The fun of moving in together can turn stressful the moment you come face-to-face with your first joint bill.
But talking through tough questions ahead of time will help you see your partner’s point of view and ease the transition, says Stacy Francis, a certified financial planner in New York. “Couples who talk about money and are on the same page financially, have a better chance at happily ever after,” she says.
Here are five money questions you need to ask your honey before you move in:
What are your financial goals?
Maybe you want to pay off student loans, while your partner dreams of saving for an around-the-world-trip. The important thing is to acknowledge each other’s priorities, since it can help you understand your partner’s decisions and make it easier to discuss conflicting goals, says Francis. “It’s easier to find common ground once you understand where your priorities differ,” she says.
What’s your money story, now and then?
Being upfront about your current situation—your salary and any current debts or obligations—can help you create a monthly budget that includes each partner’s contribution toward rent and other living expenses. “Figure out where your money was spent over the last 12 months to understand how much each of you have spent separately before moving in together,” she said. It’s also important to dig deeper to discuss what each of you has learned from your financial history to prevent repeating the same mistakes, she adds.
How will we pay the bills?
Take it slow when it comes to combining your expenses, and split bills proportional to what you earn, advises Francis. Create two budgets for the coming year—a personal expenses budget for each of you, and a joint budget for bills and rent. (She suggests that both partners contribute to a joint checking account to pay monthly bills.) Keeping a separate personal budget can help each person maintain a sense of ownership over his or her spending, she says.
How will we resolve our financial fights?
Conflict is inevitable, but dealing with it in a constructive way can bring you closer. Rather than avoiding sensitive topics, come up with a game plan to settle disputes. Schedule a monthly “money date” to discuss how close you’ve stuck to the budget and use the time to address potential problems before they arise, Francis says.
What if we break up?
No one wants to think about the worst, but it’s important to protect yourself—just in case. Make a plan of how you’ll divide assets, who will bear the burden of rent or a mortgage payment, and who’ll walk away with high-ticket items—including the dog. For those planning to cohabitate for years to come without getting married, consider a “no-nup,” a legal document that formally establishes ownership rights and financial responsibilities should you break up.
By Alina Dizik