There’s no single perfect way to organize finances as a couple. What’s “normal” has changed dramatically with each new generation, and today’s couples have the freedom to combine or separate their finances in whatever way feels right to them. The possibilities are endless. That said, there are three basic ways couples can approach their finances.
You merge all of your bank accounts and credit cards, and have a plan to pay down any debt either of you brought into the relationship. Some couples also build in a system of “allowances” so that each person still has their own portion of spending money, but all of the funds reside in shared accounts where transactions are visible to both people.
Merging all your money is one way to simplify things, but it requires compromise and radical transparency. What’s most important is that your financial styles are aligned. Any differences in discipline or spending and saving habits could cause serious conflicts.
Yours, mine & ours
You and your partner hold onto your own accounts, but you also have one or more accounts that you share. Many couples keep a joint chequing account for shared expenses as well as savings accounts for short and long term goals. How much and how often you contribute to these accounts is up to you.
This approach is great for combining finances in a way that fits your unique relationship and lifestyle. It works well for those who want to commit to shared goals, but still want some financial autonomy. It can take some trial and error to find the perfect system, so good communication is essential.
You keep your accounts and cards separate, and divvy up any shared bills to pay them separately. Every couple starts here, and some choose to stay that way. Each person maintains their financial independence, and any shared purchases are divided or taken in turns.
Separating your money is simple in that it’s what you were doing before you met, but it can get challenging as your lives become enmeshed over time. If children enter the picture, having at least one joint account will likely make things simpler.
If you think you might be ready, here are three bases to cover with your partner.
First, how much do you make? This requires laying out the details of your individual financial situations. How much money do you make? What are your income sources? How consistent are they?
Second, what are your assets and debts? What do you own? What do you owe? If one or both of you has significant debt, will you be helping each other pay it off, or handling it individually?
Third, what are your financial priorities and goals? Saving to buy a dream home and car, or budgeting for incredible travel experiences? Earning a high salary, or searching for meaningful work?
In the end, it’s not just about making the numbers work. Financial issues can have a major impact on a relationship, so it’s important to make sure you’re both on the same page before you start mixing money. If you‘re still struggling to figure it out—or if you want to explore how your finances could work better together—reach out to SCU for guidance that’s right for you.