As individuals, we find it hard to talk about vulnerable things with others, and there is no exception when it comes to talking about our finances. Because finances is a difficult topic, many dating couples don’t talk much about it until it is required of them. That “required time” is often considered to be marriage. Unfortunately, not starting the conversation early on in the dating relationship might add stress that could have been avoided. Talking about finances early in the relationship doesn’t mean you have to discuss exactly how you want to combine your finances in marriage right from the start. Instead, it means discussing your values and how they influence your finances. As you progress closer towards marriage, couples can begin thinking through different options for merging finances.
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATION
Financial conversations in dating often seem complicated, but let me reassure you, communication early on and consistently makes a world of a difference. Just like homework, a work project, or a personal project, as the due date nears, the pressure builds and there is no exception when it comes to communicating about your finances in a relationship that it headed towards marriage. So how do you begin conversations to learn about your significant other? Here are just a few questions to get you started.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
What are your values? For example, is it important to one individual to have certain debt paid off prior to marriage? Does one individual like spending money on things versus experiences or vice versa? Take time to consider how your values are connected to your financial decisions. When couples don’t understand the reasoning behind their significant other’s choices, conflict will likely arise, especially in marriage.
What are your financial habits? You may not realize it until you take time to reflect on it, but where you spend your money directly correlates with one’s values. Do you buy coffee each morning, enjoy buying gifts for others, or frequently go out to eat for social interaction? There is a good chance that you and your significant other won’t value the exact same things, at least to the same extent as the other person. Be careful not to label your values as “correct” and any value that is different from yours as “incorrect.”
What are you doing now that you like/ dislike? Talking through this area aids in the conversation of what it might look like to combine finances. What methods of organizing would you like to take into marriage, and what methods have you used and could do without?
Where can you improve or compromise? The likelihood of how you manage our money staying exactly the same once married is very low. Two different people with two different personalities coming together will require compromises in how the finances are managed.
Are you willing to seek help and start planning for the next few chapters of your life? There is no shame in seeking counsel as you work to figure out how your finances could be combined in marriage.
FINANCES AS YOU PROGRESS TOWARDS MARRIAGE
Moving forward in combing your finances with someone else can be scary, but don’t worry; you have options! The biggest thing to realize is that there is not one correct way to do it. People are different and unique. One of the single greatest things to focus on with someone else is communication. Issues arise when one or both individuals assume the other person knows what and why they are doing what they are doing. One part of communication is creating a budget together so that both individuals know where all of the income is going. Another important topic to discuss is how you would like your bank accounts to be set up. Three options will be discussed below:
1. JOINT ACCOUNTS
As mentioned above, communication regarding finances in marriage is a must! With that said, having joint accounts in a marriage could very likely help the communication. Knowing that each individual has full access to the account(s) to see purchases provides accountability and helps provide the mindset of “being one” in marriage. Just because your accounts are joint doesn’t mean you have to stick with one account. You could have one account for bills, a couple different accounts for different savings goals, and another checking account for spending. But no matter what, with the joint account method, both of the names are on all of the accounts.
2. SEPARATE ACCOUNTS WITH SHARED RESPONSIBILITY
Another option could be to have separate accounts with shared responsibility. Expenses and responsibilities can be divvied up in order to share management responsibilities. If this option is chosen, be extremely careful to keep open communication. If you don’t communicate and aren’t honest this can be hard.
3. SEPARATE ACCOUNTS & JOINT ACCOUNTS
Another way people can combine their finances is by putting a certain percentage of an agreed upon income into a joint account and having the other percentage go into separate accounts. Once again, if this option is chosen, be extremely careful to keep open communication. If you don’t communicate and aren’t honest this can be hard.
There is not one right way to do it. It depends on the personalities involved and the people that are combining finances. While there are three account merging options listed above, there are endless organization options. Please note that while not discussed in this blog, there are also legal ramifications to merging or not merging bank accounts.
SUMMARY & RESOURCES
When thinking about finances within a relationship, it is very important to not take one person’s perspective but to look into all of the different resources you can. Ask close friends and family members what they are going to do, are doing, or have done. Find people who are succeeding and talk with them. Ask questions and seek to learn. Don’t try to do everything you learn because there are more options out there than you could possibility implement. Start small and work up from there. If the little things are done correctly, you can move forward into the bigger things. And if you would like assistance in thinking through how you might combine finances as you move toward marriage, schedule a NEXUS appointment: http://www.ronblueinstitute.com/nexus-financial-discipleship-center. We are here to help!
Here are a couple of resources you can use to start thinking about combining your finances with your spouse: