Depending on who you ask, combining finances with your significant other is either a positive step towards establishing a life together OR the worst idea ever. If you’re considering it, here are some pros and cons to weigh.
If you’re on the same page and your financial priorities are fully aligned, you’re likely looking beyond your own personal needs and wants and putting the needs of the relationship first. By combining all your assets and liabilities, you’re ultimately making the commitment to succeed or fail together, as a unit.
One of the benefits of joining accounts is that it makes bill paying and record keeping a whole lot easier (particularly if you’ve established a budget).
Furthermore, combining your loan accounts, such as credit cards, could help you get additional loans in the future.
And if you’re making consistent, timely payments, both of your credit scores will improve. If you had kept that credit account separate, only one of you would have the benefit of a higher score, which could hurt you down the road when you apply for additional credit.
Sure, filing separate returns may be beneficial in some instances. (For example, if one spouse has large medical bills and can meet the deduction threshold by considering only his or her income.)
But joint filing saves time, and possibly money, too — particularly if you both work and one of you makes considerably more than the other. Combining incomes could bring the higher earnings into a lower tax bracket.
Also, some tax credits are only available to a married couple when they file jointly. Talk to your accountant for additional information about minimizing the tax bite.
Some couples may not agree on certain issues, like creating a spending/saving plan, setting retirement goals, or even how much debt they should carry. After all, opposites do attract, and in many relationships, there is, in fact, a spender and a saver.
If your financial philosophies don’t align, and you’re combining your financial life with someone who has vastly different expectations, goals, systems, ideals and habits, this could bring challenges and unwelcome relationship conflict.
If you’ve been managing your money on your own for years, and have been relatively successful in doing so (from choosing your 401K funds to setting a budget to planning a vacation), you may not want to relinquish your financial autonomy.
Sure, there may be more bookkeeping for you to do if you keep your finances separate, and opt for more of a yours/mine/ours account type arrangement (commonly referred to as the “three pot system”), but it may ultimately provide you with the independence and comfort you desire.
You may be in la la land now, but what happens if the relationship doesn’t work out in the long run? Joint mortgages, credit cards, and bank accounts can be very difficult to separate, even with a formal court-ordered divorce decree.