Financial Planning Do’s & Don’ts for Couples
(because ‘How to Avoid Killing Each Other When it Comes to Money’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it…!)
Love. That old four-letter word.
It always starts off so innocent at first…
The holding of hands and exchanging pleasantries.
Long, lingering looks over a mediocre meal at an overpriced Italian restaurant.
Laughing at one another’s jokes.
Deciding who hangs up first on the phone (assuming that’s still a thing.)
Finding their indecisiveness over where to eat or what to watch on TV just so ‘endearing’.
Maybe you’re even sharing that TV remote?
Congratulations – you’ve finally convinced someone to be your partner in crime, by means either fair or foul (we hope it’s fair).
Enjoy the ‘honeymoon period’ whilst it lasts…
Because you’ll find out soon enough if their family approves of you or not. Then you have to pass the inspection test with their social circle.
What was once endearing can then become frustrating.
Each others quirks, foibles or idiosyncrasies have suddenly morphed into character flaws.
Which you now can’t stand.
And before long, you’ll want to kill each other.
In fact, the ONLY thing keeping you together now is the fact that you never saw that episode of CSI where the murderer got away with the perfect crime…yikes!
And of course throughout the highs and lows of the relationship, there will be arguments.
These will range from the inane to the profound. And at some point, personal finance will come up – because it is one, if not the, most contentious subjects for couples.
So before you agree to take out a loan on behalf of the other, here’s a few do’s and don’ts for you…
Financial Planning DO: Talk about your history
‘The Talk’ in this scenario isn’t about your dubious dating past. It’s the one you have where you sit down and open up about your finances. It’s good to clear the air beforehand. Talk about your saving and spending habits – you’ll get to know (and without judging) which of you is the spendthrift and who squirrels money away. Who has debt. Whose grandparents were obsessed with premium bonds and get-rich-quick schemes. One of you is bound to have some sort of financial baggage or a scary fiscal skeleton in the closet. Hopefully, you’ll also find out if the other has any financial goals or aspirations which leads us on to…
Sharing is caring. Sometimes.
Ever-spiralling energy bills…
Monthly rent or a mortgage…
Sometimes there’s a practical reason to combine your finances with a joint account – even if it just makes it easier for you to pay the basics like the ones listed.
It can also help with your BHAG – examples of these can include:
- Buying your first lovenest/property together
- A ‘modest’ wedding (if such a thing exists)
- An exotic holiday abroad
But what’s putting you off achieving said goals? Could it be the other person, who’s bad with money, who’s got debt or is paying child support?
Remember also that if you have a loan or overdraft on your joint account and you’ve gone your separate ways, that the bank can go after either party to get payment. So be careful if they’re pressuring you to finance another new business venture…!
But if you’re serious and have joint financial commitments, then a joint account is worth looking at.
Create goals together. Short-term, long-term or just silly goals – every now and then, breaking up the monotony can be a good release valve activity. Save up for a weekend break, a night out or even just a takeaway dinner.
Learn that love is…a game of give and take.
One of compromises and deals. And not just the amazing takeaway deals you see aimed at couples.
Living/co-habiting means daily tasks get divvy-ed up.
Who gets the pleasure of cleaning and food shopping?
And if your F-word is ‘finances’, or the very thought of money makes you zone out then hopefully we can persuade you to start sorting this out.
Because you may be alone at some point…
There’s also the small matter of trust. Without wishing to be rude – do you trust them? After all, if they are the spender, they could be inclined to use that capital to fritter away.
You also may want to retain some (financial) independence, so perhaps consider keeping your disposable income separate.
Financial Planning DO: Maintain your independence
You’re a strong individual and you don’t need no-one telling you how to run your finances. Right?
Remember that relationships are give and take. And yes, that even includes relationships which are supposedly ‘stronger’ than others. Or eternal like Bella and Edward.
And if one of you does inherit a significant lump sum from a relative and invests it in property, make sure that you tell your partner. They may say they don’t hold a grudge but believe you me, they will bring it up at any minor inconvenience they can…!
Set a budget together
It is highly unlikely that both of you will have the same spending and saving mentality.
If by some miracle this happens to be the case, then well done you.
For the rest of us mere mortals, one of you will be the saver and the other the spender. One practical with money and the other…less so.
And there’s also the chance that your salaries will vary also. So start budgeting together. Start off easy with the food shopping. If you’re anything like me, you ignore the brands and go for the bargains.
Once you’ve mastered that, you can move onto the more complex, such as convincing your other half to change the broadband provider they’ve had since leaving university.
Financial Planning DO: Have a backup plan
If we’ve learnt anything in the past two years, it’s that life has a habit of throwing the unexpected our way.
As morbid as it sounds, once you’re in a serious relationship, it should be time for you to consider some health insurance or even income protection.
That way, if one of you is off work, you’ll be able to maintain an adequate standard of living at what would be a stressful time for you.
And if the worst does happen and one of you dies – have you got anything in place to help them?
Have you mentioned their financial contributions on the mortgage paperwork?
Are they named as a partner on the mortgage?
Have you written them into your will?
Otherwise they could end up with nothing…
Love to love you?
Relationships are messy and complicated. A lot like life. More so when money is involved.
And not everyone wants to get married (and not everyone can, be it for personal or financial reasons).
If you’re worried about (not) having a financial safety net, then you need to get your head out of the sand.
Because as unromantic as it sounds, you should consider love as a business relationship also.
Prepare for both the best and worst case scenarios. Accept that you won’t always get what you want all of the time, and that you will have to compromise sometimes.
…and if my wife is reading this, it’s your turn to take out the bins(!)