Love and Money: Committing to Combining Finances

Navigating finances as a couple and deciding if you should combine or maintain separate accounts can be a challenge. Find out what arrangement is best for you and your partner this Valentine’s Day

Gifting the one you love the keys to your heart — or your house — is a big step. Maybe you got engaged over the holidays, are looking forward to a June wedding or are moving in together. This Valentine’s Day, if you’re heading into full-time #adulting, it’s a good time to figure out how you’ll manage the keys to your finances as a couple.

Why Money Matters

You and your significant other won’t just be living together, you’ll be living together. On top of the usual number crunching of roommate life, you’ll be sharing more meals, buying furniture from actual stores — not from some guy named Doug off Craigslist — and negotiating major household buys. On top of that, you likely don’t have the same income, responsibilities or spending habits. These differences can cause some stress.

2016 survey from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Ad Council reported that 88 percent of adults married or living with a partner say that financial decisions are a main source of tension in their relationships. So how do you tackle this tension?

Talk It Out

Even if money isn’t a problem for your relationship, the last thing you want is for it to become one. The best way to manage it is by being super real about it.

  • Talk about your spending and saving habits as both a couple and as individuals. Is one of you running up the monthly takeout bill on Seamless? Or maybe your sneaker habit is getting in the way of savings bliss?
  • Find out what money means to you and discuss why. Understanding where someone’s financial beliefs stem from can make all the difference in how you work with their beliefs, especially when they’re different from your own.
  • Open up about your financial situation. And be honest. What assets do you have and what debts do you both owe? How much have you saved? And since we’re being honest, how is your credit? (If you’re not sure, check your TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 score for free with CreditWise from Capital One.)
  • Discuss your financial goals and any plans to achieve them.

All couples approach their finances differently. Some go all in, combining all their finances into joint accounts. Some keep everything separate. Others choose a hybrid of joint and separate finances. The key is to find the sweet spot for the two of you.

Going All In: Combining Your Finances into Joint Accounts

Pooling all of your resources requires a major level of trust and collaboration, but it can result in deeper understanding and actually bring you two closer together. A 2010 study out of Cornell University, referenced in Bloomberg View, shows that people who pool all their resources actually report a higher level of happiness in their relationship than those who don’t.

When you do combine your money, you’ll no longer have to determine who covers which expenses or to what extent. You both get a fuller picture of your household finances, access to your collective funds in case of emergency and you can work toward your goals together. You can also make your money work harder with higher return on investments and higher spending limits.

However, pooling your resources can also make you feel like you’re giving up your autonomy. You’ll have to be accountable to your partner for your spending and you have to agree upon a combined budget and set of guidelines based on both of your priorities and habits.

Thinking this is the route to financial Shangri-La for your relationship? Check out a few more tips as you consider diving into joint accounts.

One Love, Two Accounts: Maintaining Separate Finances as a Couple

There are several reasons you might wish to keep your finances separate. The first being that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If keeping separate accounts is working for your relationship and you’re both comfortable with the spending between the two of you, then why rock the boat?

In fact, if one of you has a lower credit score or high unpaid debt, keeping things separate might actually be helpful if you have any large purchases in your future. Filing taxes separately in this instance would also likely be beneficial.

Do you have wildly different spending habits, financial goals or incomes? While combining finances might help “balance the playing field,” it can also create a disparity over ownership of the combined accounts. By keeping things separate you’re only accountable to yourself, and you don’t have to worry about your contribution to the bottom line.

Combining finances is, of course, something you can do at any time should it become necessary. But until that time, technology has made it easier than ever to keep things separate. There are lots of money-sharing applications that enable you to quickly pay your partner (or friends for that matter) for your portion of expenses, or have them repay you.

Together but Separate: A Hybrid of Joint and Separate Accounts

Many couples go for the hybrid option, and there are several ways to approach it.

  • Add your partner as an authorized user on your credit card. This way you both have access to a lline of credit in case of emergency or if one of you is simply out of town or unreachable. Plus, by having two people spending on one card, you can up your rewards! You can compare some card options here.
  • Contribute a certain amount to a joint checking account each month, while keeping independent accounts. Not only do you keep the freedom of managing your own money, but things like paying the bills just got a lot simpler. Check out our 360 Checking.
  • OR try the opposite. Combine all of your finances, but maintain separate spending accounts and each month deposit separate “allowances” into them. This way you can save up for your own personal goals should you choose to.
  • Go for #RelationshipGoals: If you’re reaching for a goal that really takes two of you or just want to create a “nest egg” for a rainy day, consider opening up a joint savings account or a money market account.

No matter how you choose to navigate your finances as a couple, just make sure it’s the right choice for both of you. Figuring out the best financial path for your relationship will make your relationship stronger and future Valentine’s Days that much sweeter.

Unless noted otherwise in this post, Capital One is not affiliated with, nor is it endorsed by, any of the companies mentioned. All trademarks and other intellectual property used or displayed are the ownership of their respective owners. This article is © 2017 Capital One.