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First comes love, then comes money – how to organise finances as a couple

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

By Rebecca Pritchard | Financial Advisor and Coach.

It feels like an obvious consideration for any couple, but also quite overwhelming to address.

Where do you begin when talking about this with your partner?

● How do you avoid arguments about money?

● My partner and I are really different, how do we organise our money?

● What options are there for managing money as a couple?

● Where do couples often get stuck?

● I’m ‘not good with money’, can I leave this to my partner to handle?

No dickheads policy -

The starting point to dealing with money as a couple is to come to the conversation from a place of love and respect. Irrespective of each of your backgrounds, who earns what, how money is spent and the level of assets and debts. You’re having this conversation because you care for each other and are seeking to build a positive future together. You and your partner are different people, and acknowledging your differences will be helpful for finding a sustainable flow.

We say that there are three entities in the relationship, you, me and us. All three have different needs and this must be acknowledged.

Multiple ways of doing things -

Different things work for different couples, there really is no one size fits all. It can be easy to get caught up in how we feel we should behave here, or even be anchored in our past experiences or relationships. What works may also evolve over time as your relationship and circumstances evolve.

Consider the three different components of cash flow: personal spending, living expenses and savings. When it comes to personal spending, there are three approaches that may work.

One account - joint money

This is where you have a designated amount paid into a joint account, where you both have card access, to spend. It requires great communication and naturally provides high transparency on what your partner spends money on.

Two accounts - your money, my money

This is where you each get paid a set amount of personal spending into individual accounts, and you have full autonomy over how that money is spent. It’s not about ‘hiding’ from your partner, but it does provide a sense of independence (even if the money is being divvied from a joint account).

Three accounts - your money, my money, our money

This is where you each get paid a set amount of personal spending into individual accounts, but there’s a third account that you use joints for shared spending items. This is often useful for groceries, date nights, pets and children’s expenses.

You can apply these theories to your savings goals as well, sometimes it makes sense to save jointly, sometimes you want to have your resources kept separate.

The same principles can also be applied to considering any assets (or debts) you’ve brought into a relationship. Addressing any discrepancies between you will minimise the risks of assumptions, future arguments or looming black holes of awkwardness.

F**k the shoulds -

Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean all your money should be joint, or as a modern woman you shouldn’t keep your money together. There is no right or wrong. Thinking about any element of your life in terms of ‘should’ rarely leads to healthy decision making.

Think of the musts -

We must stop thinking that this conversation is optional, it is mandatory in a healthy relationship. Not dissimilar to conversations about birth control, where you want to live, who does what in terms of housework. Money is an integral part of our lives and therefore we must address it as part of our relationship.

Be practical -

A key element to organising your cashflow is being practical - there’s no point being idealistic about how to set things up. Consider who does what, are you organised or go a bit all over the place? For example, if you opt for a two account approach to spending, but one person always does the grocery shopping, they should receive more money to reflect that. If one person consistently pays for family expenses, ensure the flow of money reflects that.

A successful cashflow management system must ultimately be implemented. Notional systems and goodwill will not last. To have sustained success, ensure any bank accounts you need are established, labelled and everything that can be automated, is. Remove as many obstacles as you can, and make it easy to succeed.

Communication -

Sharing is caring. It’s so important to have the conversation, learn from each other, and ultimately do something about what you discuss. We know that the highest stressor in relationships is money, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Proactive money management can ensure money is not something you argue about. This flows right through to open conversations with your partner about your goals and values, your priorities and feelings about different options.

Article written by Rebecca Pritchard.

Rebecca Pritchard is a financial adviser and coach with award-winning financial services practice Rising Tide. After personally experiencing the ground-breaking impact of financial advice in her early 20's, Rebecca transitioned from her career in corporate finance into the financial planning world, and she's never looked back. As a professional advocate of financial health, Rebecca brings a decade of experience in financial services to her clients and the community. Reach out to Rebecca and the Rising Tide via and follow @rfpritch.

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