If you’re thinking about combining finances with your partner, but grew up with the idea that it is better to be “hush hush” about money, these questions should help facilitate the discussion between you and your partner before you make this critical move.
Whether you believe money makes the world go ‘round or whether it’s the root of all evil, the fact of the matter is that money is a necessary part of your life. And given the closeness a relationship brings, things that are essential in your life will eventually become important aspects of your growing relationship. Like it or not, this includes money.
There are tons of benefits to combining finances. Practically, this may result in a greater ease of keeping track of shared expenses and savings. Emotionally and psychologically, it can foster a greater sense of closeness, trust, and overall commitment in the relationship.
But as with most good things, it doesn’t come without risks! It’s no surprise that financial problems are a widely cited reason for divorce. These questions should help you dive in and assess if you are ready to make this move, as well as what all you should consider if you do.
This article is a part of a 3-part series on Relationship Money Questions, for three different stages of a relationship. Click to read about questions to ask Early in the Relationship and After You’ve Combined Finances. Of course, as with all of our “questions to ask your partner articles”, be willing and prepared to answer these questions for yourself as well!
Here are 10 questions to ask your partner before making this significant decision:
1. Why should we combine finances?
Why do you and your partner want to combine finances in the first place? Maybe part of the reason you want to combine finances is to start a more committed and shared future together.
But maybe your partner has a completely different motivation, like ease of monitoring finances, efficiency when paying shared bills, or less pressure when paying for dates.
In any case, this is a great way to start the discussion, because it allows you to hear their perspective, share yours, and get on the same page about what combining finances might mean for your relationship.
2. What is your current relationship with money like?
This is a broad question that’s included in the Money Questions Early in the Relationship article as well, but is important to ask again if you’re considering combining finances. Because even if you have asked this question early in the relationship, your partner’s answer to this question may have changed.
This question allows you both to discuss any new discomforts or successful triumphs regarding your relationship with money.
3. What are your financial goals?
This is another question featured in the “Early in the Relationship” money article that may have changed over the course of the relationship.
If you realize you have vastly different financial goals, this information might steer you away from fully combining finances, so that each person is able to continue using their money how they please. It doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t combine finances, but that should have these particular shared and unshared financial goals in mind if you do.
If you and/or your partner don’t have any financial goals or priorities – this question will provide a great opportunity to make them! They say a penny saved is a penny earned. But a penny prioritized is a penny better spent as well! (Now say that 10x fast).
What are some of your goals or plans for the future that may require the need to spend or save money (e.g. travel, celebratory event, wardrobe change, expecting a baby, etc.)? What are some of the ways you want to change your life in the immediate future that may require the need to spend or save money (e.g. gym membership, career switch, car repairs, etc.)?
It’s helpful to not only identify these short and long term goals, but to rank them in order of priority, and share them with your partner if you are considering combining finances with them. This will help both of you figure out if combining finances – and adding an additional factor to your current relationship with money – will be helpful or harmful for each of your future goals.
4. How do you currently keep track of finances?
This question will allow you to investigate and discuss how organized you and your partner are when it comes to finances.
You may realize that one of you is better than the other when it comes to paying attention to where your money is going and keeping organized, which will play a role in how you’d like to manage your money once you start to share it.
You may also both realize that neither of you do a great job in this, and since organization is an important next step, you may want to both get better at managing your own money before truly considering combining finances.
5. How much money do you typically like to spend vs save each month?
They say, “It’s not about how much money you make, it’s about how much money you spend”. *Gulp*
This is another important question in determining whether you and/or your partner are ready for this next step.
If you are both generally on the same page about how much you like to save vs spend each month, then great!
But if you realize that one person really likes being frugal and the other has more of a “money is meant to be spent” mentality, this could prove to be an issue down the road.
This definitely doesn’t mean that you can’t combine finances, it just means that you’ll have to determine more specific rules about how to spend, save, and communicate about your money (see next question).
6. What would be our rules regarding what to spend money on and how to track our expenses?
Would you be okay just spending money separately without checking in with each other?
Or would you be more comfortable with a discussion before any large purchases over x amount?
Would you have to specify each purchase (e.g. toothpaste, beer) on a financial tracking document or simply label it based on category (e.g. necessities, restaurants)?
