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Merging finances and creating joint bank accounts may seem like the correct thing to do as a couple, especially when newlywed. Well, after surveying over 1,000 Americans this study discovered that 20% of people regret merging their finances with their partner. To make things worse, those same couples argue about money once a week on average! Not good.
“21% of people cited money as the cause of their divorce” – MagnifyMoney
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t merge finances with your partner or spouse. Joint accounts still offer easier expense tracking and paying shared expenses to name a few. But, if you want to avoid the irreparable damage that many other couples cause, you’ll need to avoid these mistakes when combining finances as a couple.
Merging Finances Before You’re Ready
The right time to combine your finances isn’t so reliant on your physical age but rather the strength and length of your relationship. That is why some couples can combine finances in their 20’s and have no issues while couples in their 40’s can’t get a grip.
Not to mention, everyone is in a different stage of their life. Someone in their early 20’s could already have a stable job and have a few thousand dollars saved while another could still be in university, taking classes, and dealing with student loan debt.
So when do most couples merge finances?
- 69% of married couples
- 16% of engaged couples
- 13% of unmarried couples living together
Now oftentimes you’re presented with two options when combining finances.
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- Combine all your accounts
- Have one shared account while still keeping a personal account
Both of these options can work but by far the easier option would be number 2. If you do a great job budgeting each month, it will be incredibly easy for you and your partner to determine how much money needs to be transferred to the shared account each month. Most banks will even help automate this process for you.
The one hiccup you might encounter is when one makes significantly more money than the other. If this is the case it might not seem fair to split expenses 50/50 since one has much more buying power than the other.
This brings up the next point. You need some kind of written agreement before any funds are transferred. There’s often no need to get a lawyer involved but you’ll want to put together an agreement that satisfies both parties. This can save you from a lot of hardship and arguments down the line.
Failing to Have a Long-Term Financial Plan
Have you ever asked your spouse what their savings goals are? If not, you probably should before walking into the bank together. By not agreeing to long-term saving and spending goals you are setting yourself up for failure.
This plan should include but is not limited to retirement planning, dividend investing, homeownership, and starting a family, if interested.
Sit down with one another and discuss these goals, their timelines, and anything else you intended to save for in the future.
Even short-term savings like monthly goals need to be established. During these conversations, you might discover that you prioritize hitting a savings goal each month while your partner prefers to spend their hard-earned money going out on the weekends.
The trick is to find some middle ground you both can agree to. The saver in you might find solace knowing you’re saving a predetermined amount of money each month, while your spouse is delighted to hear there’s still money left in the budget for two big vacations a year.
“A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece.” – Ludwig Erhard
Keeping secrets in a relationship can put you on the fast track to destruction. I’m kidding… well kind of. The same goes for money management. Secretly spending money or lying about your current financial situation is a recipe for disaster and should be avoided at all costs.
As you can imagine it takes a lot of trust to offer someone else practically free access to your money. One slip up can lose you this trust forever.
Common secrets to withhold from your spouse might include gambling addictions, massive debt, or even something as simple as impulsive shopping sprees using a credit card. You can and will cause irreparable damage by trying to conceal these secrets from your partner. Instead, tackle these issues together and discuss them with honesty and humility.
Your partner might be a bit more understanding if you address these issues earlier in the relationship, making them more susceptible to offering you assistance in relinquishing these issues once and for all. Remember, you are a couple after all.
Ignoring Your Debt
A recent study showed that 80% of Americans are caught up in the chains of debt. That is quite a large number. From school loans to credit cards most people tie the knot with some kind of financial burden.
If one partner has more debt than the other, talks about income, spending, and debt paydown can get quite heated.
People in such situations may find comfort in knowing that debts brought into a marriage stay with the person who incurred them and isn’t extended to a spouse. Thankfully their debt won’t affect your credit score either. Now this by no means should encourage you to ignore the other’s debt.
- Your partner’s debt will significantly reduce the amount of disposable income they have, in turn meaning you both have to live off of less money
- There’s often a root cause of all this debt and marrying them won’t solve the problem. It often just means you’ll now be building debt together instead of separately.
- Massive debt can leave quite a toll on someone’s mental health. Eliminating this debt can foster a healthier and happier state of mind. Which in turn can result in a better relationship.
Don’t think that just because it’s not your debt that it won’t affect you because it surely will. Construct a game plan to help reduce and eventually eliminate any consumer debt either of you have. This is a much more effective strategy than ignoring the elephant in the room.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Combining Finances
- Address your concerns upfront
- Discuss which accounts you will be combining
- Create a debt repayment plan
- Establish a budget
- Start an emergency fund
- Save for retirement
- Discuss long-term savings goals
- Combine everything at once
- Forget to do your part
- Keep secrets
Combining finances as a couple can strengthen the bond and make finances a lot easier to manage. However, a lot of work upfront needs to be done in order to lay a strong foundation. Being open about your finances and planning ahead to the future are the two biggest factors when it comes to successfully merging your money. Failure to avoid the mistakes listed here can quickly result in a divorce and financial turmoil.
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