I work with a lot of new couples who are in the midst of merging their financial lives for the very first time. In fact, my fiance and I are in the process of doing it ourselves too.
It’s not an easy thing to figure out. There are logistics to handle, habits to change, emotions to manage, and often it feels like there is never enough time in the day for any of it.
But successfully managing money together is key to creating a happy partnership, so here are four pieces of advice as you go through this process yourself.
1. Focus on Joint Goals, Not Joint Accounts
It’s tempting to get caught up in the logistics of joining your finances. How do you create joint accounts? Which accounts should you join? What if you want to keep some money for yourself? Does that mean your relationship is in trouble?
Ignore all of that. It doesn’t matter. At least not at the start.
What really matters are your joint goals. What are you working towards? What is your shared vision for the life you’re building together?
Start having conversations about what you each value and want out of life. Listen to each other so you can truly understand what’s important to the other person.
Find the goals you already have in common and make those the priorities. And start talking about how you can find middle ground on the others.
This communication is the real key to successfully merging your finances. All the rest is just logistics.
2. Establish Shared Expenses
Now, about those logistics…
One easy place to start is with your everyday expenses. Things like cable, internet, electricity, and groceries.
Decide which expenses you want to share and how you want to split them up. For example, if one person makes significantly more, maybe they’re responsible for a bigger share of certain expenses. That way each of you is left with some free money at the end of it.
3. Create a System
There are two main ways you can start sharing those expenses.
The first is to create a joint bank account where those bills are paid. Then you each are responsible for transferring money to that account on a regular schedule to cover the bills. This lets you practice managing a joint account without having to join everything.
Another option is to put each person in charge of certain bills. For example, one of you could handle the cable bill while the other handles the electricity bill. This kind of system may be easier to get up and running quickly.
Also, create a system for long term savings. I know someone who gave half their paycheck to their partner to invest for the long term. This might not be the right move for you, but start by discussing each of your current habits and how you might change those or improve on them as a couple.
4. Plan for Extra Money
Here’s something my fiance and I have done that’s helped us a lot.
In addition to our regular expenses and savings, we each have a number of “wants” that our extra money could go towards. For example, I’d like to get curtains and my fiance wants gardening supplies.
So we made a list of these things and put them in priority order. And now any time we have some extra money, we simply refer to this list and put it towards the top item.
This makes these decisions easy, limits the opportunity for arguments, and ensures that we’re both able to indulge a little bit.
Do It Your Way
There’s no one right way to merge your finances. If you talk to 10 different successful couples, you’ll find 10 different systems. Therefore, I also recommend being open to some trial and error.
The key is to focus on your shared vision and to do things in a way that helps both of you work towards it.
Photo from Mashable.com