If you have major trouble determining spending, saving, tracking, and reporting rules that you can both agree with, it might not be the best time to combine finances just yet.
7. How might the differences in our income impact how we save and spend money?
Perhaps the differences in how you are viewing money and deciding how much of it to save vs spend are being influenced by how much money you’re making in the first place. If so, these differences will certainly continue to play a role, and has the potential to cause a few arguments down the road if not addressed ahead of time.
Maybe you’ll both be comfortable with having the partner who is making more money contribute more to the shared finances, or maybe you’ll be more comfortable with each partner contributing the same amount of money to the shared finances and spending their own separate income however they wish.
Whatever the case, the most important things to do here are 1) be honest about what you’d feel most comfortable with, 2) don’t make assumptions about what your partner would feel most comfortable with, and 3) come to some sort of agreement of how you will approach this moving forward.
8. How should we combine finances?
Alright, you feel confident that you’re ready to combine finances. Congrats! Now you have to decide how you will do it.
Combining finances means different things to each couple. Some share a credit card, some share a checking account in which both of the incomes are automatically combined, while others don’t “share” anything specifically but simply don’t keep tabs of who is paying for what.
Some couples may decide to combine all of their money for ease, while others decide to take a certain percentage out of their income to go into a shared pool. Further still, some couples might decide a unique arrangement, perhaps considering each other’s different incomes, organization levels, or even shopping addictions.
It’s all up to you. The only right way to do it is in a way where BOTH parties are COMPLETELY comfortable. There should be no pressure to lean into any new financial arrangement before you are fully comfortable with not only the set up, but the future of your relationship.
Personal anecdote: John and I share all of our money. All of “my” money is his and all of “his” is mine. This was the case even before we began running a business together and had significantly different incomes, and even before we were married. This made sense to us because we see money very similarly (i.e. are both pretty frugal, prefer spending on experiences over physical items, etc.), have lived together for years, and do a lot of activities together.
However, we simply kept our separate checking accounts (and whatever credit cards we already had), then opened a shared credit card account. Most of our expenses are paid from John’s checking account, but then I’ll just send him money every now and then.
It’s admittedly quite informal, and certainly not for everyone, but – with similar spending habits, a shared business, and lots of trust – it works very well for us!
9. How should we keep track of our expenses and savings?
Alright – now you feel good the concept of how you’ll combine finances. Now onto the practice. There are many different ways in which you might decide to keep track of your combined finances. You can download a financial app, create your own excel doc / Google spreadsheet, have monthly money talks, or a combination of the three. When you are deciding how to go about tracking your expenses together, consider your and your partner’s ability to:
– Decide, keep track of, and amend budgets for each category of your lives (groceries, events, transportation, etc.)
– Decide, keep track of, and amend large financial/savings goals (wedding, vacations, buying a house, etc.)
– Monitor each expense, either automatically or manually
– Monitor both your shared and individual accounts if you are not sharing accounts
Personal anecdote (cont.): John and I keep track of all of our expenses on a shared spreadsheet. Whenever we buy anything – regardless of who it is primarily for – we’ll manually input that item into the appropriate budgeted category, then review our budgets at the end of each month. At that time, we decide whether any of our budgets need to be changed/reallocated, but strive to stick to the same dollar amount (or more) for savings.
10. Who will be the primary person in charge of overseeing our combined finances?
Okay, you’re all set with how you would go about combining finances. What app or program you’ll use, how you’ll keep track, and how you’ll set goals – great!
But are you both going to take an equal role in overseeing the money, or would it make more sense to elect the “CFO” of the relationship. Some relationships may have two equally “money minded” partners, while others might find it more efficient for this to generally be one person’s role (while still being able to oversee things and make some decisions as well).
This is totally up to you and your relationship; there is no right or wrong answer to this.
The reason it may be an important question to ask, however, is so that it is agreed upon ahead of time, as opposed to one person simply taking over without prior discussion, potentially causing confusion or resentment.
I hope this was a helpful question-asking guide to follow before you combine finances with your partner! Any other questions you can think of that might be helpful to ask before combining finances? Share in the comments below!
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