Daily Capital

Dear Tori: Should I Combine Finances With My Partner Before Marriage?

Tori Dunlap is a millennial money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori founded Her First $100K* to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. A Plutus award winner, her work has been featured on Good Morning America, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, and more.

Every month, Tori will be answering reader questions in her new series for Daily Capital, “Dear Tori.” Do you have burning finances questions you’ve always been afraid to ask? Is money becoming a cause of stress in your life and you want to learn how to manage it better? Are you wondering how to talk to your partner about finances? What about educating your kids on good money habits? Leave us a question in the comments section below! Tori will break down the questions you’ve always had about money in an approachable way.

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Dear Tori,

I live with my boyfriend. I believe we are life partners. We split rent and groceries. But for now our finances (bank, etc.) are separate.

I’m interested to hear how couples deal with shared finances. I make a lot more than my partner right now, so for example, I paid a lot more for our dog’s recent vet emergency than he did. I honestly have no resentment about it, but this is the first time I’m living with a partner (I’m 30) and I’d love to learn about all the things we should be figuring out and talking about and doing to make combining finances easier later if we go that way, especially when people make different incomes.

What should I do?

Thanks for your question. You should know, right off the bat, that managing money as a couple can be one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, financial milestones — and is something I’m constantly asked about by my coaching clients, so you’re not alone.

Personal finance is personal. The way you manage money in your relationship is entirely up to you and your partner, but you should start by creating what I call a “money date.” It’s a half-hour commitment, once a month, that goes in your calendar. Make it something you look forward to — maybe a bottle of wine and takeout from your favorite restaurant — and check in on your money together. Talk to each other in terms of shared goals, like “I know we want to travel to Japan in September. How do we use money as a tool to get there?” Conversations about money should be open, transparent and frequent; and giving yourselves dedicated time to have them will be a game-changer.

Because you and your partner have a wage discrepancy, it might be worth looking into how you’re splitting expenses, and discuss a solution that would work for both of you. Many couples split expenses 50/50, while others split according to the ratio of cost vs. income. For example, if you make $100,000 and your partner makes $75,000 — a total income of $175,000 — you’ll divide your income by the total to get 57%. That would be the percentage of expenses you’re in charge of paying, while your partner would pay 43%.

Many couples choose to share finances differently — some keep entirely separate bank accounts, while some choose to combine everything. In Personal Capital’s Love and Money survey, almost half (47%) of people shared that the thought of combining finances with their significant other makes them feel more confident about their finances and more confident in their relationship. I have found success with clients who do a hybrid: they keep their finances largely separate, but have a shared account for shared expenses or shared goals. This makes paying regular bills easy, while also allowing you the freedom and control you might crave. Regardless of what method you chose, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have at least a bit of your own money. This is not sneaky or secretive, it’s safe.

And speaking of safe, if you do end up getting married, a prenup is always something to consider. While many consider prenups unromantic or like you’re “dooming a relationship to fail”, it can actually be a source of great comfort to both of you.

The fact that you’re considering financial next steps with your partner are amazing, and regardless of how you proceed, remember that communication is key. Use money as a resource to build the life you want together!

-Tori Dunlap

Have a question about money? Leave a comment to be included in a future installment of “Dear Tori.”

Read the 2020 Love and Money Report

*Personal Capital compensates Tori Dunlap (“Author”) for providing the content contained in this blog post. Additionally, in a separate referral arrangement between Author and Personal Capital Corporation (“PCC”), Author is paid $70 and $150 for each person who uses Author’s webpage (www.HerFirst100k.com) to register with Personal Capital and links at least $100,000 in investable assets to Personal Capital’s Free Financial Dashboard. As a result of these arrangements, Author may financially benefit from referring potential clients to Personal Capital and/or be incentivized to present blog content that is favorable to PCC. No fees or other amounts will be charged to investors by Author or Personal Capital as a result of the Referral Arrangement. Investors that are referred to PCC and subsequently subscribe for investment advisory services provided by PCC’s affiliated adviser, Personal Capital Advisors Corporation (“PCAC”) will not pay increased management fees or other similar compensation to Author, PCC or PCAC as a result of this arrangement. Additional information about PCAC is contained in Form ADV Part 2A available here.

The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.

Tori Dunlap is a millennial money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. A Plutus award winner, her work has been featured on Good Morning America, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, and more. An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

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