Just because you’re in a committed relationship doesn’t mean you have to share everything. That goes for finances, too. Sure, you’ll have shared expenses, like rent or a mortgage, utility bills and food, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend independently.
From money strategies to intimacy, every marriage or committed relationship is different. If you’re trying to decide how to navigate the financial aspect of your relationships — or you have joint finances and it doesn’t seem to be working — consider whether splitting up accounts makes sense for you.
1. You Can’t Agree on How to Spend Money
Couples fight, and while you should certainly discuss financial goals and planning with your partner, tension shouldn’t fill every money conversation you have. If you find yourself arguing every time the topic of household finances arises, you may have to make a drastic change to your strategy.
You may not agree on every financial decision, but if you never seem to agree, that could be a sign you need to separate your finances. This move alone could cause problems — your partner may take offense at being told you don’t want to share bank accounts anymore — but it could be the change you need to move past your differences.
There are many variations on the split-finances approach: From a spending angle, you could maintain a joint account to which you both contribute for shared expenses, like the mortgage and utilities, and the rest of your money stays in your own account. When it comes to savings, you could save on your own but have shared goals, like each person setting aside 10% of his or her paycheck for retirement. There’s no limit to the way you could mix and match accounts, and a little trial and error will probably help you figure out what’s best for you.
2. You Like Managing Your Own Money
Some people love budgeting (it’s fun!), but if two personal finance geeks enter into a relationship, there could be a struggle for power over the checkbook. If neither is willing to relinquish the role as number-cruncher, separating some accounts could relieve that stress.
Such a division could foster equality within the relationship — each person trusts the other to use their money responsibly, and as long as you stay on track to reach your mutual goals, there’s no reason to worry about how much the other person spends on a shopping outing or a weekend with friends.
3. You Don’t Share Debt
When one person comes into the relationship with debt, whether it be student loans or credit cards, it can be cause problems. Some people don’t mind sharing finances, for better or for worse, but it can be a shock to go from debt-free to feeling responsible for thousands of dollars of expenses someone else racked up.
This issue requires a serious conversation. First, you need to tell your partner about your debt and how he or she feels about it. Discuss the best strategies for paying it down, and consider how that choice may affect your relationship: If you don’t share incomes, and one person has $40,000 in student loan debt while the other has none, it can be demoralizing to deal with that burden alone, while the other person can live without the restraints that come with debt. On the other hand, some people feel it’s their responsibility to manage their debt alone.
Each person has a lot of individual history, financial and otherwise, that may impact how they view sharing finances. For example, if you have children from another relationship, you need to discuss whether you’re supporting them on your own or if the stepparent will also chip in.
The point here isn’t to outline all the potential ways you and your partner could manage your finances, but is to highlight the importance of finding a system that works well for you both. Joint accounts may streamline everything but result in more money arguments, but keeping things separate creates the opportunity to hide things from each other, which is generally a bad thing for a relationship. Keep in mind some states view married couples’ assets as joint possessions, whether or not the individuals see it that way.
Whatever you do, stay on top of your credit as an individual, make sure you’re paying bills on time while saving money for the future and communicate often about your goals and expectations. Check your credit reports and credit scores regularly to check for issues and track your progress — you can get a free credit summary updated every 14 days on Credit.com.
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