Once you get married, often the next step is to combine your finances. Not only does this help ease everyday tasks like paying bills or buying groceries, but it also allows you to plan for the future—planning for retirement, saving for a home, and working toward your financial goals together.
Before combining finances, be sure you understand fully what that entails. This means that you combine your debt, your household budget, and your savings. It also might mean that you will have to change the way you spend or save money, or accept that the way your partner handles money is much different than your approach. Keep in mind that money can be a big issue in a relationship and you do not want it to ruin yours.
However, there are some scenarios in which it may not be the best idea to combine finances with your new spouse. Find out what they are and how to deal with them.
One Spouse Is a Saver and the Other a Spender
It can be really difficult to combine finances when one of you is a natural saver and the other one likes to spend, spend, spend.
The saver may not want to combine finances because they want to protect their savings, while the spender does not want to be held accountable for their spending. This can cause trust issues early on in the marriage.
A household budget can help you build up that trust and ensure that you are on the same page when it comes to money. However, it is important to approach this carefully. The saver may come across as being bossy and taking control of the budget without letting the spender have any say. And don't forget—It is important to have "fun" money worked into your budget. The key is to make sure you can afford the amount that you choose.
Credit Card or Debt Issues
Another time it's OK to not combine finances once you get married is if one person enters the marriage with a significant amount in debt or very poor credit history and score. It can be scary to take on all of the debt. It is also scary to join with someone who has a poor credit score, especially if you are working on buying a home.
Take a step back and decide whether or not you love this person enough to be with them even though they have a large amount of debt. It's also wise to figure out just what caused the debt. Student loan debt is very different than thousands of dollars in credit card debt.
If you decide that having a partner with debt is something you can deal with, help your partner come up with a plan to pay off that debt. And remember, the debt will still be there and affect your life even if you do not combine finances. For example, it could affect your ability to buy your first home together or lease a car.
This is a tricky issue. However, if there are addiction issues in your relationship, you may be better off dividing your finances if you are already married, or keeping them separate if you haven't yet combined finances.
You do not want your retirement or savings drained because of gambling or drug addiction. A shopping addiction can have a similar effect. Regardless of the addiction, you will need to seek marriage counseling and your partner needs to see a counselor on their own to work through these issues.
Often addiction leads to financial infidelity, so it is important to protect yourself as you work through these issues. A similar issue is when your spouse steals your identity and opens a loan in your name without your knowledge.
Everyone comes into each relationship with a certain amount of baggage. Some people may have more than others. Your spouse could be divorced from someone who did a number on them financially, making it difficult to build trust in your new relationship. It could also be a result of seeing their parents fight constantly about money.
Regardless of the issue, this is another case where marriage counseling can really help you feel comfortable enough to successfully combine finances.
Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.