Manage your finances together: Five questions couples should ask each other

A man in a suit sitting alongside a couple going through their finances

Written by Editor

03/03/2022

 

By Giles Maynard, Senior Financial Advisor and Regional Manager at Carrick Wealth

 

Money is a common cause of conflict for couples. No matter how much you love your spouse or partner, trying to merge your lives—and financial goals—can be a bit bumpy. 

Having two individuals with their own unique life experiences can lead to differing views on money and how it should be managed. This is why it’s crucial to get clear on what you both want when it comes to your money, whether you’re just about to tie the knot or have been with your loved one for well over a decade.

 

Regular communication

The first step to successful financial planning as a couple is to start talking specifically about your personal money values and how you feel about it in general. For instance, you might not think twice about snapping up a great holiday deal to Mauritius, but your partner could consider that a major splurge. 

Transparency is crucial for maintaining trust, and you really do need to be upfront with each other regarding your income, debt, spending habits, and savings goals. Financial infidelity (hiding purchases) is exceptionally harmful to the health of your relationship, so don’t skip out on laying down the right framework for honest communication.

To avoid financial pitfalls in a relationship, money conversations shouldn’t be a one-time thing. Set regular nights (I’d recommend every quarter) where you turn off Netflix and crunch those numbers. Make it a habit of sitting down together to strategise solutions, review the status of your goals, and make adjustments to your financial plans. 

Whether one partner is a free spirit and the other a conservative numbers nerd, both parties can bring valuable insight and knowledge to the table in order to create a life you both love and enjoy.

 

Agree on your long term goals

As a couple, your lifestyle needs to line up with your actual income, not what you wish it was. 

It’s important to set financial targets together to have a clear direction on where you are both going and what you are working towards. Whether it’s buying property or settling debt, having clearly defined goals can help keep you both financially aligned and focused.

From my experience, a big factor here is the decision to have children and the type of education you want to consider for them. Education costs represent a considerable portion of most families’ incomes and require careful planning and management. Keep an eye on fee changes at schools and universities on your radar even if your little one is still only in nappies.

Another crucial area for couples to focus on is how much to set aside for their retirement. Having this conversation early in the relationship (and regularly reviewing it) offers insight into how much you will need to save up for and how much you will need before you both are able to stop working. 

 

To merge or not to merge

There are a number of different ways you can manage money in marriage. So weigh your options and figure out which method works best for both of you. 

If you currently struggle with keeping everything separate, it might be worth considering merging everything together. Alternatively, creating a joint account for shared expenses while maintaining separate accounts might just tick the right box. 

When it comes to investments, working with a dedicated wealth manager can offer respite for an emotionally charged situation by looking at things objectively. They’ll also have the insight and knowledge on what financial solutions are right for you as a couple or individually to achieve your goals and why. Remember, investing as a couple doesn’t have to be either/or.

What’s most important here is that both parties understand how their money is invested and why. If only one person makes all the decisions and something were to happen to him or her, the other might have to make decisions at a very vulnerable time which could have long-term consequences. If you’re the less experienced investor, take responsibility for ensuring you have a basic understanding of how your resources are invested. 

If you’re both struggling to make financial choices, a professional will have the foresight to pick up things that you might not see. 

 

The bottom line…

Honesty about money is essential for building trust in any relationship. With communication, grace, and a bit of planning, there’s no reason and your partner can’t have a relationship that’s free of conflicts about money. 

To end off, here’s my five-question checklist for couples embarking on their financial journey together:

 

What is our combined income and expenses? 

What debt do we have between us?

What do we do with our surplus income/savings? 

How much do we need to set aside for retirement?

When or how often should we review our finances?

 

Giles is a Senior Financial Advisor and Regional Manager at Carrick Wealth. A sought-after investment specialist, Giles assists those wanting to explore both local and offshore opportunities. He creates holistic plans that work together as an integrated solution. He holds financial qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments (CISI), a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA – Cum Laude) from Trinity College, Dublin and an Honours Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Cape Town (UCT).

 

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