Couples and money: How to navigate money matters without rocking the boat
Your four-step plan to more effectively manage money as a couple.
Talking about money with your partner can be difficult, but it’s essential to setting up a secure financial future. According to the American Psychological Association, money is a major source of conflict in many relationships, but it’s a mistake to think that couples and money don’t mix. If you’re a new couple, you might start by discussing the basics of your financial situations. But as your relationship grows and your lives become more intertwined, there are certain key discussions you’ll want to have.
Discuss your goals
Take the time to honestly discuss your short- and long-term financial goals, whether they are to save for a home, pay off credit card debt, go on a dream vacation or finally get that motorcycle. Be careful not to criticize your partner’s goals—remember they are just as important to him (or her) as yours are to you. From there, work together to make a list of the top goals you both want to achieve, making sure it’s both fair and manageable.
If you’ve already been with your partner for awhile, try to have regular check-ins about your goals. They may change over time, and you’ll want to reprioritize together. This is especially important if your family is growing.
Tip: Don’t discuss your long-term goals as an immediate result of something negative, like busting your monthly budget or paying a repair bill.
Create a household budget
Building a budget together will help you put money aside for those agreed-upon financial goals. Remember to discuss your progress and unexpected expenses regularly. It can be helpful to set aside a fixed time every month to go over what’s working and what isn’t, and to see where you can make adjustments. Creating a routine can make talking about money easier.
Discuss if and how you’ll share your money
Combining your finances with your partner’s can be challenging. Not only do you have to decide how to spend and save as a couple, you’ll also need to figure out the logistics. Some couples open joint accounts. Others prefer to keep separate accounts. Another option is to create a joint account and link it to your individual accounts, which can help you cover shared expenses while still keeping your individual checking or savings accounts.
You may also consider a combination of these things—creating joint checking and savings accounts, but keeping separate credit cards, for example. (Keeping a credit card in your own name will let you continue to build your individual credit.)
Tip: Setting up automatic deposits from your checking account into your savings account can help you save for shared goals. If you’re a Bank of America customer, you can set up automatic transfers via Online Banking.
Don’t forget retirement
Since you probably hope your relationship will continue happily ever after, it’s important to discuss retirement goals with your partner. Review your existing plans and savings and go over how you can continue to prepare for the future. You can use the Merrill Edge Personal Retirement Calculator1 to help determine how much you both should save and invest for retirement.
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