Should You Combine Finances?

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Getting engaged, deciding to live together or, ultimately, getting married takes a big leap of faith. You will share an abode, maybe raise children together, go on vacations together and take care of each other until the end of your days.

Combining finances is not just about who is going to pay for dinner. You’ve made a commitment to this person because you love and trust each other. You believe you both have the same core values. Are you sure you have the same ideas when it comes to money? Arguments about money are the number one reason couples break up. So why do we wait so long before opening up our financial secrets to those we love?

Be an Open Book

If you haven’t already, now is time to sit down and share even the dirtiest, darkest financial secrets about yourself. Share your consumer debt, student loans, loan balances, savings balance and all of your investments. Be honest with one another. Up until this point you may not have revealed (or maybe even exaggerated) your salary in order to impress someone. No better time than the present to be honest and truthful about your finances. If you are brave, consider sharing your credit report. Now is the time to decide if you want to combine finances.

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Yours, Mine and Ours

There is no financial advantage to opening a third account, other than it would give you an insight into your partner’s spending habits. Decide how much each person will contribute: You could both contribute a set dollar amount, or you could go with a percentage of each income.

If you do open a third joint account, have your rent, utilities and any shared expenses withdrawn from this account. Each person may have a debit card to this account for purchasing shared items such as groceries, dinner out, etc. At the end of each month, sit down with your partner and discuss the transactions that went through the account. Are you both comfortable with the other’s spending habits? More importantly, where there any surprises?

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Opportunity to Help

Now that you have been honest and open with your finances, look for ways you can help each other get ahead. If one of you receives regular payments from a structured settlement or annuity, companies like J.G. Wentworth can purchase the future payments for one lump sum now. You could use those funds to jump-start a joint savings account or help pay off your combined debt. Helping each other financially will make a huge deposit in your emotional checkbook.

Stuff Happens

Financial infidelity is serious business. Buying something and lying about the price or what you purchased or making sneaky withdrawals when it wasn’t in the budget is serious business. Don’t do it. If you witness your significant other making unforeseen purchases or withdrawals and not being truthful about it, take those actions to heart. It’s a red flag.

Amy Paterson is a marriage counselor and mother of two. She loves helping couples get through their rough patches.

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