Let’s face it. It’s hard enough to manage finances as an individual. Balancing needs and wants, covering bills and non monthly expenses, and prioritizing which goals to save for first can take up some serious time and mental space. When you add another person into the mix, it can become even harder because there are two people’s perspectives to take into consideration.
As soon as we move past the most basic elements of our existence, figuring out how much to spend on what becomes much more complicated. We all need food and water, but even in those most elemental of categories we can disagree on what our needs are. Tap water might be sufficient for you, but your partner may prefer getting a filter. Those choices incur different costs. Everyone needs to eat, but different diets will have very different impacts on your budgets. You need to have a roof over your head, but beyond that roof, there are a lot of choices to be made about comfort level and what it takes to make someone feel at home.
Because of these differences, it can be difficult for two people to make one financial plan. For most of us it’s relatively easy to figure out an equitable way to cover the bills, but once it comes to the money leftover after necessities, more choices can lead to more disagreements if you aren’t intentional about working together.
Here are 3 questions to ask yourself and your partner when you’re thinking about combining finances:
Do you want to contribute to shared expenses proportionately or equally?
Sure, It’s easy enough to say that if a couple’s rent is $2,000, then each person could pay $1,000 to cover their half. However, a lot of factors can complicate this, including very different incomes. This can happen for a lot of reasons: one person may have a high paying career while the other works in a sector with more modest salaries. One person can be in school while another is in their prime earning years. In still other cases, varying family structures can mean different parties have different capabilities when it comes to covering joint costs.
Figure out what is most important to you and what feels best to do in accordance with your principles. Many people assign percentages of their income based on the differences between their salaries. For instance, if a couple has a combined income of $150,000, but one makes $100,000 and the other makes $50,000, a couple may decide that the higher earner will take on ⅔ of the expenses due to their pay differential. The choice is yours, but it should be one that you put some thought and conversation into.
Are there individual responsibilities that impact each person’s discretionary income?
Chances are we’ve all made a lot of big life choices before we partnered up. We may have student loans, family responsibilities, or other obligations that impact our health, wellness, and happiness. Some couples may choose to deduct non-negotiable things like loan payments or family support before looking at what each is capable of contributing to the household variable budget and shared goals. Making sure personal priorities are well funded can take the stress off when planning for shared goals.
What are each person’s priorities, goals, and dreams?
Beyond the practical matters we bring with us into relationships, we also bring our own visions of what makes a happy and fulfilling life. Chances are you share some of these with your partner, but we all have our differences and non-negotiables. This doesn’t mean that you’re incompatible, but it does mean that you’ll need to have honest, open conversations about what is sacred and what is up for compromise.
To manage money as a couple, you’ll need to create space to share and prioritize goals. For some people, becoming a homeowner is a top priority and they’re willing to sacrifice some creature comforts to save for a downpayment. Others may need lots of travel in their lives, and this may limit what they have left over to save for other things. Maybe a career change is needed and will require an investment in a new degree, and this could limit your earning potential. There are no wrong answers, but you’ll need to make sure you have a shared vision of what a good life looks like and figure out what this means for individual contributions to your joint finances.
At the Financial Gym, as our clients see their hard work paying off, they often want to share their success with the people they care about, particularly their partners. It can feel frustrating when it seems like the people we care about aren’t on the same page, or when we feel like our personal goals are getting sidelined. Creating a space for constructive conversations can be key to financial peace in your relationship.
3 Questions to ask when you’re blending finances in a relationship is written by Terri Bennett, A Certified Financial Trainer for financialgym.com