9 Aug 2011

4 Things to Consider When Combining Bank Accounts

Couples Who Budget Together, Stay TogetherBy: Juliana Weiss-Roessler(by Quizzle.com)
When you’re in a l
ong-term, committed relationship, the topic of combining your money will eventually come up. Some of us would probably have no problem doing this – my husband and I had access to each others’ accounts and regularly updated our joint finances long before we were married, so putting our money into a common pot (or pots) didn’t seem like a huge step.
However, I can absolutely understand why people might be wary about giving their significant other unfettered access to all of their money.

It’s a scary world out there and you never really know what might happen. But since financial problems are a leading cause of divorce - especially when partners hide money from each other - combining your finances is an incredibly important part of coming together as a couple. Yes, combining is scary, but keeping your finances separate can hurt your relationship long term. Because of that, here are some things you should think about and ways to ease the transition into combining accounts: 

What’s your partner’s financial situation?

Does he or she have a large amount of debt? A good, stable job? A trust fund that will become accessible in a few years? Both of you need to be honest about whatever your financial situation is so that your partner knows what he or she is getting into. If you’re serious enough about each other to be considering spending your lives together, you should be willing to share financial burdens and windfalls. This doesn’t mean everything has to come at once, though. If you’re not completely comfortable, talk about it. Start small and build trust by combining some parts of your finances.

What are your partner’s financial habits and goals?

This is one place where keeping and regularly updating a combined budget is incredibly useful. Before we were married, my husband and I budgeted everything from regularly monthly bills and expenses to bigger joint goals like vacations and that nice 40-inch flatscreen we both wanted. One great way to keep a record like this is to “join” your accounts with an online budget planner, so you can see how much money you jointly have, what you both spend each month on things like food, entertainment, utilities, and so on, and even look at itemized credit card transactions.

Knowing how your partner spends money will go a long way toward telling you how your joint finances might work out – plus you might be shocked to learn where your money is really going! 

Do you need to take financial classes or counseling?

Ideally, everyone probably should take a class on budgeting. Not only as a way to ease the transition into combining accounts, but because our educational system puts so little value on budgeting and financial learning in our mandatory schooling. Classes like these will help determine your attitudes about money and make sure both of you have the same general goals in mind. Keep in mind that neither one of you is going to be perfect for the other person - there are always differences! - but knowing your strengths and weaknesses can be a big help. 

Do you need a legal agreement?

Of course a relationship where you plan to spend your lives together should be built on trust, but combining finances can be one of the most difficult things to do – especially if there’s a huge discrepancy between your financial situation and your partner’s. This is a place where counseling and communication should play a role, but if you or your partner still don’t feel completely comfortable and haven’t defined your status legally, drawing up a legal agreement might be the best solution to protect both of you. Just remember to communicate and really try to put yourselves in each others’ shoes if it gets to this point.

Money is a scary, touchy subject, and if you really love each other, you have to be understanding.

For tools and advice to help you and your partner get your combined finances on the right track, head over toQuizzle.com. At Quizzle, you can save money together by lowering your mortgage payment and get access to the best interest rates on credit cards and loans by improving your credit scores.

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