Combining Finances - 4 Questions to Ask

You said YES! Exciting time huh? Now you both are so preoccupied with wedding planning your finances are on the back burner!  However, this may be a perfect opportunity to discuss you finances together as it is super important. You absolutely want to start off on the same path together before you say your I do’s or if you discussed this before, you may want to discuss this again! Couples finances can be very simple or extremely hard. Money is usually one of the key issues in a marriage. We all come from diverse backgrounds, so for most of us, we just don’t think the same when it comes to finances.

Many experts are extremely strict on how combining finances should work in a marriage. However, this is the real world and in the real world there are lots of grey areas. What works for one does not work for the other. I believe this is very much the case for marriage finances.

Here are some tips and tricks that may help you along the way.

To Joint Account or Not?

This is a million-dollar question, and not one that is easily answered. Experts say to avoid money issues in the future, you should automatically combine finances. I don’t think everything is so black and white. While I do feel you should have a joint account, or several, to be able to split the bills and save together. I also feel that you should have your own separate accounts, so you can have some independence. For me, if I want to buy my significant other something, I don’t want them seeing the price I paid. This for me, is NOT about hiding anything, it is strictly for some independence. While experts say that this can lead to problems, I believe if you are not hiding anything, then having a separate account is not a terrible thing. When you feel like you need to hide purchases or money from your significant other, this is when you should stop immediately, ask yourself why, and then have a very candid conversation with your significant other.

Who is the spender or saver?

This is a great question to figure out, as this exercise really speaks to each of your core values and beliefs. Are you one of each? Are you two of the same? This is something that should be discussed and determined. Then by understanding this, you will both have a better view of your strengths or weakness around money are. This will also give some insight to maybe who should be doing what, which we will get to. Ok you now figured this out, now what. First, neither of these mean you are bad or good with money, and you both need to realize this. This is not an at fault conversation, it is simply to figure out what your spending or saving styles are. Again, this will simply help you both understand where you both stand around money.

Who will do what?

In a perfect world every couple should discuss everything about the household bills and money. This way, there are no hidden secrets that come out later and hurt someone. I’ve personally learned this lesson the hard way. I know discussing everything sounds like a perfect world, as no one discusses everything, but I do feel this is the right thing for all couples to do. You may be the one who is paying all the household bills and monthly bills for both of you, because you are the more organized and timely person in the marriage. However, both of you should know what all the bills look like each month. How much are the bills combined, when are they due, what are you saving together etc. Knowledge is the key and this is important just in case the bills get behind, you both can do something about it before it gets out of control. Having one person that controls everything, can absolutely get you into trouble.

Budgets and Financial Goals

Compromising and working as a team, is key. Remembering nothing is ever etched in stone and life changes. Budgets are hard. They are meant to be strict, but you can absolutely have a middle of the road budget, where both of you are happy, but you do have to stick to them! I think having an “approval limit”, if you decide to do all joint accounts is a terrific way to manage expectations and spending limits.

If your financial discussions turn into an argument, take a time out and revisit them when both of you have had time to cool down. When it comes to finances, you and your spouse may not always see eye to eye. Creating a well thought out plan and adjust as needed can limit financial stressors. With communication and an understanding of each other’s beliefs and values, you can work together, to realize your shared financial goals. In the end, managing expectations and being able to talk about finances, in a clear and honest manner is the best way to combat any potential problems.

One last thought this advice is not just for engaged couples or married couples, it is for all couples in a relationship and living together. Getting a clear view of each person’s financial obligations in a relationship and expectations especially in the beginning of a relationship, can really combat issues later in the relationship.  

Beckie Rosenberg Owner of Balanced Office Solutions, Hudson MA.