As a single person, what’s yours is yours — and that’s that. But when you join with another person and become a couple, sharing is an absolute necessity. Sharing your love, your time, and, oh yes, the bills, obligations and other aspects of your financial lives, as well.
So, in the interest of keeping your union on the right track, here are a couple of things couples should know about equitably managing their finances.
Togetherness is a good thing
If you are contemplating marriage, then it may be time to integrate your financial lives fairly and in ways that match your lifestyle together. Each of you should disclose assets, financial commitments (such as loans) and credit history. Decide if it’s best to maintain separate bank accounts, credit cards and investments or to merge some or all of these financial items to eliminate duplication and enhance financial benefits.
For example, you may enjoy a more robust portfolio if you pool your investments, but that may not be advisable if your intent is to keep all of your assets separate in the event of separation or divorce. Make your decisions with a clear understanding of tax and legal implications and if you are bringing significant assets into the marriage, speak to a family lawyer about the financial implications of getting married and how best to protect your assets.
Who will manage day-to-day finances — paying the bills and so on — and who will manage your overall financial affairs? If one or both of you brought personal assets into the union — a car or home, for example — should you keep them or sell them?
Together for life?
You expect your marriage or common-law partnership to last, but based on divorce and separation statistics, there’s a chance that it won’t.
You may want to be prepared by establishing a domestic contract that sets out certain rights and obligations for each spouse or partner, usually in relation to property or support issues that may arise upon the dissolution of the relationship and/or the death of one partner. A domestic contract is especially useful when one or both of the partners bring significant assets into the relationship or in blended family situations where one partner has support obligations to a former spouse/partner and his/her children.
Protect your togetherness from the unavoidable financial realties of life by developing a shared financial plan. Your professional adviser can help you build that plan and a strong financial future for all your years together.
J. Kevin Dobbelsteyn is a certified financial planner with Investors Group Financial Services Inc. His column appears every Wednesday.