Money Monday: His Money, Her Money and Our Money

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Today’s money Monday is borne out of a recent conversation with someone about their financial views as it relates to relationships. This single mother of three, committed to a long-term relationship, views finances quite differently now. Prior to entering into this long term relationship, she believed that all family finances were to be placed into one account and shared equally.

However, now that she is in a long term relationship and has kids, she believes that couples should have three accounts: each person should have their own account, and one joint account for the family.  “How do you intend to get closer to your partner if your finances are separated?” I asked.

Financial Infidelity

A recent survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education revealed that 21% of individuals say that they have lied about their income, debt or some part of their finances to their partner. Additionally, at least 38% of the individuals surveyed believe some aspects of finances should remain private. I found that to be curious, and so I wondered, which aspect of one’s finances should remain private and which should not, in a committed relationship? Should a person’s salary remain private? What about if a person receives a bonus, should that remain private? The issue becomes even more complicated when one party earns significantly more than the other. Thirty-nine percent of the respondents indicated they hide bank statements, bills, purchases and other financial information from their partner.

Start addressing this issue in your relationship by making a commitment to be transparent with each other. Take that commitment a step further and establish signing up for financial couple’s, or committed relationship, counseling. The key takeaway here is to try and understand the reasons behind these financial behaviors. You have to get to the bottom of this behavior!

Habits

Whether you are in a committed relationship or not, do you know or can you project your partner’s spending or saving habits? This challenge is particularly exposed when you consider the three bucket options. Once you have the joint account needs addressed, then each party has his or her own money to do as they choose. It then means that the person who makes the most, has the most to spend, or save, one would argue. If their spending habits are irresponsible, how does that contribute to the relationship even though that person is mismanaging “their money”?

Similarly, we may never attribute saving habits as irresponsible. Yet, I challenge you to think for a moment about being in a relationship with someone who considers themself a “saver” and how much of an impact that can have. Its always: “that is too expensive,” or, “I am sure we can find it somewhere else for cheaper,” or “we don’t need that right now.”

Perhaps one of you has a higher comfort level with investing, while the other has a low tolerance for risk. Finances conjure up a wide-range of strong emotions for both men and women, and there are extreme cases in the ‘habits” argument. However fundamental factors influence financial behaviors that need to be considered and explored. Exhibit patience and understanding as you challenge each other in this space.

Communication around Big Money Decisions

Your financial style, as a couple, may include pooling all resources together to pay all household bills. Or, you may split the bills through separate accounts. Or, one person in the relationship routinely makes solo decisions, buying new cars, cosigning loans for friends or family members, or makes huge investments. Each of these financial decisions can affect both parties, of course.

Communicating about money proves uncomfortable, awkward, and frustrating. However, studies have shown that couples who agree to consult with each other on spending that exceeds a specified level, save themselves unnecessary strain, or even divorce. This way both individuals have an input, a strategy can be created, and there are no secrets. Becoming a financial team is a critical part of your relationship, whether you like it or not. Communicating about big money decisions as well as everyday budgeting goals can help you both feel empowered, financially secure, and work towards enjoying a fulfilling and successful future.

Income and Debt

Relationship commitment of late seems to be conditioned on the ‘for richer part’ and a mere mention of ‘for poorer’ is met with side eyes and contempt. At one point or another we exhibit greater exuberance when one person makes substantially more money in the relationship and it becomes ‘our’ money as it allows a particular lifestyle. On the contrary, our tolerance diminishes when our relationship goals and fulfillment suffer under student loan, medical expenses, or high credit card debt. Then it becomes “your” or “my” debt. I believe it would be more helpful if there is no differentiation in support and commitment when addressing these financial issues as these realities often lead to separation and divorce. Relationships refine and develop our characters. We ought to grow, thrive and support each other; giving and receiving grace and becoming intimate with our finances.

WHAT’S UP!

Today’s What’s Up is about lending to family members. One piece of advice I often hear is to get the lending or loan agreement in writing. My question is, are you really going to enforce the loan agreement and take your family member to court? While these may not replace getting it in writing they would help:

  • Consider having the family member add your name to the vehicle title in a short term transaction.
  • Consider asking that your name be added as a beneficiary to their insurance policy.
  • If the loan is large, it’s likely you should get a lawyer to draft the agreement.

And that’s what’s up!

Ruthven R. Phillip, Esq., is a tax attorney, Stewardship and Philanthropy Ministry Assistant, and CEO of Give2Getrich, LLC. Give2Get Rich, LLC 2023. All Rights Reserved. Any distribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in any form is prohibited.

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