Money isn’t always the easiest topic to discuss, especially since everyone has different perspectives on budgeting, saving, and investing.
But when merging your finances with your partner’s, it’s important to be transparent and enter the experience with an open mind. If you’re considering starting the journey toward joining your finances, this guide can help you navigate the process effectively and with more confidence.
Maintain open communication
Throughout the entire process of combining finances, it’s crucial to have open and honest communication with your partner. Start by discussing your individual financial situations, including income, debts, assets, existing accounts, and overall financial goals. This dialogue will help you each better understand the other person’s current financial status and expectations, allowing you to identify and work through any possible concerns sooner rather than later and establish a shared vision for your financial future. Then, as you move forward, conduct regular check-ins with each other to ensure that you’re staying on track and alleviate any new issues that may arise.
Determine your financial goals
As part of your communication, you’ll want to identify your financial goals both as individuals and as a team. These should include short- and long-term objectives, such as saving for a down payment on a house, paying off student loans, planning for retirement, or pursuing a shared dream like starting a business or traveling the world. Aligning your goals and making them clear and achievable will provide a road map for your future financial decisions and keep you both motivated to continually work together to meet them.
Establish a system
There are various approaches to managing joint finances, so it’s important to determine which one will work best for you and your current situation.
This system involves combining all your individual bank accounts into one joint account. Though getting everything shifted may take some extra time and effort, it can ultimately simplify your financial management since most, if not all, of your payments would come out of this single account. You’d also have joint credit and debit cards, which would create more transparency by letting each person see where the money is going every month.
With this method, you would each contribute to a joint account a set percentage of your paychecks that’s proportional to your individual income. If you or your partner makes substantially more than the other, this could be a good option as it can help ensure that one of you isn’t giving more than you can reasonably afford. You would also each maintain your own personal accounts separate from the joint one, which can allow for more financial autonomy and independence.
Similar to the proportional method, this approach entails maintaining individual accounts as well as a joint account. However, you would each contribute the same amount to the shared account every month to use on shared expenses such as the mortgage or rent, insurance, and groceries. This approach can work well if you have similar incomes and debts since it would prevent one person from contributing a disproportionate amount.
Follow a budget
Developing a budget together is an integral part of merging finances, no matter what system you choose. By budgeting, you can better track your monthly income and your spending, enabling you both to understand where the money is coming from and where it’s going. To create a budget that works for each of you, start by first identifying your essential monthly expenses, which may include rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, debt repayments, investments, and insurance. Once you have that general number in mind, you can then decide how much you want to save or set aside for your emergency fund based on your financial goals. Finally, allocate funds for discretionary spending, like entertainment, date nights, or other shopping.
After your budget is set, determine how you will handle your finances each month. For instance, one of you could take on the responsibility of managing deadlines and making payments while the other balances the checkbook, regularly reviewing your accounts and your spending habits to ensure you’re staying within budget. You could also trade off tasks or make them shared activities. Consider conducting a biweekly or monthly check-in where you sit down together to go over your finances and see how well you are sticking to your established budget.
Throughout the entire process of merging finances, be sure to keep your short- and long-term financial goals in mind so you can each have a clear idea of what you’re working toward and saving for each month. You should also regularly review and adjust your budget or financial system to accommodate changing circumstances, such as a new job opportunity. This periodic evaluation and open communication can help ensure that your strategy remains aligned with your evolving needs and aspirations as a couple, leading to a stronger financial future.