One of the main reasons people get divorced is money. In fact, my sister gave me a prophetic warning about this when I first got married. “The only things you’re going to fight about,” she said, “are money and children.” If only I had listened; since her words still ring true today: One of the most common questions I get asked is how to share the bill paying in a new relationship.
Disagreements about bills can create chaos in a relationship. Before that happens, it’s worth sitting down with your partner in a quiet place, sans smartphones, and having a conversation.
Who is going to pay the bills?
If you’re going to be sharing rent and utilities with your new partner, it makes sense to have a joint checking account. I think it’s still important to keep some money separate and have your own accounts, but it’s also wise to have one account for shared expenses. Contributions can be structured 50/50, or however you wish. It’s a lot easier to use one checking account rather than splitting individual bills as they come in.
Skeletons in the Financial Closet
If you’re embarking on a legal marriage, there are even more things to consider.
- Discuss any student loan or credit card debt.
- What kind of financial records do you each keep?
- Does either party have child support liabilities that are in arrears?
- What, if any, personal loans are outstanding for either party?
- Sharing your credit scores with each other.
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to keep your credit score separate from a spouse’s. It involves never opening a joint account, including your mortgage. You would have to work out a special arrangement with your spouse. Frankly, I would see this as a red flag that perhaps I should not be joining forces with this person legally.
Some additional questions you may want to ask include:
- Do you have a bad driving record? (That affects your auto insurance.)
- Do you owe the IRS any money?
- Are there any foreclosures or liens on your house?
- Do you have any bankruptcies?
Couples who cannot agree on financial manners are more likely to get a divorce than those who are on the same page about things. It’s unfortunate that financial literacy in a potential partner is not as sought-after as a nice car or paycheck. That’s why it’s up to you to bring it up.