They say love is blind. Nowhere is this truer than when a couple is getting ready to merge their financial lives. Money is still difficult to talk about in our culture, and even romantic partners often have a hard time broaching the subject.
Even if you don't plan to completely merge your finances with your partner's, it's still a good idea to have a money talk and make sure that you're on the same page as your significant other. Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, an attorney and a marriage and family therapist, points out that getting on the same page financially is a big part of a successful marriage.
As you prepare to take your relationship to the next level, here are three things that Hokemeyer suggests you talk about:
Allocation of Assets
"How will you handle your money?" asks Hokemeyer. "Will you put everything in a joint account, or will you maintain separate accounts and share in household expenses and investment decisions?"
There are a number of ways to divide up shared and individual expenses, and Hokemeyer points out that it is vital to figure out a system that works for your relationship early on. If you and your partner are at the point of sharing expenses and making long-term financial decisions together, you need to have an idea of how you want to jointly manage these choices.
This might be one of the hardest issues to tackle. None of us wants to look as though we have made mistakes. However, this is something that needs to be faced head on.
"Many couples run into issues around debt," Hokemeyer says. "Typically, one of the partners is a spender and the other a saver. Over time, these differences can lead to crisis and breakdown in the relationship."
Partners need to be up-front about their debt. A plan for tackling the debt needs to be worked out, whether the partners combine forces to get rid of the debt or one partner attacks his or her debt while the other plays a supporting role.
Going forward, a couple needs to have a united philosophy on debt spending. When is it appropriate (i.e. when purchasing a car), and when will the couple try to avoid debt?
"Partners also need to get clear about how they want to handle their personal expenses, such as clothes, medical expenses, and upkeep," says Hokemeyer.
If you plan to spend your lives together, it's important to have long-term financial goals that you can work toward.
"It's important for all couples to save and invest for their retirement," says Hokemeyer. "Couples need to create a plan and figure out a percentage of income to put away and not touch."
Talk about what you want your future together to look like. Do you have similar goals for retirement? The amount you need to save if you plan to travel the world during retirement is different from the amount you need if you hope to live cozily at home and visit the grandkids on occasion. You and your partner need to have shared long-term goals if you expect your finances and your relationship to work.
Once you have these three issues worked out, it's vital that you continue to check in and discuss money throughout your relationship. Make sure you are still on the same page financially, and your relationship will be much better.