Blending finances with new spouse / partner

Hello Calgary Girl!  Well, we discussed "everything"
before we got married.  Unfortunately, we are still
discussing it  :)


Yes, we still have days like that too! Sometimes, it's like I'm living with a 2 year old in a candy factory (I want that, and that, and that.....)

I have come late to this topic but like a prior poster have been with my SO for more than 20 years...however I can share some potential pitfalls with you since it has not always been easy.

First, if you are NOT ever going to marry find out what the laws are in your state about 'common-law spouses'.
This is because in some states you become spouses with the same rights as married spouses including to funds, community property, etc, after a certain period of time. We live in a state that does NOT have that as an issue.

I have been the principal earner almost all of this time.
My SO was burned out on college teaching (without getting tenure) and only taught for our first few years together. He has had other part-time jobs here and there as he tried to find what else he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

If either of you have children that puts another 'wrinkle' in the mix. We each do, so until they were adults we focused assets on them (insurance beneficiary, pension and 401K beneficiaries) and of course child support was right in there because I sometimes received it an dhe had to pay it. Now they are grown and working, we have changed some of those assets proportionately to each other.

For example, I have stated in my will that he is to get 'right of residence' (I can't remember the legal phrase) as long as he pays his proportionatae rent and my assets pay the rest. However, the house becomes the property of my daughter when he dies.

BTW, you can execute a 'living will' or something on the order of the Five Wishes to make your SO your health agent so what someone said earlier about that is not true in most states. However, as separate individuals
that person cannot be someone who would benefit by your death as far as inheritance goes. THis is another argument for keeping everything separate.

I have the house in my name only. And my SO has paid me 'rent' in proportion to his earnings. But I have been an Information Technology contractor most of my career and not put by as much as he did when teaching full time. (Hourly contractors rarely get health insurance, pensions or 401K plans, etc) His father has handed out annual amounts under the gift tax allowance that are HIS earnings even when he was working. This has softened the blow as I went from project to project.

But he went back to school for acting in commercials almost five years ago and I have been supporting us with the exception of that stipend.

We have a joint 'expense' account and each of us has separate checking accounts.

I was very glad we had separate 'money' four years ago when he was involved in a traffic accident and could have put my assets at risk if it had involved bodily injury.
As a result, neither of us puts the other on our car insurance as secondary drivers, either.

We both jointly decide about most big things (where we will take vacation, advice on one's car, repairs on the house, and furniture, where we live (He is originally from a COLD northern state and I grew up in the south - so we live in the middle!). I was both anxious that we both agree totally on things in the beginning and hard-headed sometimes because I was used to being independent and making my own way. Over time we have negotiated large and small issues (who does what chores, which movie to see, etc.).

If your SO has health problems that could worsen as you both age, keeping your assets separate will lessen the likelihood that they will have to be tapped before either of you qualify for government health subsidies or nursing home care. I know that seems a long way off!
The one thing I tell couples I know to buy regardless if they are married or not is long-term care insurance. Separate policies!

I guess the biggest 'problem' over the years has been who does what chores based on whether they are working or not. That is a good one to negotiate even if it does not involve money directly. Eating out is a money issue!

My SO grew up in a household where the 'wife' made dinner every night regardless of whether it was 8PM or not! But when we both work fulltime, we split the chores up; when either of us is not working, the non-working person takes on more at home stuff. I think one's willingness to get this part of life straight will tell you how much to share of your assets, too. Because one of those chores can become who does the bills, etc.
Make sure you have some of those issues settled, too!

Also take into consideration if each of you is a saver versus a spender. Does he only have the investments he has because he was paid poorly or because he spent lavishly? If you are the breadwinner and he is not working and you spend more lavishly he might resent this.

One of the big disadvantages of not being married as you grow older is that neither of you will have the rights to the Social Security benefits earned by your spouse.
Plan accordingly.

I am glad you want to get a lot of opinions because this gives you a lot to talk about with YOUR SO!
Hi Caroline,

First, congrats for finding a good guy you want to spend your life with. Not always easy to find someone these days!

Lots of interesting replies so far... I'll add my 2 cents since my husband and I are in the minority and do not have joint accounts.

Separate accounts work just fine for us. We both like our independence and it didn't seem necessary to change this after we were married. The way we pay bills has evolved and isn't set in stone- he generally pays most monthly bills, and I buy groceries, pay for my gas/ car maintenance, and use my extra savings for IRA and investments. It's a fair trade-off since he earns quite a bit more in part because I've followed him around for his career, and I don't have a 401K.

If your SO has health problems, this is something to discuss. If you are married or a common-law spouse, you will most likely be financially responsible should he need serious medical care. He needs good insurance.

If you can get the health insurance issue squared away, it sounds like you will be fine.

good luck!
This is another angle on the yours/mine/ours

Financial issues primarily killed my first marriage.
There were other problems but that was foremost.
Now, my spouse has her money/responsibilities and I have mine. Totally different than my prior marriage where it was all dumped together and spent pretty casually
(by both of us). Anyway, I had to have something like
our present set-up in my second time "at bat". This
was a no-brainer. I say whatever works for others is
okay with me. For me, where we are is not only
acceptable, but probably essential to our relationship.

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