Combining finances with your significant other can be a big step in a relationship, but it can also be beneficial in terms of budgeting and financial planning. Having a joint account can help couples keep track of their spending, develop financial goals, and work together to achieve long-term financial stability. It's important to have an open dialogue about your financial expectations and to discuss the associated risks and rewards with your partner before taking the plunge. MoneyNav coaches Tom and Janel Cross are partners in work and marriage. So, if anyone on the MoneyNav team knows about coupling finances, it’s them! Here’s their advice for couples thinking about joining their money lives.

Janel: Money is a super personal thing that makes “one size fits all” money advice all but impossible. So the first thing I would say is, to be honest… be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and commit to figuring out what system will uniquely for you and your partner.

Tom: While neither one of us are big spenders, Janel is better at looking and planning further ahead. I’m less disciplined with money. That’s probably why I believe the best feature of a 401k is the “automatic savings.” I’m far more likely to spend money in my pocket than I am to take it to the bank.

Janel: So, because we handle money differently, we keep different bank accounts for different purposes. This ensures we have money set aside to pay the car insurance bill which comes every six months. My weakness, though, can be in planning too far ahead. In other words, I can teeter on the brink of being a miser and that’s where Tom balances me out.

Tom: I am responsible for the account that pays for most of our discretionary expenses like date nights or weekend getaways or movie nights with the kids. I also take care of groceries because I’m the family chef.

Janel: And oh, how I’m grateful for that! If it was up to me, we would probably eat cereal for dinner every night! That’s what Tom and I have found to work. However, we have clients across the spectrum from keeping their finances completely separated to fully integrating every last cent. The point is that there’s only one hard and fast rule for coupling finances: talk honestly about it. It’s okay to be different but build a system that matches your strengths instead of one that battles your weaknesses.

Tom: I think I’d add one more hard and fast rule, Janel. That’s to be aware. It’s not uncommon for one person in the couple to take the lead in managing family finances. But you both need to be “in the know.” Otherwise, one person might wind up carrying most of the money pressure. And that burden can be too heavy for one person to carry.

Janel: That’s a good point, Tom. It’s important to talk about short-term things like how much you want to spend on summer vacation and how many different activities you enroll your kids in. Or, before you remodel the kitchen, make sure you’re on the same page with emergency savings. Make sure you are open and honest about debt and plan together to eliminate it. And don’t forget about bigger-picture discussions like how much life insurance you have or need and when and how you want to retire.

Several years ago, I read a book called, “The New Good Life, Living Better in the Age of Less by John Robbins. I remember the author described a variety of money archetypes, or personalities, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Most of us tend to believe we should be “Savers.” But Ebenezer Scrooge would be classified as a saver and most of us agree that he wasn’t living his best life before the spirits help him see the errors of his ways.

The best advice I can offer when coupling your finances, then, is, to be honest, and supportive of your respective strengths and weaknesses. With that foundation in place, reach out to your MoneyNav team if you need some help building a system that will work for you.