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Partnering up brings new opportunities to build wealth that we wouldn’t have on our own. Moving in together or getting married may mean we share earnings, costs and money plans, but it can also bring its own financial challenges and risks. By planning finances together as a couple, we can make sure both our needs are met and avoid trouble later on. Like all aspects of a relationship, the key is getting on the same page and sharing the decision making. And the earlier we have that money talk the better!

 

Different attitudes to money

Couples may not ever stop to think about whether they have similar attitudes to money, but it’s important to understand what makes each person tick. What are the different needs each of us has?

It's normal to have different opinions about money – especially if we come from different financial backgrounds. It's how we manage these differences that’s important.

 

Some people are happy to live with credit cards or a maxed-out overdraft. Some might want to pay for everything, leaving the other person feeling in their debt.

There can be issues to resolve when one partner has a much higher income than the other, too.

Whatever the situation, sharing decisions about spending and saving, and discussing money openly, helps avoid arguments and tension. More importantly it can really boost mutual wealth over a lifetime by agreeing a common approach to money choices. To find out more about your own approach to money, and your partner’s, try our money personality tool

 

Take the quiz

 

Sharing expenses

If you’re moving in with a partner or are already living together, it's likely there will be shared bills and other joint expenses. You’ll need to agree on a system for paying these – will one of you take responsibility for paying them all, or will you divide them up?

As partners, there are different possible setups, from totally pooling everything you have to keeping things entirely separate and sharing expenses like flatmates.

Over time, couples often find themselves combining finances more and more.

This could involve setting up a joint account to cover bills and other expenses, or a savings account for things like holidays.

See our guide on going flatting for more information about sharing expenses.

Growing wealth together

A relationship brings opportunities to build wealth in all sorts of ways. Even just financially speaking, it costs less to live together and share expenses than living on your own. So by being life ‘partners’, you will have opportunities to save and invest that wouldn’t be available otherwise. 

Setting goals may take more effort in a relationship, but it’s essential so you both know what you’re working towards as you grow your net worth. You’ll also be more prepared for those changes that come along which impact your spending choices. It can be a big adjustment when the family grows and income drops if one partner stops working to look after the children.

Protecting what we own and owe

When you've just met someone new, splitting up is usually the last thing on your mind. But everyone is subject to the Property (Relationships) Act after three years – earlier if you have children or one of you has made a significant contribution to the relationship, including a financial contribution or giving up work for the other.

Living together as a couple doesn’t necessarily mean in the same house all the time, so this law may apply sooner than you think.

Generally speaking, all ‘relationship property’ such as wages, savings, cars and other assets is split 50/50, unless you make your own property agreement.

Find out more about property agreements on the How to Law website.

Separate property vs relationship property

Things that are ‘separate property’ rather than ‘relationship property’ can include things you owned before your relationship, or that have come to you from outside the relationship, such as a gift or inheritance.

However, separate property can in some cases become relationship property.

For example, if one partner owned a house and the other partner then moved in, that house could become relationship property. Or in the case of combining savings from before the relationship with savings made from income earned during the relationship, the total savings could be counted as relationship property.

Any financial decisions you make now, even small ones such as buying something together on HP or guaranteeing someone else’s loan, could have unexpected consequences in the event of a break up.

 

Someone who already has a large amount of savings, or access to a family trust or an inheritance, may want to consider a property agreement to manage the risk of a relationship split affecting those family assets.

Talk to a lawyer or get free advice from a Community Law Centre.

When a relationship ends

What happens after a split, financially speaking, depends on the state of bills, savings, property and debts. It’s a good idea to keep track of debts and bills during the relationship so there are no surprises if things come to an end.

This includes knowing about all HPs, car loans, overdrafts, credit card or other debts each partner has entered into – as individuals or as a couple. You could be chased for repayments if your name is on any of these agreements or you agreed to be a guarantor.

If an ex-partner doesn't pay debts that are in both names or that you have guaranteed, it could also affect your credit history and make it difficult to borrow money or buy a house in the future.

This net worth calculator can help with a stock-take of what each partner owns and owes.

 

Here are some ways you can protect your finances after a break-up:

  • Get professional financial and legal advice
  • Make sure your pay goes into your own bank account (not a joint one) and change password and PIN numbers your partner may know
  • You may need to freeze or close every store card, account, loan or debt you’ve set up jointly, including ones where your partner only had authorised user rights.
  • Be careful when closing accounts to check where automatic payments for HP, rent and other bills are coming from. You’ll be charged dishonour fees if these fail.
  • Write everything money-related down in case there are disagreements later.
  • Get any joint debts and agreements (such as a rental agreement) transferred to one name.
  • Agree distribution of assets, including the name on the title of registered assets such as cars and houses.
  • A few months after the break-up you should check your credit record. You can request a copy from each of the credit rating agencies - see Credit reports for details.

Where to go for help

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