Once upon a time, the merging of finances after you married was a question of when, not if. This was especially true when it was assumed the husband would go to work and the wife would stay at home with the children.
These days, however, there’s a whole bunch of other factors that come into play, such as the fact both spouses will, likely, have their own incomes – even beyond the wedding – and will also have their own approaches to money. So, what to do?
The simple answer is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. It really all depends on your own circumstances and your attitude. But here are a few things to consider when deciding how to manage money after marriage (or even before, if you already Iive together).
Consider both of your attitudes to money
Some people are spenders and some people are savers. That’s how the old saying goes. But in truth, most people are somewhere in between. Yet that still leaves plenty of room for varied approaches to money. For example, one person may want to build a nest egg, while the other thinks time is short and experiences are there to be had now. So, the first thing to consider is whether you could find a compromise between the two ideals. Money is just one of the key topics every couple should discuss before marrying, so have an honest discussion, being realistic about how much you can adapt, and then come to your joint decision, remembering that there’s no right or wrong, there’s only right for you.
Keeping things separate
Like it or not, if one person wants all joint monies and the other doesn’t, it’s going to raise the question of whether there’s a lack of trust. But it’s important to understand that this may not always be the case. Yes, if there’s previous issues such as a lack of money management, it may be an issue. And ditto if one person is still dealing with large outstanding debts. But it could also just be that they prefer to exercise control over their funds. Or that they don’t feel it’s something that needs to happen, the same way they may not necessarily change their surname. Whatever the case, the move to stay separate won’t be done on a whim, or without reason, so it’s important to have a clear and authentic conversation about the situation and then move on. Ultimately, it’s each partner’s decision on how to treat their money, so they get the final say. Plus, there’s a few advantages to this approach. For starters, if both contribute to bills and expenses, there’s no need to feel guilty over how they choose to spend what’s left over. Plus – and just being realistic – if the relationship doesn’t last, it will be far easier to untangle ties.
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Merging your money
After weighing up the pros and cons of financial matters, many couples still decide that merged bank accounts are more desirable and convenient than staying separate. And some of the advantages they enjoy include bypassing discussions over who will pay what bill, and also the sense of unity it can create. On the negative side, if one person earns a substantially higher wage, it could spark a sense of resentment over who contributes more. But again, it’s crucial to be clear and honest about your expectations of how you will approach money together, whether that’s agreeing to certain savings each month or an agreement not to purchase items over a certain value without the other’s sign-off.
A little of both
If neither of these approaches really hit the mark, another common practice these days is for couples to treat their money both separately and unified. Basically, a new joint account or accounts are set up to fund things such as mortgages, holidays, down payments and grocery shopping. Each person agrees to pay a certain amount of money or a certain percentage of salary into this account, and it grows from there. What’s left over, they keep in their own account, where of course, they can do as they wish. The advantage of this way is that each person is contributing equally to the marital fund, but can still cover personal purchases such as gym membership or clothing without feeling like they are taking something away from their financial future. This is also a good idea if you have very different approaches to money that realistically won’t meet in the middle.
Whatever you decide the main aim to work towards is a decision that will suit both you and your spouse and also your marriage. And, by having an honest conversation to begin with, you’ll be able to set financial goals for your union and also hopefully avoid the kind of money issues that can often spring up early in a marriage.
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