Sharing finances with someone is never easy. The reason being is you are both unique individuals with unique beliefs and systems about money. Your relationships can have a huge impact on your financial progress. And just as your choice of partner impacts your well-being, your home, and your family, that choice also impacts your finances.
If you’re planning on sharing finances with your partner, you need to consider some essential guidelines. Sharing finances in a relationship can take different formats, as some prefer to completely merge their money, while others take a hybrid approach.
You might share some financial accounts but keep others separate. If you’re the saver in a relationship and your partner is a spender, that can add layers of complexity to your financial life.
Consider trying these tips for sharing finances to help your relationship—and your finances—thrive.
9 Essential tips for sharing finances in a relationship
If your partner is a spender, you might (understandably) have concerns about sharing finances in your relationship. Financial abuse is a real issue and following a few guidelines before and throughout a relationship may help you avoid that situation.
Any type of sharing in a relationship is important, but how you manage shared finances can have a massive impact on your relationship.
So here are 9 essential tips to implement when sharing finances with your partner:
1. Communicate clearly
Truly, the most important ingredient to successfully sharing finances with another person is communication. Healthy relationships are built on trust and honesty, so how you communicate about money will make a difference.
Remember to be respectful of each other when communicating about money. Just because you may have different views about money doesn't mean you can't have shared finances. You just need to have an open line of communication about money at all times.
2. Discuss finances early in the relationship
One way to help get your plan for sharing finances off on the right foot is to talk about money early. While you may not want to get into the nitty-gritty like how much student loan debt someone has on the first date, you shouldn’t avoid financial conversations.
Early on in a relationship, you’ll naturally gain an idea of how your partner looks at money. But be sure to continue to dig deeper. As a relationship grows more serious, you can start by asking your partner important money questions.
Questions about debt, spending, and what money stories they heard growing up can teach you a lot about the person.
Making money conversations a regular part of your relationship can help you grow closer. You don’t need to shy away from talking about money. Even if you or your partner carries financial baggage, it’s better to be open about those issues.
Determine how financially fit each of you are and decide how to move forward.
3. Dive further into each other’s finances
Once you’ve established a habit of discussing finances, you’re on the right track to successfully share your finances with your partner.
Before committing to another person, especially if you plan to combine finances somehow, you should know even more about their finances.
Some of the basic figures to be aware of are: debt, income, and net worth. Again, these are probably not brand-new relationship topics, but they’re very important to know as your relationship progresses.
Dig into the topic of debt
Talk with your partner about debt. How much debt does each of you have? Is it credit card debt, student loan debt, personal debt, or some other type? Find out about how each of you has been handling that debt as well.
This helps you to know whether any major hurdles are in your way (for example, if you’re debt-free and they have six figures in debt, you’ll need a debt reduction strategy).
Talk about income
Income is another basic factor to explore. Obviously, your partner’s job gives you some clues, but you still need to discuss how much you both earn.
Along with the salary, you might discuss whether they plan to move up the ladder or increase their income down the line.
You really need to know what both of you are bringing to the table with income when you have shared finances.
Know each other's net worth
Net worth might also come into play here. Debt and income figures will get you started, and a net worth calculation will show you another key metric. You can find out where each person stands financially before getting deeper into your personal philosophies on money.
4. Discuss money philosophy
Another facet of communicating well when sharing finances is identifying your money philosophy. This gets a little deeper into each person’s personality, instead of just the raw numbers. Often, people fall into one of two categories: being a saver or a spender.
Assuming your partner is more of a “spender” and you’re more of a “saver,” it’s key to understand the spender’s viewpoint. First of all, try not to assume that being a spender is the wrong choice. Spenders have valid points about money, too!
One way to view a spender is that they’re more focused on the present moment than on the future. They’re more likely to spring for those concert tickets or dip into savings for a special vacation.
