Be upfront about your financial situation
Before taking this financial step with your partner, you need to know what kind of ground you’re standing on.
“It’s important to know how your partner thinks about money, what their spending versus saving habits are, and how any differences may be balanced,” says Saltnes, noting that transparency is key. “Having open and honest financial conversations can help you feel more connected and on the same page when it comes to building a life together.”
To set clear expectations from the beginning, both partners should be upfront about how much money they earn, how much debt they have, their monthly budgets, and plans for the future.
Find the right financial fit (for you)
“Combining finances is a choice and not a requirement of being in a relationship. You must do what works for you and your partner and/or family,” says Saltnes.
“That may look different for different people – sharing expenses might not be a 50/50 arrangement. For example, you may pool your resources for core household expenses, such as housing, groceries and utilities, but maintain responsibility for personal expenses, or set aside a percentage of your wage if one party earns more.”
Saltnes also suggests keeping separate bank accounts for gifts, emergencies, or ‘just in case’.
Regardless of whether you choose to split expenses proportionally, straight down the middle, or keep them entirely separate, it’s important for both parties to feel empowered.
“A healthy relationship is where both parties feel they have a say in their financial situation, are not feeling in fear or intimidated to make certain choices, and feel there is no power imbalance within the relationship,” explains Saltnes.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to combining finances”
Set boundaries and limits in the relationship
When it comes to relationships and finances, boundaries are essential.
“Healthy limits ensure that you’re comfortable with your spending and saving, and that money isn’t a source of anxiety, toxicity or resentment,” says Saltnes.
“Boundaries can help stop overspending and getting into debt, helping to protect your future.”
Keep in mind that a financial goal isn’t the same thing as a boundary. Financial goals are what you want to attain (e.g. paying off a car loan), while boundaries help you reach them (e.g. only dining out once a week).
A Deloitte report commissioned by CommBank showed that more than 600,000 Australians experienced financial abuse in 2020. Putting safeguards in place is imperative for economic security and fiscal independence.
“In setting up a joint account with your partner, you must be aware of the risks. Having joint access to a transaction account means both of you can legally take out the money and spend it on anything you want,” says Saltnes.
“For your financial wellbeing, look at having your own account for savings and an emergency fund should anything go wrong.”
Review your finances regularly
According to Relationships Australia’s research, financial stress is one of the top causes of relationship breakdown. Before you get to that point, check-in with your partner.
“Setting up regular time to review your finances together is beneficial,” notes Saltnes.
Discussing bank balances, budgets and investment opportunities may not be the most romantic way to spend time with your partner, but communicating clearly will ultimately set you up for relationship success in all aspects of your life.
Pop quiz: Financial questions to ask your partner
Get to know your partner – and their money habits – with these rapid-fire questions:
- If you were to get a $10,000 bonus tomorrow, how would you use it?
- What is your biggest purchase regret?
- How often do you think about money?
- Do you have a rainy-day account, and, if so, how much do you like to have in it?
- How much do you think is appropriate to spend on a holiday?
- What is the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?
- If we were to have children, would you want to send them to a public or private school?
- Are you comfortable asking friends or family for financial help? What about offering it?
- What is the most you would spend without consulting me?
- If you were financially able to stop working, how would you spend your time?
Check out more questions to ask your partner about money.