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Kiplinger Tackles Coupled Finances

In the June 2011 issue of Kiplinger’s magazine, Lisa Gerstner tackles the subject how to blend your finances [3], a subject that I’ve discussed a few times [4] (and one you have probably weighed in on [5]) 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 [6])