Times have certainly changed. Back in my parents’ day, the typical household was structured such that the husband worked to provide financially while the wife stayed home and tended to the home including the children, chores, cooking, cleaning, etc. Those days are gone for many modern households. For starters, husband and wife isn’t necessarily the norm anymore; it might be husband and husband, wife and wife, girlfriend and boyfriend, single parent, single person, etc. In addition, the cost of living has risen so much that people are depending on a second income just to be able to sustain themselves. With that came a shift of “traditional” gender roles - women are doing yard work, men are doing housework, and the list goes on. [And the independent woman was born!] In those previous times, men allegedly brought home the bacon and thus got the full say in its distribution. Today, people have to learn how to manage their money as a household and smartly, even if they’re not married.
I see a lot of households that operate their finances somewhat independently. They split the big shared bills down the middle (mortgage/rent, utilities, repairs) and they each are responsible for their individual endeavors (their car notes, savings), but don’t specifically have any joint accounts. Now if that works for you, that’s great! I also see some households where whomever brings in the most income takes on the biggest bills while the other person handles the utilities, one offs, and all the extracurricular activities. Again, if it works for you, why change it? The issue with some of these ideologies is that people often let cultural biases and other people’s perceptions dictate how they run their ship at home. At the end of the day, what goes on under your roof is between you and your partner, no one else.
My tips for success: COMMUNICATE, TALK, DISCUSS, BRAINSTORM TOGETHER
Did I get my subtle point across that you need to SPEAK to each other? People often times don’t realize how much is in jeopardy if they’re living in their silos. Take insurance for example - this was a topic for my household right after we got married. We sat down and discussed our available options and assessed whether it was best for either of us to go under the other’s plan or maintain our individual ones (especially since there are clauses at some companies that tack on an additional fee if your spouse has the option to obtain health insurance through their employer). Depending on the rates, we could save hundreds per year on that alone. Ooooohhhhh, I can hear a beachfront vacation calling my name already! Another topic we’ll be talking about is 401k contributions. One of our employers may offer a better match than the other or may have a more favorable vesting schedule. This one is touchy for some folks because it definitely involves faith that the marriage will last and that the other person won’t screw you and then we get into prenuptial agreements and all that. It could potentially get ugly and you could earn a guest appearance on Oxygen’s Snapped if you let things get out of control, fair warning.
What about if one person has better credit than the other? What about one partner having inconsistent income? The factors could be endless, but the point of all this is to say – JUST HAVE THE CONVERSATION. Talking about money doesn’t come easy to a lot of people, but it’s worth it if you’re building something together to know the full story so that you can proactively WIN together!