Personal Finance 

Kiplinger Tackles Coupled Finances

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Wedding Ducks!In the June 2011 issue of Kiplinger’s magazine, Lisa Gerstner tackles the subject how to blend your finances, a subject that I’ve discussed a few times (and one you have probably weighed in on) in the past because of how important it is.

The key message in the article is that communication is the most important thing. Regardless of what you decide, having the conversations, regardless of how uncomfortable they may be, is always going to be more important than what you ultimately decide. My lovely wife and I started dating in college and so we always had a good idea of what the other’s finances were. (Had we started dating after college, when we actually had any significant individual finances, then it may have been a trickier discussion!) Having that conversation means you can both come to an understanding of the other’s finances and the other’s opinion on how to go forward.

The second key message is that someone needs to be in charge of each facet. I’ve always believed that in the absence of leadership, chaos and confusion take over. Bills are missed when it’s financial management by committee and no one is truly accountable. In our household, I handle the finances, make sure our taxes are prepared, our bills are paid, and that nothing gets missed. That’s not to say that my wife can’t go online and make a bill payment, she certainly can, but it’s my responsibility. If we miss something, it’s my fault. I’m accountable.

Gerstner ends the article with a seemingly innocuous statement of “Especially after you buy a house and have kids, it makes sense to merge more of your finances…” which is something that I think some would take exception to. I agree with her though. Keeping completely separate finances when you are legally and socially linked probably introduces a whole slew of questions that need to be thoughtfully answered. If you have separate finances and you’re on one person’s health insurance, does the other “pay” their spouse for it? How much? Do you take into account taxes? It starts to get tricky. 🙂

What are your thoughts on handling coupled finances? If you left a comment in the Your Take nearly two years ago, has your opinion changed?

(Photo: stacylynn)

{ 17 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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17 Responses to “Kiplinger Tackles Coupled Finances”

  1. My wife and I have been sharing our finances for about 2 years now. It certainly wasn’t easy at first, but I think it’s the best thing for us. It always keeps us together on the same page. 🙂

  2. Adam says:

    My wife and I have always shard our finances, but we know a lot of people who keep them separate. I don’t think it matters so long as the decision works well for whatever choice they make.

  3. cubiclegeoff says:

    I think everyone can do as they want, as long as it works. We combined our finances when we got engaged since I generally paid all the bills already and it was just easier all around. We figure, we’re in it together no matter what, so everything is joined. We know people that have not joined their finances and are having issues because of it. Not to say that is the case for everyone, but I would think it is a lot easier once life gets more complicated and your lives become more and more interconnected.

  4. cubiclegeoff says:

    Also, I think joint finances gets rid of most of the issues of how things are paid. Such as: How do you decide on each individual’s contributions to joint bills and responsibilities? Do you keep track of everything, including chores, etc., or just straight up money related things? What about jealousy and issues that can come up based on spending and saving habits?

    • Strebkr says:

      I think that it often helps when both couples are of similar mindset. (ie saving vs spending) I think when you have polar opposites you get problems. This is the wife who is saving for a trip or something big and the husband is spending like there is no tomorrow.

  5. Martha says:

    I really enjoyed reading this series of articles in Slate about different types of “coupled” finances. The author, Jessica Grose, went through many of the different options and what their pros and cons are. I even sent the series of articles to a few friends who were sorting out joint finances to give them a few options other than “share it all, separate it all.”

    I’d recommend the articles for those who are thinking about combining their finances, or those who are going through a change of life, e.g. birth of child, change in employment, etc.

  6. Ryan says:

    The only issue we’ve had so far with a single joint account is with gifts to each other (birthdays, christmas, etc).

    To over come this, we buy Visa giftcards for some amount that will cover the gifts. That way the person doesn’t know where the gift is coming from.

  7. Shirley says:

    Money is important to all of us in that it affords us the type, and possibly quality, of life we live. A strong partnership is built on trust in one another.

    I agree with Adam and cubiclegeoff that ‘whatever works best for you’ is paramount to each situation, but being a senior with many ideas rooted in an earlier era, I cannot imagine legally sharing a life and family with a life partner without also sharing finances and incomes.

  8. Strebkr says:

    Everyone should do what works best for them. If it isn’t working then both parties need to be open to change. Thats the only way it will work.

  9. Rob O. says:

    Just as I felt 2 years ago, I still maintain that if you cannot trust your spouse with your money, you’ve got bigger problems than finances. Money is fleeting and ultimately kind of trivial – your happiness, fulfillment, and sanity (among other things) are the much more vital things at stake.

    My wife & I have always shard our finances. And we share in the financial duties – bill-paying, record-keeping, household paperwork, etc. – but honestly, she takes a disproportionate load of that. But then again, I mop floors and do laundry!

    We are of similar mindsets, but not always in agreement. Did I think her $500 iPad 2 was a sensible purchase? Not really. But then again, she didn’t bat an eye when I splurged $200 on a bank of utility shelving for the garage…

    We have a standing agreement to not spend more than $75 on anything other than groceries, clothes, or other vital stuff without checking with each other first.

    • Shirley says:

      This sounds much like our family situation. Since my husband retired 6 years before I did, he took over many of the household chores while I worked. (Now I wonder how I did them and worked full time too!)

      As a result, the two grandsons we were raising grew up with the idea that there is no such thing as women’s work or men’s work. Everybody can do everything and they do. He is a wonderful role model!

  10. Rob O. says:

    Shirley, that was never my intention, yet I couldn’t be happier if my son learns from my example that men can cook, clean, and do every other household chore. And I hope that he acquires our (usually) very frugal financial sensibilities too!

  11. Scott says:

    I pay the bills and “take care” of everything. I give her monthly updates. We have combined everything from day 1 and we have only had to really discuss where to invest extra cash, CD’s or stocks?

    Other than that, we just have a mutual respect of each other in our spending and we probably spend more on our family than ourselves, so you can’t really get upset over that, right?

    I don’t subscribe to the separation of finances if married. Before marriage, I would keep separate, but I also do not believe in living together prior to marriage…

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