5 Questions To Ask Your Partner Before Sharing Money, To Get On The Same Page
Deciding to open a joint bank account with your boo is no small matter. Not only are you trusting them to be responsible with your shared finances, but you’re also making yourself vulnerable in exposing your own spending habits — which means you may some explaining to do about those late-night impulse Amazon purchases. (No? Just me? Cool.) Needless to say, it’s critical to make sure you’re on the same page — and luckily, there are certain questions to ask your partner before sharing money that can accomplish just that, thus warding off some potential problems in your relationship.
According to a 2018 Policygenius survey of 1,526 American adults, only one in five people keep and manage their money separate from their partners. It’s super common to open a joint account for a variety of reasons — one of the main benefits is that it simplifies paying bills and other shared financial responsibilities, especially if you live together. However, while the vast majority of people surveyed do share their money, a staggering number of them don’t talk about money. Nearly one-third of the Policygenius survey participants didn't know their partner’s salary or their debts or assets, and a whopping 47% were in the dark about their partner’s credit score.
Look, I get it — talking about money can feel awkward AF. But given that finances can impact your relationship in a number of ways, it’s oh so crucial to be as transparent as possible about these matters. Not sure where to start? Here are a few key questions you can ask to get the ball rolling.
What Is The Purpose Of This Joint Account?
There are multiple approaches you can take to sharing money. One married couple I know shares every cent they earn via a joint checking and savings account. Another couple I know who lives together but isn’t married has a joint account they use for paying rent, utility bills, and groceries, but each partner also maintains their own separate account as well, in which they keep personal spending money for clothes, socializing, etc.
There’s no right or wrong here, but the important thing is that you and bae can both agree on how you’d like to handle your money. Be as specific as possible about what your joint account will be used for to minimize the risk of any misunderstandings.
What Are Your Recurring Expenses?
It can be helpful to get a handle on what your partner's recurring expenses look like. Do they have a Netflix account? What do they pay for their gym membership? What about their phone bill? Are they paying off student loans on a monthly basis? Since you’ll be sharing the funds that are used to pay for all of these services, it’s super important to share these expenses with each other.
Having this conversation will also shed light on whether one of you is spending significantly more on a monthly or weekly basis than the other. Then, you can work as a team to figure out whether you need to cut corners in certain areas, depending on your personal budgets.
How Do Our Credit Scores Compare?
When my boyfriend and I began applying for a mortgage this past winter, I felt more exposed than I’ve ever felt in a serious relationship. Suddenly, we went from being blissfully unaware of each other’s income to knowing the exact balance in each other’s checking accounts. Not only did I have to reveal my student loan debt, but I also had to face my credit score — and I had never done a credit check, so I was legit biting my fingernails while waiting for the results. To my relief, my score was good, but it did bring up an important topic of conversation for us. Fortunately, you can run a free credit check online and get your results in mere minutes.
The thing is, when you open a joint bank account, your credit reports usually become linked and that means you’ll be co-scored as a couple. So, if one of you has terrible credit, that’s going to negatively impact the other partner’s credit. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t share money just because one partner’s credit is better than the other’s — it’s simply something to be aware of, since your score can affect your approval and interest rates on loans and credit cards, as well as car insurance rates, among other things.
Will We Be Required To Run Any Purchases By Each Other?
If you’ve been managing your own money up until now, you may struggle with the idea of running certain purchases by your partner. I totally get it — you worked your bum off, and you feel you deserve that luxe leather AllSaints moto jacket (...inspired by a true story).
While you may not want to get every single purchase approved by each other, it might be helpful to have rules around what you do and don’t need to discuss. For example, you might come up with a certain spending limit — whether it’s $100 or $500, and if whatever you’re buying exceeds that amount, then you agree to talk it out before using your shared funds to pay for it.
What’s Your Debt — And Plan For Paying It Off?
It goes without saying that debt is just about the least sexy topic of conversation you can have with your SO. But you know what’s even less sexy? Being blindsided by your partner’s financial baggage. Hence, it’s worth being transparent with each other about your credit card balance, student loans, etc. Set aside some time to look over your statements together and discuss what your plan is for paying it off. Odds are, one partner will have racked up a bit more, and rest assured that there’s no reason to feel ashamed about that.
Speaking from experience, I owe far more than my boyfriend in student loans — and you know what? It was worth every penny, because those loans allowed me to go to my dream school and study music, which is what led me to meeting him.
So, remember that this discussion is not about criticism or humiliation. It’s about brainstorming together to figure out how you can relieve that financial burden as a team.
Talking about money can feel awkward and uncomfortable — but if you’re going to share money, it’s absolutely essential that you launch an open and honest discussion about your spending habits, how your joint account will function, your expectations and guidelines for using these shared funds, and your long-term financial goals. They say ignorance is bliss, but when it comes to shared money — the opposite is true. While these discussions may require you to feel vulnerable, you’ll also learn a whole lot more about each other in the process of having them — and that’s what true intimacy is all about, right?