Considering joint financial accounts with your partner? Here are some tips
When it comes to mixing love and money, it’s never too early to talk to your partner about their spending habits.
Credit scores. Debt. Savings. Financial goals. Budgets. No topic is off limits if you ask Dominique Broadway, founder and CEO of Finances Demystified, which provides personal finance classes.
Broadway said while it has become increasingly more common for couples to have separate finances but work together to reach financial goals, it’s incredibly important that you are both on the same page if you do decide to combine finances.
“When you start thinking that this person might be the one you want to spend the rest of your life with is when you need to start having more thoughtful conversations, [including] the money talk,” she told Yahoo Money. “After all, money arguments are the second-leading cause of divorce.”
That said, Ben Offit, principal at Offit Advisors, suggests finding “ways to come to an agreement about how you will manage together.”
Whether you’re prepping to have the talk with your partner or exploring what options are right for you, Broadway and Offit shared some simple tips to navigate necessary financial conversations.
When should you consider sharing accounts?
Broadway says the choice is entirely up to you and your partner. But both she and Offit agreed that you and your partner should make a number of basic decisions before sharing finances.
The two of you should figure out which expenses will be paid jointly or individually, whether you will have a budget around certain types of expenses, who will actually pay the bills, and if your joint credit cards will be paid automatically or manually.
Discuss your earnings as well as spending habits
It probably sounds obvious to some, but Broadway said being upfront about your earnings, how you spend money, and how you pay your debts is a must.
“We live in a society that has made money conversations taboo, but it is critical to your relationship to be open about your earnings, as well as your spending habits,” she said.
Offit added you should create a spending allowance that is agreed upon by both partners.
What types of accounts should you share?
While Broadway said there is no rule of thumb, you’ll have to make decisions based on conversations with your partner.
“The idea is to have a conversation with your partner to determine the best way to manage your finances as a couple to reach your goals,” Broadway said.
Should you set any spending rules?
Credit cards can be tricky, Broadway said, so proceed with caution.
Rules should absolutely be considered, especially if you have a partner who tends to overspend or racks up debt faster than you prefer, Broadway said. If you are comfortable with your partner's spending patterns, Broadway said sharing one credit card can be a great way to quickly ramp up points.
When it comes to sharing credit accounts, there are a few things you should know, such as your financial responsibility to cover your partner’s purchases if they miss or don’t make a payment. If you do add your partner to your account, set spending limits that you’re comfortable with.
It might not be the first thing you think of, but Offit recommended setting a “comfort level” for the amount of available cash you keep in your account and to establish how much should remain in your “emergency fund.”
How to discuss money woes
As with successfully navigating any part of your relationship, communication is key — maybe even more so when it comes to finances.
“I had a client who told me every time she tried to have a money conversation with her spouse, he would shut down,” Broadway said. “I had them do separate conversations and record themselves talking about their current financial situation, what their ideal financial situation would be, and how they could best open up to their partner about their finances.”
She said the exercise worked because it helped the husband get over the shame he had when opening up about money and allowed the couple to create a plan that worked for them.
Offit also suggested staying away from accusatory language around certain expenses or line items you don’t recognize or purchases you didn’t make.
“Ask in a polite and caring way as to what certain expenses are if you are not sure,” he said.
Differing financial ideas and priorities
It’s possible that you and your partner will have totally different approaches when it comes to money, and that’s okay. Broadway suggested finding things you can compromise on and working from there.
If your partner treats themselves to a coffee every day and you can live with that, find out how to fit it in your budget. If they’re spending thousands of dollars on credit cards frequently, though, that’s probably not a habit you can help them break.
“You’ll know in your heart when something doesn’t feel right,” Broadway said. “Listen to that.”