According to Ramit Sethi, financial guru from Netflix’s How to Get Rich:
“One of the things that financially successful couples do is they talk about money regularly and proactively.”
An open communication when it comes to marriage and money means answering this question: are we combining our money as one, or is your money yours and my money mine?
It helps to start with a belief system when it comes to money and relationships. The question gets you to identify what your ideal partnership is with someone you love. There’s no right or wrong answer, but your answer will shape how you will handle your finances.
Splitting the Bill 50-50
Rcently, actress Gabrielle Union and husband Dwayne Wade revealed that they split their bills 50-50. It’s safe to assume that they keep their earnings separate. In deciding whether or not to consolidate money, you also have to be ready for certain scenarios, such as what happens when your partner makes more than you? In this instance, for example, if your partner wants to go on vacation, but you can’t afford where they want to go and what they want to do—what happens then? Or if you decide to have kids and one takes time off from work—how will that person support themselves?
It’s critical to have a belief system and understanding its repercussions is equally important. Moreover, life happens and situations change. Will you keep the same belief system if circumstances change? Here’s something to think about.
As your relationship grows, it’s likely that someone will earn more than the other. Will this change your original belief system and financial setup?
Traditionally, men earn more than women. Divorce rates for couples where women make more than men have declined compared to those who were married in the 60s and 70s. The researchers attribute this decline to culture and economy. First, as a society, we no longer expect men to be breadwinners. Second, from a financial standpoint, the more money for the family, the better off everyone is.
The Wall Street Journal interviewed couples that thrived in a marriage with women earning more. But I wonder if salary disparity is less of an issue with combined finances…
Whether or not a couple decides to keep their finances separate or combined, there’s the question of transparency and trust. How much of your spending do you have to reveal in a financially separate relationship? Do you need a joint account? Do you trust them enough to have a joint account?
By default, combined finances makes it harder for your partner to not know about your financial transactions, but it doesn’t mean they have to be kept in the dark. Arguably, separate finances might eliminate the need to talk about purchases. But if one of you gets into financial trouble or overspends, will someone take on the responsibility of helping?
Financial infidelity happens. Building financial trust is an indicator of a long lasting relationship. Sethi, believes that :the most important thing you can do as a partner is to be transparent. In fact, “if a partner is unwilling to share, that is a potential deal breaker.”
Talking About Money
According to Sethi, we tend to talk about money reactively—meaning, “we talk about it when there’s a problem.” As a result, we end up “hating” talking about money. But when we talk about money with our partners, “we get better” at it, which means talking about financial goals and hearing what our partner has to say. Sethi offers useful tips on how to have regular discussions about money with your partner.
My husband and I are transparent about money. We don’t ask for permission, but I tell him beforehand before I embark on a big purchase and so does he. We talk about the right time to make big purchases or if we have an investment plan. As I have talked about before, we also don’t give gifts to each other. We simply buy what we want, which works for us.
I trust him and his purchases. He respects me similarly.
We act as one financial household. We probably have an unusual story, wherein we shared resources very early on in our relationship. Looking back, dealing with how we will approach money as a couple only after having known each other for a few months contributed positively to our relationship. More than 20 years later, we still deal with financial issues the same way we did then: with transparency, respect, honesty, and knowing that we’re in it together, forever.