Existing Financial Obligations
We all have a financial history which includes some form of financial baggage or another. It may be a negative debt like a maxed-out credit card or an overwhelming car loan. Perhaps it’s a debt incurred as an investment, like a mortgage or student loan. Whatever it is, when you get ready to merge your financial life with someone else, full disclosure is important. And so is mutual respect. Things can seem unfairly one-sided if one partner has more debt than the other or is completely debt-free. So be sure you know as much about each other’s financial history as you can and decide on the best way to tackle it together once your money merges.
Is Your Partner a Saver or a Spender?
Differing personalities will play a huge role in your discussions about money. Habits we have when we’re single may not transfer well into a committed relationship. Especially if one person tends to have conservative views about money and understands fully the importance of saving, and the other is a carefree spendaholic. Even without existing debt, there will be a natural occurring conflict if you and your partner have completely different attitudes about money. Come to a mutual determination about who is best in charge of paying the bills, maybe even take turns from month to month for test runs. Consider the 3-way split: a personal account for you, a personal account for your mate, and a household account that is allotted enough money to cover bills, savings, and entertainment each month. The third account is off-limits for expenditures that are not pre-approved by both parties, but the personal accounts are yours to do with as you please – this way there’s a little something to appease everyone.
If you haven’t spoken about having children with your significant other, now’s the time. This is not a conversation you want to put off until after you’re married. Raising a family is a lifelong emotional commitment – and an expensive one. It can cost over $200,000 to raise a child for 18 years. If you plan to take on this type of financial obligation, you need to think about how you’re going to do that. Do you have a support system nearby? Will you both work and pay for childcare? Will one of you stay home and put your career on hold, or end it all together? What type of work-life balance will you both have? What about planning for college? There are a ton of things to consider, and you don’t have to come up with all of the answers right away. But you do want to know that you’re at least on the same page before you embark on this road together.
Having a family is a gift. But let’s face it – some family members are more burden than they are a blessing. I’m not talking about the occasional loved one who is experiencing a legitimate minor emergency and needs a hand, this one time. There is someone in each of our families who just does not have his or her stuff together. Money is always short, bills are scarcely paid and their hand is always out. What boundaries and parameters will you and your mate set up together to protect your financial well-being? Perhaps you draw the limit at a specific dollar amount you’re willing to loan out, or just decide that a certain someone is not to be given anything under any circumstance. These types of decisions need to be made together so that the two of you can present a united front and have each other’s backs when it comes time to make the tough calls.
Last but not least, remember that money is not about power in a relationship that is based on love and mutual respect. Money should be the means to an end; an existence for yourself and your loved ones that is safe and comfortable. No matter who makes what, or who spends what, try to center your discussions about money on how to best use however much of it you have is a limited resource that may or may not be replenished. Resolve to face your money matters as a team. And as the old saying goes: make the money, don’t let the money make you.
If this post resonated with you, then maybe you and your boo should consider reading Heal your Relationship with Money so you can get to the core of your money problems.