Have you ever walked on a tight rope?
I haven’t, but think about just how tricky that is.
One foot in front of the other on a piece of line that is only slightly thicker than the floss I use for my teeth.
Oh, and you are, at times, hundreds of feet above the ground. I mean, do you remember the guy that high wired above the Grand Canyon recently?! Ridiculous.
Step by step, the focus continues to mount and one slight mistake can cost the person their life or at least many broken bones. Ouch!
Does this sound like marriage to anyone? Ah, don’t answer that… a ridiculous question. Some may think that at times but, in reality, marriage is wonderful… at least from what my clients tell me. I am looking forward to starting my experience on April 11th next year!
Talking about money in a relationship can be a bit of a tight rope act. When the conversation turns to the inevitable joining of bank accounts, one may start feeling queasy as if they are in the middle of the tight rope above the Grand Canyon.
The Inevitable Conversation
This is the toughest part. Just sitting down and talking about money. Talking about goals with money and also money habits.
Some couples find it easier than others, but unfortunately money is the root cause of many arguments.
The fiancé and I have decided to take a different approach to starting this conversation. We have identified that we need to have this conversation, but we are each doing some homework beforehand.
We have each set up a Pinterest account (or I set one up, she already had one). Don’t laugh. The homework for both of us is to find pictures that exemplify how we perceive our lives being in the future—both near term and way down the road.
What we are putting on our own individual boards are pictures of how we see our family, where we ultimately want to travel to, house, etc. We are trying to put quotes or pictures for everything from material objects to desired feelings.
We are taking some time putting these together. But in a couple of weeks, we are going to sit down and compare our boards. See where expectations are aligned and also where they are different. This will begin the conversation of what OUR expectations will be.
We will then try to compromise on many things and begin grouping everything (from kids to vacations to houses to retirement) into periods of time (i.e., 0-5 years, 5-10 years, etc.). We will also put estimated price tags on each material event because feelings are priceless!
This will allow for us to set up our savings goals and expectations at the onset. But this is just our idea. I will report back to everyone with the results. This conversation will then allow for us to have the conversation about joining bank accounts as well.
1,2,3 ways to union up monetarily
I see the way of dealing with bank accounts upon marriage in three different situations. Each of them has their pros and cons; but, ultimately, each COUPLE (not individual) has to choose what’s right for the BOTH of them.
- The Union Separated by Money:
This is where each individual in the relationship keeps their accounts completely different. Expenses are either divided up equally or each person is in charge of particular household expenses and utilities.
- No worries about spouse not having same spending habits as you - Continue to have control of your own monies, independence
o Cons: - A bit more difficult for paying bills - Constantly have to have conversations surrounding money - Personally, this keeps an unknown in the relationship, which provides just another opportunity for fighting - Could put spouse in tough spot if something were to happen to the other spouse. Even with a will, it could take months before living spouse gets access to funds.
- The Semi-Merged Money Marriage: This is where each individual gets their paychecks put into their own individual (separate) bank account and then each member of the relationship funds a joint account from which expenses are paid.
o Pros: - Maintain some independence - Some sense of union… letting personal shield down a little
o Cons: - Could be difficult when each spouse has different salaries… would have to use percentages rather than actual dollar amounts - Have three different accounts to manage
- Taking The Plunge Money Marriage: This is where you create a joint bank account and all future paychecks go into this account. This account is where expenses are paid along with everything else. To be a little flexible, each partner could take a set (and same) stipend every month for their own account to do whatever they want with.
o Pros: -Sense of union, commitment - Easy to track spending - Much easier to pay bills
o Cons: - The other partner can run with the money - The other spouse can spend all the money before their partner is able to identify it - Have pre-marriage and post-marriage accounts to manage
The personal choice
Marriage is a union of lives; it’s a commitment to each other for the rest of your lives. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a union of money. To me, though, it’s a way of letting your shield down and showing to each other that you are all in… together.
A New York Post article (read here) mentioned that in a recent study those couples that pooled at least 80% of their assets are much happier than those that pool 70% or less of their assets.
Given that I want to try my best to be in the camp of being happy with my future wife, I tend to lean for a customized “Taking The Plunge” approach.
All of the money that we have each saved in our individual accounts will stay in individual accounts. But from our wedding day on, all of our paychecks will go into one account and bills will be paid out of that account.
Whether or not we utilize the stipend to a personal account method has yet to be determined.
Ending the fight before it stars
Now, I am also comfortable with her spending habits and unless something comes out of our spending conversation (via the Pinterest boards) in a couple of weeks, I believe we are on the same page. If differences arise during our money discussion and expectations are drastically different, then we will have to determine how to adjust our scenario.
This is my way of trying to simplify our marriage. In any relationship, there are many hurdles that arise. If we can get on the same footing in regards to money and trusting each other with money, then one more hurdle has been removed from our future marriage.
It’s inevitable that we will have fights and very possibly over money. What I don’t want us to fight about is not trusting each other with what we are doing with our money. We are laying it out there for each other, thus taking that fight off the table.