While sharing finances with a spender can be frustrating to a saver, the two viewpoints can balance each other out. While a saver may be reluctant to ever spend money, a spender can help you realize the value in spending on things that matter. They can even have ways of spending wisely.
As Signature Wealth Strategies notes, the potential downsides of being a spender are they may go easily into debt and have trouble budgeting. But a saver and a spender can function well together, with the right communication.
If you’re more of a saver, you tend to think about the future when making financial decisions. You may already have a robust emergency fund and plenty of investments before getting into a relationship.
As a saver, you’ll face conflict with a partner who’s a spender. You might disagree on what qualifies as an “essential” expense, and you might have a hard time ever splurging.
While the patience you may have as a saver can be a great quality, it may also affect your quality of life. Leaning too far onto the “saver” side can make it difficult to spend money, leaving your partner feeling dissatisfied.
Within these money philosophies, there is some nuance, of course. Not every saver is 100% frugal 100% of the time, and spenders aren’t necessarily drowning in debt.
But having some frank discussions with your partner can help you to make decisions on sharing finances.
5. Have budget dates when sharing finances
For many couples, a regular budget or finance meeting can be a cornerstone. No matter what budgeting strategy you follow, you may want to meet on a monthly basis to share how things are going.
Budgeting for couples will go more smoothly if you talk over your goals, successes, and failures each month. Since you’re sharing finances, you need to come to basic agreements about spending and saving.
6. Seek relationship or budget counseling for help
If you find yourselves struggling more than you’d like, another useful step could be budget counseling. Budget counseling or debt counseling can help anyone who is dealing with major issues in money management.
If you can work out your budget decisions together, that’s great. But there’s nothing wrong with seeking help from a professional, unbiased third party.
That can help you to figure out when a spender can afford a little more in fun money each month, or when a saver is right about doubling down on saving for the moment.
7. Share and set financial goals together
Don’t forget about the heart of your finances: what do you want to accomplish? Do you and your partner want to buy a house? Travel for a year in an RV? Leave a sizable inheritance for your kids? You need to talk about those financially-related goals.
It can be easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day money issues of paying bills. But you don’t want to lose sight of the larger picture. Yes, you want to pay the bills, but you also want to go beyond living paycheck to paycheck.
On a date night every so often, you and your partner may want to talk seriously about your financial goals. Those goals don’t necessarily have to be identical, but you need to find a way to merge any separate goals to reach them together. Doing money challenges as a couple can be helpful!
Financial goal sharing in a relationship can help you both work towards your goals together!
8. Decide the best way to manage shared finances
Now, once you’ve established solid patterns of communication with your partner regarding money, you can decide how you’ll be sharing finances. Not every couple has to share every dollar, so you can come up with a situation that works for you.
Here are a few options to consider for shared finances:
Completely merge finances
One option that some financial experts recommend is to merge your finances 100%. This means that you and your spouse or partner don’t have any separate accounts. Your money is their money, and vice versa.
People like Dave Ramsey recommend that married couples combine all of their accounts, but keep them separate before and outside of marriage.
While he doesn’t allow for other types of committed partnerships, the idea is that if you’re truly committed, you shouldn’t need separate bank accounts.
If you feel strongly that you can trust your partner, you can opt for fully sharing finances. Plus, merging the majority of your assets through joint bank accounts offers benefits.
You’re more likely to have a legal right to funds in a shared account if the other person passes away.
Partially merge finances
Other couples make the choice to have partially merged finances. This means that you may have a joint checking account and be authorized users on the same credit cards, for example. However, each person might hold certain separate accounts.
Perhaps you and your partner will decide you’ll both deposit money into a shared account to pay certain expenses. Your mortgage, insurance, groceries, and transportation costs might be included, for example.
Some examples of expenses you might choose to keep separate include a “fun money” account, your retirement accounts, or individual savings accounts. It really depends on how you both want to proceed.
