security. You might want to agree to sort out your wills together, discuss and agree on what counts as an essential purchase, or agree on not making any purchases over a certain amount without telling your partner.
For example, if you expect your partner to discuss any purchases of over £150 with you, you need to let them know. If they consider something like new wheels and tyres an essential, and you don’t, you need to find out sooner rather than later. Make sure each of you has a good understanding of where both of you stand financially both individually and as a couple and any expectations that the other person has of you when it comes to money.
Write Down Your Goals
After you have worked out your baseline financial status, then you should take the time to talk about your long-term financial goals in more depth. For example, do you hope to retire by a certain age? Do you have debts you need to get paid off? Do you want to save a housing deposit by a certain time? Agree on some goals together, and find some room for goals from both of you.
Agree on goals such as sticking to a set budget each month, becoming a one-income family by the next year so you can start a family, or to start saving now to buy a house in four years time. Write down all these goals , being as specific as possible, and review them occasionally to check that you’re on track. You’ll have a much better chance of success if you treat your goals like this.
Discuss Bank Accounts
If you’ve got married recently, you might think that all you need to do is change your bank account into your new name and that’s it, but actually there’s more to discuss with your partner here. There are pros and cons to opening a joint bank account with your partner and to maintaining your own individual accounts, even after you get married
Combining your accounts can make your finances more simple to keep track of, and can help to breed trust in a marriage. A joint account can be useful for household expenses you are both responsible for, like paying utility bills or grocery shopping. It can also be helpful if one spouse chooses to take on more of the household or child-rearing duties than the other, creating more inequality in income.
However, some level of independence is often preferred by many couples, although it can make it very simple for either you or your partner to hide purchases or irresponsible spending habits from each other. Keeping separate bank accounts can give you a little bit of protection in the event of a break-up or a divorce, preventing your partner from emptying out a joint account and then leaving. Discuss these different options in-depth with your partner and agree on which option makes you both feel the most comfortable.
For many couples, the best choice is somewhere in the middle of these two options, with each of you maintaining your own individual bank accounts for day to day spending of your own, but also having a joint account for household expenses and savings that you’re working on together.
Be Wary of Poor Credit
If you live with, or are married to someone, who has a bad credit score, this won’t affect your own score. However, if you choose to open a joint bank account or borrow together, like taking out a mortgage, then your credit score could be affected by the credit score of your partner.
If you apply for credit, you will be co-scored. If you are going to combine any of your finances, then you should both check your credit rating thoroughly. If one of your has poor credit, it might be a better idea to keep your money separate for now.
Make Sure You’re Equal Partners
One of the risks of combining your finances, is that whichever of you is more money savvy ends up in charge of all the money, and the other partner doesn’t know what’s going on with the finances. This is usually accidental, as the more money-smart partner naturally takes over, but it can also cause real problems if one of you doesn’t understand your finances or have proper access to them.
No matter how uninterested in money one of you might be, you shouldn’t allow one partner to control all the joint finances, as it can be bad for both for you.
A mutual understanding of your joint finances is far better, as it means that you will both know what you can and can’t afford to spend. It also means that if something was to happen to one of you, the other wouldn’t be left struggling to understand your financial affairs.
Even if one of you is in charge of paying the bills, make sure you keep your partner informed about what is going on, and that you both have access to any accounts, bills, or statements. Make financial decisions together, and make sure you talk about money openly and honestly. Make sure you both understand your finances.