Money + love: my thoughts on dividing/combining finances with a partner

Hey reader,

You’ve probably heard me mention my partner, Brian, a couple times at this point. We’ll have been together for almost 4 years by the time this comes out, and we currently live together here in Washington, DC. I’m going to actually bring Brian in for some upcoming videos, so you will get to meet him soon, but for today I just wanted to give an overview of how we manage our money as a couple in order to give you some background on what our financial relationship is & offer a little bit of advice I’ve learned over time when it comes to money & love.

The first point I want to highlight is that for us, money is about equity instead of equality. All my educators here  know what this means and are having flashbacks of that one cartoon where there are kids at a baseball game, but for the rest of you here for money advice: this just means we’re interested in tailoring our finances based on our different incomes instead of just splitting every single thing 50/50.

The only aspect that we apply this to right now is our rent, because it’s by far the biggest expense either of us have and the easiest to split up (since it’s only a monthly payment). Our incomes have kept up closely with one another, but this is due to the fact that I’ve taken on multiple stipend positions, whereas Brian has just held the same single job. We made the decision in the beginning of this year to actually factor in just our base salary when deciding how to split up the rent, because that’s what seemed the most fair and reasonable to both of us. So, because Brian’s base salary makes up 54% of our household income, he covers 54% of the rent, and I cover the other 46%.

This shakes out to Brian paying $972 of the $1800 rent, and me paying $828. These figures might actually be different by the time this comes out, since both our incomes and our rent are subject to change in the next few months, but you can get the most updated figure in my most recent budget with me post.

I recommend differentiating rent based on income when you’re living with a partner, especially if you make vastly different amounts of money. Otherwise, it puts an undue strain on the partner making less. I don’t like to bring these percentages into other things, like groceries or dining, just because that’s not very convenient and it brings so much scrutiny into our money. I’d rather keep it simple and not sweat the smaller costs.

Now, let’s chat about combining finances with a partner. I think that combining finances is a great idea for a lot of people: working on your money as a team, while challenging, can really help you reach your financial goals as a couple and keep each other accountable. Other than one shared account we have for Hattie’s needs, I don’t personally combine finances with Brian at this point in our relationship for a few reasons. 

One part of it is that, while we’re committed to each other and we live with each other, I still want to have a highly established relationship before making that big leap to combining finances. There’s also just really no reason for us to combine, because our expenses are easily split or shared in an equitable way, and we don’t own any assets together. If we were to decide to buy a house, for example, that might put me over the edge into wanting to combine because it’s such a big expense and asset, but right now it’s perfectly convenient to just keep things separate while our relationship matures. 

There’s also the fact that he and I are so different with our money. It might surprise you to hear that while I am hyper focussed on my plan and my goals, Brian didn’t even have a single savings account until over a year into our relationship, which is ridiculous to me. He’s come so far since then, and now he uses automation and has a vague idea of where he’s allocating his money month to month. His expenses (groceries, dining, etc) are basically the same as mine in many cases, because we split things down the middle, so he and I are both fairly positive he’s not going to, like, get into debt or anything, but he’s not dialed in on his money, and he doesn’t really want to be. I respect that and I’m not worried about him, but I have big ambitions beyond maintenance, financial independence being the big one, and Brian isn’t that concerned beyond doing the very basics with his money. 

Plus, he buys all these Magic: The Gathering cards, and I love him, but I just can’t get behind that yet.

That being said, I’m a huge believer that your partner’s strengths, with money as with everything else, can help your weaknesses. Brian is in a much better financial position as a result of dating me, he’s had such a healing effect on my money mindset. Because he didn’t grow up with the same money insecurity and shame and difficulty that I did, he has been a grounding voice of reason at times when I’ve been extremely emotional and sometimes irrational about my money. This doesn’t happen almost ever anymore as I’ve worked on my money mindset over the past few years, but earlier in our relationship, it was a way he showed up for me a lot. 

So, it’s not to say that I’m amazing with money and Brian’s trash, but instead to acknowledge that we bring very different strengths to the table.

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