There’s nothing more romantic than money talk.
In a perfect world, talking about finances before moving in with your partner would be as easy as creating a quick rent and grocery budget, and calling it a day. But in reality, there’s a (relatively) long checklist of important topics to discuss and agree on, before you officially sign a lease together.
Even if you’ve been dating for a while, and are hanging out in the same apartment seemingly 24/7, renting — and spending money as a couple — is an entirely different vibe. Because your finances will overlap in a brand new way, "it’s important to talk about any debt you have, your spending styles and if they match, and [all other major financial obligations]," Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet, tells Bustle.
The trouble is, it’s often really awkward to talk about money, since it means being honest about some pretty personal things. So make sure you go about it deliberately. "Set aside an hour to chat when each person is prepared for the conversation," Palmer says. That way, neither of you will be blind-sided by a heavy discussion about student loans or credit card debt. Scheduling ahead of time will also make it possible to come up with a few questions of your own, that you need to have answered before taking this next step.
To get you started, here’s a financial checklist to go over before moving in with your partner, that experts say will help ensure you’re on the same page.
It’s obvious that you’ll have to pay bills — internet, electricity, etc., so you can continue watching Netflix together — but you shouldn’t wait until you’re holding the actual bill in your hand to decide who pays for what.
"Some couples are fine with allocating certain bills to each partner, but others prefer to divide everything evenly," Matt Frankel, CFP, a personal finance expert with The Ascent, tells Bustle. "For example, you might say, ‘I’ll pay the electricity if you pay the water,’ or you might split each bill down the middle."
Come up with a game plan before moving in together, and it’ll be a far less annoying chore going forward.
You might think it has to be 50/50, but "some couples allocate rent unevenly based on how much each partner makes," Frankel says. "Others have an arrangement where one person pays the rent and the other pays for all of the other bills."
For example, you might go 70/30 on rent for a while if one of you is a student, and the other has a full-time job. Or if you already have a high paying career, you might agree to pay rent for six months, while your partner gets theirs off the ground.
Figure out what works best, and let that be the "rent rule" until your financial situations change, at which point you can talk about doing things differently.
It might be tough to rent an apartment if one of both of you has bad credit. But did you know your credit score can affect other aspects of life together, even if you’re able to sign a lease?
"Credit is an often-overlooked financial consideration," Frankel says. "You’ll eventually need to rely on credit — whether it’s to set up your utilities, get renter’s insurance, or finance something like furniture."
If you realize credit is going to be an issue, chat about ways to raise your scores before moving in together.
Even though you’ll be living together, and sharing pretty much everything, many experts agree it’s smart to maintain your own bank accounts — because you never really know what might happen in the future.
That said, it may not be a bad idea to contribute money to a brand new shared account. As Frankel says, "A joint bank account can help keep track of your housing expenses. It can also be easier than one person giving the other money every time bills are due."
Because yes, Venmo is great. But you also don’t need to be transferring the same forty dollars back and forth, until the end of time.
Life is pretty unpredictable right now, so might also want to discuss what would happen if you or your partner lost a job, or for some reason were unable to pay the bills.
"This isn’t an easy discussion, but it’s more comfortable to talk about it in advance," Frankel says. "That way you can make a backup plan before you move in."
Doing so can also help prevent vicious arguments that might arise, should you find yourselves in this stressful situation.
One way to feel more stable and secure is to add cash to an emergency fund — perhaps before you even move in together.
"Both partners might agree to contribute one month’s worth of living expenses to a bank account," Frankel says. "You can use that fund in the event that one (or both) of you are short on their monthly bills."
Of course, it isn’t always easy to set money aside, but you can still discuss how you’d like to make it a goal for the future, for the peace of mind.
Student loans, credit card debt… it isn’t fun to talk about these things, but it’s essential to have the discussion before moving in together, Brittney Castro, CFP, a financial expert with Mint, tells Bustle.
Debt can be a heavy burden, Castro says, and one that impacts how you spend, how you save, and even how anxious you feel on a day-to-day basis. Knowing more about what you both owe will create a deeper sense of understanding.
Some people tuck money away for a rainy day, while others go bananas the second they get their paycheck. And while there might not be a right or wrong here, knowing where your partner falls on this spectrum is key.
"Sometimes there can be tension when a planner/budgeter partners with someone who is more care-free about spending," Ben Birken, CFP, a finance advisor with Woodward Financial Advisors, tells Bustle. And vice versa.
You might not realize it now, before you’ve moved in together, but mismatched attitudes towards spending can certainly create resentment down the road.
Speaking of going (or not going) bananas, take the time to "conduct a realistic audit of your financial habits and spending patterns," Colleen McCreary, the Chief People Officer and financial advocate at Credit Karma, tells Bustle.
If you decide to reel yourselves in, and maybe start that emergency fund, see "if there are any recurring expenses you can cut down on in order to boost your savings or pay off any debts," she says.
Do you order take-out every night? Or spend a ton of money on TV subscriptions? "Ask yourselves if it’s worth the spend," McCreary says, and figure out what’s most important for your lives as a couple.
Without even realizing it, we all have a relationship with money that stems from our experience with it growing up. That includes what we think money is and how we think it works, Amanda Clayman, a financial therapist and Financial Wellness Advocate at Prudential, tells Bustle.
So go ahead and open up about your family’s history. "Digging into your past will help you better understand your present," Clayman says, "as you begin teaming up on financial responsibilities."
Sitting down to talk about money before moving in together is helpful, but it won’t cut it long-term. You’ll need to keep communicating about your finances even after you successfully rent a place, set up utilities, and pay your first couple of bills.
Agree right now that you’ll keep the convo going, perhaps by scheduling a time to talk every month. "These check-ins are opportunities to see as a couple how you are meeting your financial goals," Alejandra Matos, a licensed psychotherapist and coach, tells Bustle.
If something doesn’t feel right, or you’ve been disagreeing, this will be the perfect time to switch up the rules, so you can both feel more comfortable going forward.
Talking about money isn’t always fun or easy, but if you want to prevent problems from cropping up in the future, go down this checklist and talk about debts, budgets, and financial goals, before making a move.
Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert
Matt Frankel, CFP, personal finance expert
Brittney Castro, CFP, financial expert
Ben Birken, CFP, finance advisor
Colleen McCreary, chief people officer and financial advocate
Amanda Clayman, financial therapist
Alejandra Matos, licensed psychotherapist and coach
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