If resentment is the silent killer of relationships and poor communication the weapon of choice, THEN money is the battleground upon which spouses open fire on each other. And because this has been the case since time immemorial, I want to educate you on the appropriate rules of engagement in money matters inside a long term or marriage relationship. If you follow these simple rules of engagement, then you will not have this particular battlefield to fight on (and hopefully you will deal with the real issue—TRUST).
But I digress.
Do we have to join our bank accounts if we join our lives?
The answer is yes and no.
Both of you are responsible for the home you are creating together. One of you will undoubtedly make more money than the other, and rather than engage in a power struggle, I offer this solution to you: Have 3 accounts: a His, a Hers, and an Ours.
How to make that transition? Easy!
Communicate about financial expectations. I cannot tell you enough about talking when it comes to money waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay before you make it down that aisle. I don’t care if you’re a man/woman, woman/man, man/man, woman/woman: do NOT—I repeat—do NOT jump into financial commitments with each other before hashing out the nasty details. It will NOT work itself out in the wash. It will NOT get better with time. It will get worse. Talk before you destroy your relationship, credit and good name.
Set a standard.
- Look at the debt that you have or will have both separately and together.
- Decide if all bills will go into the pot or if some will remain separate (his child support stays over there, your alimony stays over here, the house and utilities and insurance go in the middle).
- Calculate how much money you’ll need to pay those bills and save 10%. That’s how much money you will need to live—together.
- Decide how much each of you will contribute. A good rule of thumb is to take the same percentage from each check. This is equitable without being equal, which is to say that everyone is contributing the same value if not the same amount.
- Deposit those contributions into the shared savings and checking account.
- Make rules about “special money” like bonuses, child support checks, tax refunds and stuff beforehand so that everyone is clear.
- Put the rest in your personal accounts. Let’s say you both need to contribute 60% to take care of the bills and put some into savings. That means that he has 40% of his check and you have 40% of yours. This goes into your separate private accounts.
- Stay out of each other’s private accounts.
Put everything on electronic debit. It is SUPER EASY. Have your direct deposit set up correctly. When you fill out direct deposit at your job, you can select the percentage of your check and where it goes. They calculate it for you—all they need is the appropriate account numbers.
Require 2 signatures on the shared account. This keeps everyone honest. Not to say that your partner or you will not be honest. A double signature requires a conversation about priorities, goals, visions, and action. It saves on fighting. It forces you to work together.
DO THIS. I swear! It works. It saves lives and relationships.