IF YOU’RE IN a relationship and decide to move in together, you may want to take things slowly—at least when it comes to your finances.
Rent a place you could afford on your own. That way, if the relationship doesn’t pan out, you won’t be saddled with a lease neither of you can afford.
Divide up financial responsibilities. Before moving in together, decide how you’ll split the bills and who will be responsible for paying them. The more you discuss ahead of time, the less room there will be for misunderstanding.
Don’t combine your finances unnecessarily. Initially, there’s no need to entwine your finances by, say, opening a joint checking account or buying a car together. There just isn’t much to be gained, except extra hassles if the relationship doesn’t work out.
Gauge your partner’s financial habits. Money is one of the biggest sources of tension in relationships, so it’s important to get a handle on your partner’s money habits. Is he or she careful about spending? Is your partner an aggressive investor? What’s his or her attitude toward carrying credit card debt?
If your partner isn’t careful about money, you will avoid financial headaches—and heated arguments—by keeping your finances separate. On the other hand, if it’s clear you are both financially prudent and you believe the relationship will last, you might start marrying your finances, even if you don’t envisage ever getting married. For instance, after a year or two, you might consider buying a home together and naming each other as beneficiaries of your retirement accounts and life insurance.
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