The worldwide acceptance of alternative lifestyles has brought with it the question of what to do about money and finances. When does your house, become our home? My savings and checking, joint? Mine alone, ours together? These are serious questions, that need serious answers.
My youngest daughter, now twenty-eight years old, just married the man of her dreams. After much partying, honeymooning, putting the gifts away, and writing all 150 thank you notes, life is back to “normal” and they are now working at combining their lives as husband and wife. First came the name change…social security card, driver’s license, passport, credit cards, face book page…the list is unending. Next, the household chores…cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking… his, hers and ours. Now past all the trivia, they are on to the major stuff…like what do we do about our finances?
When two people are trying to combine their assets, especially when both work and have been in charge of their own money since day one, it is not so easy. What is that old saying, “possession is nine points of the law”? Giving up your house, your savings, your any and every thing can convert any relationship from marital bliss to financial stress…so I say, don’t start with the past, rather begin with the present…and as you go forward the past will naturally blend into your future together.
First, start tracking your income and expenses for a month or two to determine what you have and what you spend, individually. It is really a worthwhile exercise and you will be amazed at how much life really costs.
Next, determine what you want to share and what should be kept separate…for example the house payment and utilities versus haircuts and “girls/guys night out”. Into a joint checking account goes the shared expenses…at the beginning of every single month so that the funds are there to pay the bills. Determining “the fair share” can be tricky, so consider an equitable split based upon earning power and ability to pay.
Next on the list…set a savings goal..money not to touched that goes into a joint savings account at the end of every single month. Timing is everything here so that all emergencies and necessary discretionary spending has been covered before the funds get put away.
Handling pre-relationship debt can be an issue for many couples…but the answer is really quite simple…each keeps their own and is paid out of individual discretionary funds. Easy to say, right? But expecting to combine pre-relationship savings and debt is unrealistic in the beginning and keeping them separate is really the only answer if you want the relationship to get off to a financially healthy start.
Whatever your individual lifestyle, when a couple is under one roof, financial issues always rear their ugly head…before making any permanent decisions, make sure the time is right!