How to successfully merge your finances with your significant other

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So, things are getting serious between you and your partner. Merging lives, moving in together, and planning for your collective future can be a magical and exciting time. The not so romantic part? Money tends to top the list when it comes to issues that cause stress in a relationship.

Reality hits hard when all of a sudden you’re sharing expenses, assets, and debt. How do you manage that financial friction without calling it quits? We spoke to Mindy Gillingham, Financial Services Officer at Atlantic Edge Credit Union, for advice on how to successfully merge your finances with your significant other.

Not surprisingly, Mindy’s first tip is all about honesty—there’s not much that can be gained by hiding your income or how your monthly expenses stack up.

“There’s no sense in putting off the money conversation,” she says. “You have to be honest about what you make, how much you spend, and your priorities for the future. It’s better to be upfront about your spending habits—good or bad.”

Full disclosure early on can save a lot of heartache down the road. It can also help you establish some ground rules around contributing to your monthly rent or mortgage, paying bills, and managing other day-to-day expenses.

Mindy explains that a joint account can be helpful in streamlining your monthly costs—but you have to be fair about how you approach it.

“It doesn’t always make sense to split expenses 50/50 between partners. If one person makes substantially more than the other, proportional splitting is a good idea. That means each person’s financial contribution is proportional to their income.”

To make proportional splitting work, you need to open up about what is going in and out of your accounts each month—and that includes what you owe. Taking on and paying down someone else’s debt is a big deal and many couples choose to keep that separate to start.

“Having a partner with a high debt load can be a hurdle—especially if your debt is minor,” says Mindy. “But you don’t need to assume their debt as your own right away. Start by merging on the essentials. Set up a joint savings account for housing, utilities, and groceries and come back to the debt conversation a few years down the line.”

Ultimately, if you’re in it for the long haul, the old adage of “what’s mine is yours” rings true—even when it comes to debt. Your partner’s credit history and/or debt load can impact both of you if you’re planning to make a major purchase together and are taking on joint financing.

If you’re feeling stressed about money as a couple, it can be useful to sit down with a financial advisor. Not only can they act as an impartial third party, they can ask the right questions and help you tackle your financial goals together.

Curious about where to start when it comes to merging your finances? Contact your nearest credit union.