6 Simple Habits That Can Contribute to Your Financial Harmony
Facing money issues as life partners
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There is no one, correct way to live in financial harmony with your life partner. Some couples choose to fully merge their bank accounts, credit cards, and other assets (and debts); others choose to consolidate some of their banking while keeping some money separate. Each approach has the potential to work well - but the success of a shared financial life depends less on the specific arrangements partners make and more on how they conduct their interactions about money.
We talked to people from a variety of backgrounds, and who handle finances in their relationships in a range of ways, and we learned six simple practices that will help guide you on the path toward financial harmony.
Don't let your emotions get the better of you. It's important to know when to back off and re-visit the topic later.
- Communicate. Don't only talk about money when an issue arises; make it part of your daily conversation. Listen to one another's perspective. If you find you don't agree over an issue, don't let your emotions get the better of you. It's important to know when to back off and re-visit the topic later.
- Don't keep secrets. Judy Saryan, retired portfolio manager and securities analyst, said that financial harmony comes down to honesty and openness. "You can't have secrets about what each of you is spending," she said. "You have to work from one set of books."
- Share the same big goals. Many of the people we talked to stressed the importance of being on the same page with their partners regarding big expenses such as housing, children's education, and retirement. Implement that shared financial vision with a budget, regardless of whether you have merged all your money or not.
- Be flexible. Give one another some freedom to spend on personal passions. "We do give each other financial flexibility," a financial analyst we spoke to said of her and her partner. "Each of us is free to purchase ‘allowable luxuries,' such as two pairs of shoes, without consulting the other, but we jointly decide on ‘indulgent luxuries,' such as a new car, which we may not need, but want anyway."
- Assign responsibilities. According to a life coach we spoke to, couples should establish - with "absolute clarity" - what each partner will contribute financially to the household and what "chores" each will be responsible for. Look to support your household's financial well-being in ways that play to your strengths, she said. For instance, if one partner is super organized, assign him or her the role of bill payer.
- Honor commitments. Agreeing to shared goals isn't enough; each partner needs to follow through on them. A bus company owner we spoke to said that she and her husband may not always agree, but they made a pact when they became parents that they continue to honor: Once they come to a decision about money or anything else, they present a united front to their children. "It's critical to stay on the same page, to speak with one voice," she said.
Also equally as important to keep in mind: in the same way that no one can predict the future, achieving financial harmony is no guarantee. But by adopting these techniques, you will help reduce the friction and avoid the pitfalls couples sometimes experience as they make financial decisions. You'll then be free to focus on other "important" issues, like getting your partner to "properly" roll up a tube of toothpaste.
When partners have clarity about their shared finances, relationships thrive. People should expect the same transparency from their credit card.
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