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Dr. Bonnie Answers Coupled Finances Questions

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Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil of Financial InfidelityLast month I reviewed Financial Infidelity by Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil and then followed it up with a giveaway in which I asked you for relationship and finances questions. Well, as luck would have it, Dr. Bonnie was gracious enough to take the time to answer each of your questions!

The answers are especially valuable because Dr. Bonnie is a therapist and not a personal finance guru. When it comes to money and relationships, it’s more about emotion and psychology and less about hard numbers.

Q. Should couples keep separate accounts after moving in together or marrying?
A. Yes, they should for “guilt free” spending, autonomy so you’re not saying, “Mother may I?” (To avoid the parent-child syndrome.) After moving in, you need to see if you can trust your partner monetarily before you combine accounts. If you are married you need some independence as well as “joint” accounts.

Q. A good question that I think a lot of couples probably deal with is “how do you deal with it when on person is more frugal than their spouse?”
A. Appreciate and neutralize each other by using the “money love language” as a way out of the power struggle. A language that fosters clarity and empathetic listening and speaking.

Q. What kind of advice would you have for a couple in this situation: They keep separate accounts for their “personal” money, but one joint account for necessities. The husband, however, is constantly wanting to pay out of their joint account for meals out, movies, etc, that the wife would prefer to just skip, so that he can save “his” money to do other things with. She often ends up putting money from her own account into the joint account to cover the shortfall for his irresponsibility. This is a tough situation for her, because she really would prefer to save the money, but he sulks if he has to pay for these things.
A. They need to pay all their bills in the joint account first. He needs to contribute to this first. He then has a “guilt free” slush fund for expenses he wants after that. Then a third account -which they pay first! – for savings.

Q. When starting a new relationship with someone, what is the best plan of action or way to approach the “financial” side of it, especially when that relationship starts to turn serious?
A. In the early rounds of dating I recommend using the “money love language” and discussing your money history to hash out your differences which will make you stronger. Compromise and discussion will negate one person having more financial stability than the other.

Q. What happens when, after running separate finances for a while, couple has children and one parent decides to stay at home?
A. Whoever makes the money should not control the money – praise the person, appreciate the one that works hard even though they make no money. Share in the finances, do bills together, give the person the control of how much money they need!

Q. My wife has only worked part-time jobs thusfar in our marriage (she is a student still). As a result, the money she has always earned has been “her” money for buying clothes and such. Anyway, she still wants to keep “her” money separate once she starts a full-time job, and while that does not mean she won’t help out with things, she wants to employ her own strategy with bills, debt payoff, and such rather than combining together to tackle things.
A. She should have her own account for her own bills that she sees fit but it is also important to have a joint account so that you can work as a couple for “joint” expenses. She wants independence which is fine, but combine the “I” and the “we.”

Q. The dreaded question: prenup or no prenup?
A. Yes it is a good idea, if you are not going to be vindictive or want to hurt your partner you would want to make your partner feel safe. In order to successfully transition to a deeper level of communication and security in your marriage or relationship, a wonderful way to assess how a couple’s assets and debts will be divided.

Q. My girlfriend and I have recently moved in together. We were wondering whether we should sign a “co-habitation agreement” until we are considered common-law?
A. Yes, that would be advisable. Couples who don’t intend to marry may want to consider a co-habitation agreement – like a prenup without the marriage – so it protects you and your heirs especially if someone might be prone to over-spending or if you choose not to co-mingle your assets.

Q. In midst of our saving spree (grad school, ring, wedding, down payment on a house), is there any way to not feel panicked when we indulge in our hobbies? (His hobbies require big ticket items around $50-$1000, while mine are smaller around $10-50).
A. Yes. Use the money love language skills using the “bullet proof vest” exercise to discuss your differences. It is important to have guilt-free spending so you do not feel deprived and honor and support your partners as re-enforcement.

Q. Is any time of the year more financially advantaged to getting married?
A. Yes, so you pay less if you are married rather than being single, check with your accountant for recent laws before tax season.

Thanks Dr. Bonnie!

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4 Responses to “Dr. Bonnie Answers Coupled Finances Questions”

  1. Jon says:

    Not sure I agree about the “guilt-free slush fund” concept of keeping personal accounts. Sure my wife and I have had differing opinions on what is appropriate spending, but knowing the entirety of the spending that is occuring on both parts allows for discussion and, therein, compromise and understanding regarding said spending. Hiding these expenditures indeed seems to imply “guilt” where as coming to an understanding about what and why your partner spends his or her income on seems a bit more proactive.

  2. fred@opc says:

    I’m not a big fan of “paying the bills/savings first and dividing the rest equally between personal slush funds.” One problem with this is alluded to in one of the questions… His hobby requires $50-1000 expenditures, while hers requires $10-50 expenditures. This seems unfair.. But, what if her hobby requires 10 hours per week, and his only requires 2 hours per week? The point is, there are other trade-offs besides money to consider. Perhaps their hobbies bring them the same amount of joy, even though hers costs less. Are we really in these relationships for ourselves, or each other?

  3. Marta says:

    My very financially minded boyfriend of 6 years just broke up with me because I’ve always been uncomfortable talking about money. He is a great person. He said that disc 2 of the audio version of “Financial Infidelity” convinced him that we are not a good match. I believe Dr. Bonnie can help me get my life on track. I’ve been listening to the CDs every chance I get. Thank you Dr. Bonnie.

  4. Sue says:

    Hi, We have been married for 17 years. At first I made more money but to me it did not matter because I was married 2 other times before and our money was always together and no problems. But this marriage has always been different. He first moved in and put stuff in the spare bedroom and put a lock on the door. We each had
    our own accounts and one acct combined for bills and whatever. I also had a savings acct, but it was in same bank and same access. But he had for awhile did not trust banks and carried all his money around. Finally he did get another acct, but in a different bank and he would hide it from me. Which was no big deal I made good money, I would put most in our joint and auto 200 in savings, of course it was accessable. It was fine when we both were making good money. My extra money was used on me and the kids, credit cards. Going to the mall. His, well he has 3 muscle cars has rored one he had for years before we were married. He has a boat, big storage thing in driveway, work truck and Durango. My special gift to myself was every 2-3 years was to buy a new car, it was the famiy car since I was doing all that kind of stuff and always did the kids stuff, groceries, cooking, cleaning and working full time. But now I had to resign do to Inflammatory Arthritis, Fibromyallgia, Kleine-Levin Sleep Disorder and Recurrent non-epieptic jerk(myoclonic)disorder. But I have not had any income at all since Jan 2010. So now he is working, and cooking, and cleaning sometimes. And yelling at


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