Love & Money

To ensure you spend more time enjoying each other and taking advantage of those extra pennies on a weekend getaway and spend passionate nights in each other’s arms, it’s important to discuss your finance present and future as a couple. Though money is merely one aspect of a relationship, it is the one most couples are uncomfortable discussing. However, failure to do so will cause many arguments. I’m not talking about how to invest or whether you should go for hedge funds, high risk funds or low risk funds. I’m talking about, who handles the check book; how much is spent for what item; and who feels controlled because they have to ask for an “allowance” from their partner, as if they were a child.

Contrary to the popular belief many have that once you enter into a committed relationship or marriage you should share everything, money is one area of your relationship where yours, mine, and ours should be observed. Just because you are now a couple doesn’t mean you stop being an individual. Nor does it mean that you are suddenly unable to make decisions for yourself where money is concerned. Sure it is great to combine your income; however, here are a few reasons to keep the accounts separate—especially for women.

Ours! As a couple, it’s imperative to establish a joint account or a household account. This is where you each pay a portion of what the calculated household expenses are estimated to be. These expenses should include: rent/mortgage, electric, heat, phone-land line (not cell phones—these can you pay privately and continue establishing your credit history), computer cable, television cable, groceries, daycare (if there are children) and anything else that’s a monthly household expense such as a credit card debt you made together. Remember that bed set you just had to have and are enjoying immensely.

For couples where one partner earns significantly more than the other, a suitable division of expenses should be agreed upon and each individual deposit their respective share bi-monthly or monthly depending on pay dates. Designate a day to sit down together and pay the bills for the month. This is a good time to discuss any needs which have arisen or make adjustments to your established monthly budget. Though one person may be in charge of paying the bills, it’s still a good idea to discuss your couple’s financial health on a monthly basis. Be realistic and fair and you’ll be rewarded with more hugs and kisses and avoid the dog house.

Yours–Mine! Having a checking account of your own allows you to feel independent and purchase that gift for your partner without having to ask for the money and spoil the surprise by explaining why you need the money. (I never condone lying.)

There’s also the fact that despite being a couple, you still need to establish your own credit. And in the event of a break-up or divorce, having everything under your partner’s name, regardless of whether or not you assisted with the payments or handled the bills, does nothing for you as creditors will not consider you a reliable investment unless you have established your own credit history within the past six months.

In couples where there is a stay-at-home mom or dad, that individual should still establish a bank account of their own. Again, creditors will only look at an individual’s credit history not their credit history as a couple. Also, too often when women divorce they find themselves in a financial bind since they cannot show they were diligent in paying their bills thus making it harder for them to re-establish their lives and financial independence let alone try to rent an apartment without having a credit history. And during a divorce, the last thing you want to do is ask your soon-to-be ex-spouse to co-sign for you on an apartment.

Another way to establish your own credit is by having a credit card of your own. This will allow you to continue establishing and maintaining your credit history. Even if you’ve been in a relationship for years or just starting out, remember you want a few credit cards under your own name where you are the primary card holder, not an authorized buyer. And if you’re just starting out, leave a few of your credit cards as individual accounts.

Don’t worry that your partner will feel affronted if you ask to keep your own accounts; merely explain your need to keep a small piece of your individuality. If there’s a reason to wonder if your partner is monogamously challenged or not being forthcoming about their expenses, you can always ask to see their credit card bills.

If you cover these steps in your financial health, the rest of your relationship will blossom. Then you can plan that weekend getaway and pay for it with your own credit card. Imagine your partner’s surprise—and how you’ll be rewarded for your thoughtfulness.

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