For many of us, talking about money is a touchy subject. How much we earn, how much we’ve kept, how money makes us feel. Partly because of our baggage that we associate with money, and partly from social pressures, it can seem quite challenging to bring up the topic.
How then, with an already potentially sensitive topic, do you bring up shared finances? At what point, if ever, does it change from mine and yours, to ours?
Marriage and Building a Life
Contrary to popular belief, the “right” time to join incomes and financial resources isn’t when you get married. That milestone does change a lot of things in your life, but combining financial resources isn’t dependent on crossing that bridge.
Instead, you should bring up the topic of sharing resources when you start building a life, taking on obligations that require inputs from both parties.
For myself and my partner, that happened when we purchased our first home together. And further reinforced with the addition of our puppy, Sadie, to the family unit. With those financial obligations, it made sense to start pooling our resources, at least in some capacity, to cover the mortgage and veterinary bills.
Some other couples will face their own milestones at different times in their lives. Maybe it’s after marriage, but it could quite easily be before any knots are tied.
More important than opening a joint bank account though, is having those conversations with your significant other. Understanding your partner's relationship with money is essential to having a healthy, loving relationship.
Questions To Consider Before You Combine Finances
Before you look at pooled resources, you should make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into. This means an open and honest conversation is in order. Here are some questions that you should be able to answer about your partner:
Do they have any outstanding debts? School loans, automotive loans, mortgages, or credit card debt?
What are their spending habits like? How much are they setting aside for the future?
What does retirement look like? Lifestyle? Age? What is their plan to get there?
How much can you spend without asking permission? (This is a key - discretionary spending is essential for the freedom it offers.)
How does money make them feel? What kind of emotional baggage are you loading into your truck?
There aren’t any wrong answers here. But with conflict over money being a leading cause of marital problems, they are very important questions to ask. The right decisions are only possible when you start from an informed foundation.
Combining your financial resources isn’t for everyone. But done for the right reasons, it can certainly make your lives easier. As long as you enter into the arrangement with good intentions, and open, honest communication, you’ll be primed for success.