Last 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!