How To Integrate Your Finances As A Couple

by James on June 18, 2013 · 6 comments


Sometimes one of the toughest things for couples to do is  merge their money.  That said, there are a few basic steps you can do to bring yourself and your partner on the same page.

The first thing to do is explore where you differ and where you are similar.  Taking time to discuss your financial perspectives should illustrate both your long term values and your long term emotional needs.  This is important because money often comes to take on symbolic importance.  So, when you are having conversations about money you are often really talking about something else – such as need for love, support, security, etc.

It’s important to clarify these issues at the outset.  If these questions are openly discussed to the point that you both know each others values, then you’ll have a stronger basis for building a financially solid partnership.  Keep in mind that this might not always be easy.  And you might experience learning that your partner and you may vary substantially on your perspectives.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t negotiate your differences.  In fact, they might make your partnership even stronger.

There are a number of exercises you can use to help move the processes of clarifying your differing values.  You should not skip this step, knowing where the other person stands is very important in discussing your finances.  It is important to keep in mind that values are not goals or material things. Values are attributes of character like security, power, happiness, freedom, independence, confidence, love, health, growth, creativity, etc.   They are distinguishable from goals, which are measurable things you want to achieve – such as becoming a millionaire by 40, or paying off $20,000 worth of credit card debt by the end of the year.

Step 1 –List your values.  List as many values as you feel you hold.  You should come up with at least 6-8 values that are applicable to your life.  The order of these values is not important at this point, just relax and list as many as you can.  If you can’t get started doing this just ask yourself a simple question.  Such as, what’s really important to you.   You might be surprised at what comes out of it.

Step 2 — Choose your core values.  Now go back through your completed list and pick the top four values that are the most important to you.  While all of the values you listed define your life, these core values should be those that more precisely define your life and that you cannot live without.

Step 3 – Sit down and compare your values.  This is important.  You can be with someone you dearly love for years and still not know their most deeply held values.  Knowing your partner’s values is important in understanding the decisions they make with money.  Also, you’ll be able to do more as a couple and act more quickly once you both understand how the other person is looking at the matter.  So, sit down and do the exercise together, preferable when you both have time to focus on doing it, rather than needing to run off to take care of errands or something else.  Partnerships move forward more harmoniously when both partners know the other, so please don’t short change this part.

From our perspective, total transparency is a must in managing finances as a couple.  If you both aren’t forthright about what you bring to the table it doesn’t establish the trusting relationship that is needed in committing to one another.  This means laying all of your cards on the table and sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This might mean sharing how much debt you have, or revealing that left to your own devised you would blow your budget on renting movies.  Whatever the case is, it is best to be open about the facts of ‘what is’ in each of your financial packages.


James and Miel

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 DC @ Young Adult Money June 18, 2013 at 8:54 am

Great points, James! Transparency is so important. It’s nice to see a generational shift where a couple generations ago it seems like men dominated a family’s finances to the point where the wife had little knowledge of the financial state they were in. I love how technology has made it even easier for couple to be transparent, though it still takes an active effort from each party in the relationship.

2 Jake @ Common Cents Wealth June 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

This is great advice. Luckily, my wife and I have very similar values and goals with money, so it was very simple for us to combine finances. We both enjoy going over our budget and creating goals for our future, so that makes transparency a lot easier for us.

3 Grayson @ Debt Roundup June 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm

My wife and I are very transparent about our money, but we don’t merge our finances completely. This is something that we talked about before we got married and that was what we were comfortable with. Many disagree with how we deal with our finances, but that doesn’t bother me because those people don’t pay our bills. As long as you are on the same page with regards to money, then everything should be ok.

4 David @my2centopinion June 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm

A lot of compromise happen in marriage. We discuss are finances very openly. We do disagree on some aspects of where our money goes, but neither of us are out of control, so we normally push back a little and then just let the issue go.

5 John S @ Frugal Rules June 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm

These are some great tips! I know it has the potential to be difficult, but with transparency and communicating values that should take a lot of the stress out of it. Thankfully my wife and I have been on the same page since day one, so that makes it much easier for us.

6 Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen June 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Great tips! That’s something my husband and I haven’t done. We have literally combined our accts and now move forward as 1. Mostly we both want to save as much money as possible, but disagree on how. I tend to want to make sure we still save for retirement, while he wouldn’t mind putting only a little in retirement and putting as much as possible towards short term goals.

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