When Should Couples Merge Their Finances?
Although talking about finances with your partner may not be the most romantic way to spend an evening, communicating openly and honestly about money could be the key to a long and happy relationship.
If you search “common sources of stress in a relationship” online, finances are near the top of almost every list. High debt, one-sided spending, and an imbalance of financial “power” are three of the most commonly cited money stressors. But deciding when—or if—to merge their finances can also be a source of tension between partners.
When couples decide to merge finances, each partner relinquishes some control over their money and how it’s spent. In most cases this isn’t an issue. However, if there is misalignment over how the money should be used, or if one partner resents contributing more to the household than the other, there will likely be some conflict.
Although there is no doubt that money can have a significant impact on relationships, that impact doesn’t have to be negative. In fact, some studies show that couples who share financial accounts feel more connected to each other and perceive their interactions as more positive, stable and safe.
If you and your partner are thinking about merging your finances but you aren’t sure of the best approach, read on to learn more about the ins and outs of sharing money in a relationship.
When Should Couples Merge Their Finances?
The question of when to merge finances with your partner doesn’t have a simple answer. It all depends on the couple.
For couples who live together and plan to remain in a relationship long term, there are many benefits to sharing a checking and a savings account, even if they also maintain individual accounts for personal spending.
Pooling financial resources simplifies bill paying and makes it easier to join forces and set money aside for large purchases, like buying a home.
However, it can be risky to combine investment assets and real estate titles too soon. If the relationship fails, dividing up these assets can get pretty complicated.
On the other hand, some couples find they are better off continuing to split expenses and never sharing a bank account. This decision might be based on one partner having excessive credit card debt or other personal expenses that they want to keep separate in the relationship.
You won’t be able to determine which approach is right for you and your partner if you aren’t both transparent about your financial pasts and attitudes about spending, saving, and debt. These are the make-or-break financial factors in a relationship—which is where those open, honest conversations about finances come in.
The first talk is normally the hardest, but if you keep the momentum going with regular financial “date nights,” you will learn a lot about your partner’s past and present money management habits. This information will allow you to make well-informed decisions about merging finances that fit your relationship’s specific needs.
Things to Do Before You Merge Finances with Your Partner
Once you have decided that sharing a bank account is the right move, it’s time to hit pause and take care of some financial housekeeping. Discussing the following with your partner now can save you stress and frustration later.
Define What Shared Finances Means
There is no “right” way to merge finances in a relationship, which is why it’s important to define “shared” early in the process.
Some couples are happy to put 100 percent of their money in one account and pay all of their bills and expenses together. Others prefer a hybrid approach, maintaining three or more accounts: one for shared household expenses and separate accounts for personal spending money, bills, or savings.
Determine Shared Priorities
One of the best ways to avoid conflict when sharing finances is to understand what each person values and find common ground. For example, one partner might feel strongly about saving a percentage of each paycheck or paying off credit cards each month.
If both partners can agree on these priorities, great! But in some cases, it may be better for your relationship to maintain separate bank accounts.
Set a Household Budget
Setting a household budget is a great way to manage shared finances. Allocating family funds makes it easy to track spending, save money, and avoid arguments over money.
Work together to stick to your agreed budget, but plan to revisit it regularly so you can make adjustments as your financial circumstances change.
Create a Spending Plan
When you are sharing financial resources, a spending plan can help you avoid miscommunication and disagreements. Your spending plan should work as an extension of your household budget to specifically define how expenses will be paid and how savings goals will be met.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Merging Finances in a Relationship
When you enter into a committed relationship, you will inevitably have to decide how you and your partner will handle finances.
Many couples know immediately how they will share and split expenses. Others need to weigh the pros and cons before they can make the best decision for their relationship.
Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks to merging finances with your partner:
- Bill paying becomes simplified.
- Financial equality is strengthened.
- It becomes easier to stick to a budget.
- There is an increase in savings potential.
- It creates a sense that “we’re in this together”.
- It can create conflict.
- High debt becomes everyone’s problem.
- Salary disparities can feel constraining or demoralizing.
Is It Time to Combine Your Finances?
The decision to combine finances in a relationship is highly dependent on each couple’s circumstances and preferences. What is right for one might be a disaster for another.
Whether you put all of your household funds in one pot, keep them completely separate, or opt for something in between, it’s important to check in with your partner regularly to see what’s working and what isn’t.
These open, honest conversations are crucial to reducing money-related stress in your relationship.
Download The Ultimate Guide to Managing Money in a Relationship to get more tips for navigating finances with your significant other.