Deciding whether to combine finances with a significant other is a major decision, and it may not be suitable for everyone. Before you make this decision consider having a conversation about these four financial topics:
Credit score and report
Reviewing one another’s credit score and report will tell you some key information about your partner’s past financial habits, including:
- How your partner has used credit in the past
- Whether they make their payments on time
- What debt obligations they’ve incurred
Outstanding debt obligations
It’s important to be open and honest about what debts you owe and the amounts. Finding out about significant debt obligations down the road or after you’ve made the decision to combine finances can create major problems.
This conversation can be tough especially if one or both of you have significant amounts of debt. Therefore, it’s important to create a judgment-free environment together so you can have an open conversation about how to tackle debt going forward.
Don’t leave anything out – whether you have credit card debt or student loans, it’s all important to talk about.
There are sometimes feelings of shame and guilt associated with debt that’s been incurred, but remember, you’ve created trust with your partner and trust is key in successfully merging finances.
Saving and spending habits
Discussing existing habits will help determine how to pay shared household expenses. This would also be a good time to discuss budgets. Do you and your partner currently use a budget individually? If so, that’s a good indicator your partner is a mindful money manager. If not, this would be a great discussion to talk about how one another feels about spending limits for things like groceries, entertainment, or miscellaneous purchases throughout the month.
Are you the spender or the saver? Perhaps you are both spenders, which indicates you may have some work to do to budget and combine finances successfully.
Aligning long-term financial goals
This part of the conversation is where you should discuss significant financial goals, including:
- Home ownership
- Family planning
Do you have the same goals, or are they drastically different? Talk about how you can turn individual goals into agreed upon partner goals to set yourself up for success. Once you’ve agreed upon future financial goals, you can then begin to tackle how you will reach those goals – together.
If you find you and your partner are struggling with these conversations, ask for help! As previously mentioned, these can be really tough conversations to have but you cannot shy away from them just because they are difficult.
You can always turn to your trusted financial planner or advisor and they can help you figure out where to start, or what to do if you get stuck along the way.