A Simple Guide to Combining Finances in Your Relationship
In this column for PBS NewsHour, Rianka writes about her advice for talking about money with your significant other.
Each of us has something I like to call our “money story.” We learn about money from the time we’re just a few years old all the way through our adult lives, and the experiences we have along the way — both good and bad — shape how we think about and what we do with our money.
So it’s no wonder that nearly half of all Americans in a serious relationship fight about money. When two people try to join their money stories together, things get a little bumpy. The key is figuring out how to communicate and compromise on how to manage your family finances.
Open up communication
Diving into your money stories and opening up lines of communication before you join your finances is paramount. Getting a feel for how you two each manage money individually, what your backgrounds are, and why you feel the way you do is important.
A recent situation a colleague shared with me is a prime example of why communication and honesty in financial discussions with your partner matters. My friend was meeting with a soon-to-be married couple, and one of them wanted to keep a separate account with only her name on it. Her fiancé was, understandably, a little bit put off by this opinion.
“Why would you need to hide money from me?” He wondered out loud, with my friend (their financial planner) in the room.
It took some exploration, but it eventually came out that this woman’s mother was left penniless when her husband walked out on her. Since then, she’d been very drawn to the idea of being financially independent of her spouse — even if she trusted him completely.
This was this woman’s money story. Whether she and her future spouse chose to work through it and completely combine their finances, or respect her wishes and open a separate account that only she had access to, was entirely up to them. But knowing why we look at money the way we do can help to ease tension and avoid judgment.