Today’s post is a guest post by Yasi Zhang from Fast Track, talking about the very important subject of how to manage your finances as a couple. I am very happy to have her as a guest writer today.
Money is a topic most people avoid talking about, so do newlywed couples. It is awkward to discuss money with your partner, but it is an essential exercise to do together as a couple because you are building a financial future together!
Some people have asked me about how to manage finances as a couple, and I find it might be a common struggle for many if you avoid talking about it with your partner.
Without a structure couple finance system, the consequences might be:
- Conflicts of interests: competing in spending..
- Feeling of unfairness: especially when someone earns much more than the other partner.
- Feeling undertreated: especially when someone is dependent on the other partner.
- Loss of years to build a healthy financial future.
Why is a healthy couple finance system important?
I suppose all of you plan to spend the rest of your life with your partner, right? So your financial future is intertwined with each other. If you have planned your retirement and get it all sorted out, but your partner has not. Then when you two retire, maybe your partner has to rely on your financial support.
If you want to buy a house in the near future, but your partner is not in the same boat, you will need double the effort to save for the down payment and purchase a house, or even pay the mortgage. Well, I hope that is not the case.
The mistake my husband and I made in the past is exactly not planning our finances as a couple. We spent what we earned. As long as we were not spending more than what we earned, we were ok with that. Living YOLO was ruining our financial future. You can read more about my story here.
The problem of that is we spent more than what we should, and we were not saving and investing as much as we could. Because none of us had an overview of our finances as a family. After changing from unconscious spending to conscious spending, with a clear couple finance plan, we increased our net worth tremendously after only 8 months’ time. The system is obviously working for us. But not every system worked well.
I have a friend who splits everything with the partner, but they both don’t know each other’s personal finance, so they could not save and invest. Whatever they spend, they split in half, to them, it is cheaper, because one person only needs to pay 50% of the price. As you can imagine, the problems are:
- For every item you buy, you need to convince your partner to contribute the 50%
- You tend to spend more because you would think everything is half price.
Therefore, as a couple, it is impossible to build a healthy financial future if you don’t align your finances. There will be many situations where you are pulled back financially if you, as a family, do not have a coherent financial plan.
But you can avoid that if you manage your finance as a couple. I will explain 3 couple finance models that I know work well
.What’s Mine is Yours, What’s Yours is Mine
Whatever you earn, you pool the money together. You spend the money as family expenses. You save and invest together as a family. If you plan to increase your net worth, you both are responsible for achieving the goal. Thus, there will not be situations such as the wife bought something, the husband thinks he deserves to buy something as well. It only works when you have a common interest and goal. You can decide how much each of you can receive from the family budget for personal spending. Everything else goes to savings and investing.
I have to say this is particularly a default system in Chinese families. Everything is shared. When you start dividing what is yours and what is mine, that hurts feelings. Families don’t divide things but share.
Contribution by Earning Power
On the contrary to the last system, I was a bit shocked when I first heard of this model. I know it is common in some cultures that people do calculate how much to contribute to a family pool based on their salary level. For example, if the husband earns $5000 per month, the wife earns $6000 per month. Their earning ratio is 5:6.
So the wife pays 20% more than the husband in rent, groceries, furniture, and all household spendings. Similarly, the wife contributes 20% more in savings and investment.
This way, whoever earns more, has more disposable cash and contributes proportionally to the family finance.
One Person Earning Model
It is quite common that one person in the household is earning, and the other person is caring for the home, children, and so on. So the work is distributed. For example, if the wife is a full-time executive working in a company, and the husband is a stay at home dad. He does not have income, but he is helping with the households and taking care of the children. What if he wants to buy something for himself? Where does the money come from?
It will be from the family pocket money.
The income of the partner will be split into different buckets. So you manage it as family money. Maybe 80% goes to family expenses such as rent, groceries, savings, investing, and so on, 20% goes to partner pocket money—10% for each person. So you can buy a surprise gift for your partner, you can buy some books you want to read, you can treat yourself once a while. This way, both partners are playing a role to support the family, and both have an aligned financial goal. You can decide for yourself how much pocket money is suitable. The more you save and invest as a family, the better your financial future will be together.
I am sure other systems work well for couples. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comment section.
Start the Conversation
Have you heard of the three pillars? (not the Swiss pension fund system but for marriage) – Love, Sex, and Money. If you have less than 2, your marriage is unstable. So money plays an important role in supporting a stable marriage.
It won’t surprise me that some couples do not have a couple financial plan. It is crucial to start an open conversation and plan your future together. Start by designing your dream life, then put the pieces together. What are the elements you need to have? How will you achieve those? It might be a house, a comfortable retirement, an annual family trip, and so on. Align your goals together and become a power couple towards your dream life.
Thanks a lot to Yasi for this guest article! If you want to learn more about her, she is blogging and podcasting at Fast Track. She is interviewing successful entrepreneurs and investors to learn from their success and blogging about personal finance! She even interviewed me! You should check it out!