Picture of Cory Hart Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
I need to discuss our finances with you.

If you are like a majority of couples, financial discussions probably are not your go-to conversation starter. But whether you are in a committed cohabitating relationship, are about to say your “I do’s,” or have been in the marriage game for a while, it is crucial to discuss finances openly. And the sooner you start the conversation, the better. Read on for guidelines on how to lay the foundation to put your finance discussions on the right track and develop an even healthier relationship.

Communication is key

With financial discussions, it is best to address the subject head-on. After you have established that you are in a committed relationship, begin the discussion. Talk over how much money is coming in to your household, how much debt and/or savings you have, how much you need to spend each month (rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries), and how much you want to spend on extras (eating out, entertainment, etc.).

Though it can seem like a loaded topic, keep it simple and fair. Ensure your financial plan is one that both individuals are happy and comfortable with. After that initial discussion, sit down together once a week and go over current finances. And always be honest with one another.

The Accounts

Joint checking

Once married, you can merge your accounts into one joint checking account, or establish a joint account that is used just for paying bills and household expenses. Determine how much from each of your incomes will go into the joint account and set up any direct deposits accordingly.

Avoid confusion when it comes time to pay the bills each month by either splitting the responsibility, with each of you overseeing certain bills, or determining which of you will manage all the bills and the funds in the joint account.

Keep in mind, however, that once you get married, your credit score is affected by your spouse, so consider delaying an account merger if one spouse’s credit needs improvement.

Joint savings

In life, anything can happen, and you never know when you will need extra funds on a rainy day, or to put a down payment on your dream home, so a joint savings account is another possibility for couples. Each of you can contribute a set amount to the savings account each pay period to ensure the money is there when you need it.

Saving for the future in the present not only provides a level of financial security in the long run, but it also helps to prevent financial stress that can have a negative effect on relationships later.

You can even establish joint accounts for retirement, your kids’ college funds, a travel fund, etc. Open the accounts, have the set amount of money automatically transferred into each from your direct deposits, and forget about them (until the time comes to use the funds).

Individual accounts

“It’s not my money, it’s our money” is a great mindset to have in a committed relationship, even if one spouse brings home most of or all of the household income. Still, there are many times when separate accounts – either checking or savings – are appropriate or beneficial.

Having money put away in separate accounts can allow you to have a degree of individual freedom to spend that designated money on the things you want, such as an iced coffee, clothes, hobby expenses, or even surprise gifts for your significant other. Work together to determine the best way to handle the division of money between joint and individual accounts, and make sure that you can access all accounts in case of emergency.

A final thought to keep in mind

Ultimately, financial decisions are all about what works best for you and your significant other. But it is important to have open communication and manage those finances jointly when you’re in a relationship. To keep track of your finances and ensure each of you remains in the loop, sit down together, set a budget and discuss major purchases before you make them. Discover which money management and budgeting methods work best for you to enjoy a healthier and less stressful relationship.

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Cory is a contributing writer on various topics for Old National, where she is also involved in the AchieveAbility program. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in communications and a cognate in marketing from the University of Evansville. She also earned her Master of Arts degree in communications from the University of Southern Indiana.

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