A benefit of separate accounts for “fun money” is that you get the best of both worlds. You combine your biggest expenses, but keep a designated amount for each of you to spend however you like. That can help ease tension caused by spending you don’t agree on.
Keeping some of your money separate can be a way of protecting yourself from financial abuse in the future. Even though no one ever wants to believe their beloved partner could hurt them, it happens more than it should.
Keep finances separate
Since we’re discussing how to share finances with your partner, it might seem silly to offer this option. But sharing finances can actually involve not merging your money.
If you decide to keep your finances separate, you’ll be able to be in total control of your income and spending. You won’t technically be responsible for your partner.
However, even if yours is the only name on your checking, savings, and investment accounts, you can’t ignore your partner.
You’ll still have to determine how to pay shared bills like your rent or mortgage. Utilities, travel, groceries, and other costs will need to be divided somehow. So even supposedly separate finances can’t be fully separate.
A good thing about keeping your accounts separate is that you may simply feel safer. You’ll know that you have your own money and your partner can’t take that away. For someone who has been through financial abuse (or wants to avoid it), that’s essential.
With 98% of abusive relationships including financial abuse, it’s important to keep your safety in mind. Having your own bank accounts means you have options in the unfortunate event that you need to split up.
9. Protect yourself when sharing finances
Another essential tip for sharing finances with a partner is something we’ve already alluded to: protecting yourself. Even the healthiest of relationships can struggle, leading to financial ruin for one (or both) parties.
As much as you love your partner, you must protect yourself and your financial assets. Here are a couple of things to consider before diving into shared finances:
Be cautious about taking on debt together
A major part of a partnership is the amount of debt you have. When you are married or committed to another person, you’ll probably think about sharing debt at some point.
Perhaps you want to buy a home or a car together. Be sure that you trust the person fully before signing a car loan or buying a house together. If you ever were to split up or get divorced, you could be responsible for the full debt.
You could avoid this potential problem by not cosigning a loan with your partner. This may be a sticky situation and make your partner question your loyalty. But it still could be worthwhile to consider for your own security.
Think carefully before paying off your partner’s debt
Another debt issue that affects relationships is debt incurred before the relationship. It’s not uncommon for someone to come into a partnership with significant amounts of debt for education or other reasons.
When you’re sharing finances with your partner, think carefully before agreeing to pay off their debt. While this may sound like a loving thing to do, you’re putting yourself at risk.
What if you pay down tens of thousands of someone’s debt, then break up a few years later? You’ve lost not only the amount you paid, but years of compounding you could have earned by investing it.
Another factor to consider regarding whether to help a partner pay off debt is how that debt affects you personally. Your partner’s debt affects their credit score, which impacts you as a couple.
You might qualify for a loan but pay higher interest rates, for example, because your credit scores would both be factored in.
It’s also important to consider that if your partner is a spender, you should not expect them to change that behavior. Paying off their debt might cause them to overspend rather than focus on the debt, which won’t help either of you in the future.
Use a prenup to protect your assets before marriage
One way to truly secure your assets before marriage is to draw up a prenuptial agreement, or prenup. Despite the starry-eyed love you feel today, the fact that half of marriages end in divorce means it’s not an impossibility.
When sharing finances, you can help both people feel comfortable by signing a prenup. This spells out exactly how your finances will be divided in the event of a divorce. Property is also usually included in a prenup, so this can help ease the process of splitting up all assets.
Even if you aren’t married, you might look into a cohabitation agreement, which provides similar protections to both parties. Though this may sound unromantic, these legal agreements can ensure that a breakup or divorce won’t cause financial ruin.
Make sharing finances with a partner easier with these tips!
Sharing finances can be tricky, especially when your partner is a spender. Be sure to communicate clearly and set up expectations so both of you are satisfied with the financial arrangement.
However, sharing in a relationship is essential, and you can even share your finances successfully with some effort. Simply emphasizing clear communications and shared goals will go a long way toward harmony in your relationship and your finances.