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There are many reasons why couples might decide to keep their money separate. Those with previous divorces, children from prior relationships or complicated financial situations may find it easier to avoid combining finances with their partner or spouse.
But retaining your own financial accounts while in a serious relationship doesn't mean your money matters are completely independent from one another. You'll still need to communicate to ensure all bills are covered and joint goals are taken care of. This communication is especially important if you live together, own joint property or have children.
When you and your partner keep money separate, not everything needs to be disclosed, but opening up about certain aspects of your finances can help prevent issues and conflict.
What Financial Details Should You Share With Your Partner?
For couples who keep their finances mostly separate, not all information needs to be shared with each other. If you buy new clothes using your personal income, and it doesn't impact your partner and their budget, there may be no reason to tell them about your spending.
However, if you live together and split bills or household expenses, it might be necessary to share some details so you understand each other's situation and can plan together. It's especially crucial to let your partner know if you become unable to afford joint bills or make changes that will impact both of you.
Because even couples with separate financial accounts and plans have overlap, here are some financial details that may be helpful to discuss:
- Current debts: Share with one another an estimate of current debts and plans to pay them down, since this could impact your household disposable income. It could make it easier to plan your budget if you both know how much is owed each month on student loans or car payments, for example. This way, you'll both understand your partner's ability (or lack thereof) to contribute to certain shared expenses.
- Current savings: Discuss how much you each currently have in personal savings and retirement accounts, so you can track your collective financial security and how close you are to your goals.
- Upcoming purchases: Even with split accounts, any plans to make major purchases may require buy-in or assistance from both partners. Or, if one partner wants to make a large individual purchase, they may need their partner's approval to temporarily contribute less to joint financial goals.
- Potential income disruptions: Major changes to income will likely impact a partner's ability to pay bills or contribute to planned savings.
- Savings and spending goals: Talk about expectations for joint savings and expenses; for example, if you are planning to go on a vacation together next year, how will you both contribute and save? Will you both contribute to a household emergency fund together or keep your own?
By sharing these financial details and plans, couples can stay informed of their partner's financial health and ability to contribute to the household while still maintaining independence.
How to Talk to a Partner About Finances
Talking about money isn't easy, and it can be downright awkward if you've been told it's taboo or were raised with different financial values than your partner. For a serious couple to navigate life together successfully, though, money needs to be discussed—and that applies whether you combine finances with your partner or keep them separate.
It's OK if it's bumpy or uncomfortable; what's important is that you're communicating. Here are some ways to broach these conversations:
- Ask about goals and priorities. Even when you keep finances separate, the reality is you'll need to align on joint decisions, especially ones requiring financial contributions from both of you (like buying a house together). It could be worth asking for a sit-down conversation to create and/or review financial goals together. You might discuss joint savings or debts and plan how you'll tackle them.
- Meet with a professional. If you're having trouble getting on the same page while maintaining financial autonomy, consider bringing in an expert to mediate. One option is a certified financial planner, who can offer strategies and advice on navigating money as a semi-independent pair. If finances are causing relationship conflicts, you might want to see a financial therapist to address these problems on a deeper level.
- Create open lines of communication. In pursuit of transparency, you may need to explicitly tell your partner what information you expect to receive—and ask what their expectations are. It helps to create an environment where both of you know you can always come to the other with questions, concerns or requests for help. You may even want to discuss relationship ground rules, like not hiding money problems, and giving each other permission to let your partner know if you're worried about their financial health.
- Suggest regular check-ins. If it's still difficult to bring up financial matters, consider setting up regular check-ins, whether weekly, monthly or quarterly. This creates a designated time to bring up any issues or discuss updates. It can reduce awkwardness and stress by creating an intentional space to talk about money, especially if you want to bring up concerns about your partner's money habits or high credit card debt.
Different Ways to Approach Budgeting With Your Partner
If keeping your finances and accounts fully separate is creating too many headaches, and you're tired of splitting bills, there are some compromise solutions for navigating money together.
- Share a bill-paying account. Some couples might split responsibility for certain bills, with one person paying some of them and the other handling the rest. This can get tricky if it feels unbalanced or not fully transparent. One solution is to open a joint checking account that gets used to pay all household bills. You can each set up automatic deposits from your individual checking or savings accounts to that joint account each month, so you're both contributing to all bills. Or you can get a joint credit card that bills charge to, and you both split payments.
- Look beyond 50/50. If you both earn roughly the same amount, there may be an expectation that you'll split bills equally. For some couples, this might not be fair, especially if one person earns much more income. Discuss if it might be better to split expenses proportionally based on earnings rather than 50/50.
- Customize your budget. Even if you keep most money separate, you might still need to create a budget together. If you share bills or payments, you'll need to know how much each of you should contribute each month—and ensure you can both realistically afford it. You might budget individually for discretionary spending, but put some items, like groceries or vacations, in a joint budget.
- Get creative. Try different solutions to see what works best for you. For instance, a workable solution might be to have one person pay all bills and then use a peer-to-peer payment app to request half from their partner. Or perhaps if you add up all monthly household bills and they're roughly equivalent to your mortgage or rent payment, one partner could be exclusively responsible for the housing payment, while the other covers bills. Finding the right solution for your relationship may take some experimentation.
The Bottom Line
Money problems can cause significant relationship problems if they're not handled effectively. Keeping finances separate isn't a panacea since, in reality, couples who share a life together have to figure out how to tackle joint bills, expenses and savings goals. Open communication and planning is key to get on the same page and support each other's individual and joint goals.
As we've covered, there are plenty of solutions, like sharing a credit card for joint bills and splitting payments. If you haven't done this yet, try Experian CreditMatch™ for free personalized credit card offers.