They might break your heart. But they don’t have to break the bank.
At some point, many of us end up in some sort of long-term, romantic relationship. Not everyone gets married, necessarily, but those who do end up in relationships often live together and blend all aspects of their lives.
But what if you want to retain a semblance of freedom and financial independence?
What does it mean to be financially independent?
Generally, it means that you control your own financial destiny. Those who are financially independent view money as a tool, rather than a ball-and-chain. In a much more general sense, it means that you have the money you need to cover your expenses, and are financially secure.
And the term “financial independence” can apply to households, families, or couples as well as individuals.
Talking finances in a relationship
The intersection between money and relationships is one of the most complicated things couples have to negotiate. More than one-third of couples argue about money on a monthly basis, and 13% keep financial secrets from their partners, according to industry data. And there are more than enough horror stories out there that should have you itching to talk things over before mixing your money
Generally, though, advice for couples about finances boils down to a few points.
Your cheat sheet for “the money talk”:
- Have an honest conversation—Discuss how much you earn, your investments, and your debts. Get an idea of what type of relationship your partner has with money, and if it’s compatible with your own. Differences don’t need to be a dealbreaker, but you should be honest with each other about your finances.
- Are you a saver or a spender?—Talk about your money habits and financial philosophy. Does your partner have a budget, or even know what a budget is? Feel things out, and iron out any concerns that may come up.
- Agree on expenses—Work out a fair budget in which you’re both contributing. Often one person will earn more than another. If that’s the case, talk about who should pay for what, or what type of spending balance you want to strike.
- Watch out for red flags—If you notice a change in your partner’s behavior or attitude when it comes to money, say something. It’s better to hash it out early than to let an issue turn into a bigger problem.
Striking a balance
Though you’re going to combine aspects your finances, a relationship doesn’t mean you need to completely abandon your financial independence. How much of a balance you strike, of course, is up to you.
Because money can be such a contentious topic, many couples find it easier to simply keep their finances separate. It helps avoid arguments, for one, and allows for more control over how and when you’re spending.
In fact, younger adults are more interested in keeping their finances separate than previous generations. Even so, more than three-quarters of couples have at least one shared bank account, according to industry data.
A joint checking account is generally a good idea, as it can be useful to pool money to cover shared expenses, like rent and groceries. A joint savings account can also help you save for common goals, such as creating an emergency fund and a putting money away for a down payment on a house.
If you are thinking about starting a family at some point, that, too, is going to be a big shared expense—and something you can start preparing for early.
Whatever balance you strike, make sure you’re comfortable with it—and maintain an open dialogue.
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