A Jewish Matchmaker’s Guide to Money Talk
As a Jewish matchmaker I am often asked for advice from singles on the issue of how to handle monetary issues within a relationship, particularly if you are living together with the intent to marry. Divorcees often cite monetary issues as a primary cause of their divorce, and singles are unsure of how to keep a balance between independence and couple-dom. There is no “one way” to do things, but there are a number of tips that can help facilitate the discussion while maintaining peace and harmony.
The first step is to sit down for a discussion. If you are still feeling shy about revealing your financial data to your partner, then you are definitely not ready for marriage. If you are at the early stages of living together, it may too early for full disclosure, but if you’ve lived together for a considerable period of time, or if you are discussing marriage, your finances should be an open book.
Take into account if one of you is thrifty or a spendthrift; both of these personality traits could cause arguments down the road. Be honest about your spending habits and allow your partner to be honest, without judgment. The thrifty one may feel more comfortable handling the responsibility of paying the bills, but a spendthrift will soon feel stifled if he/she doesn’t have a little “play money”. This dynamic can be resolved through flexibility and understanding.
Decide how to pay off the bills that each of you has already accrued, will you pay them off together, or will each of you continue to be responsible or your respective debts? In addition, discuss any large upcoming purchases that you want to make. Are you planning to buy a house? A new car? What about saving for a child? Future debt is as important to discuss as past debt.
So how do you settle on the handling of your finances? There is no one solution that fits every couple, so discuss your individual attitudes about money and proceed from there. Some couples keep personal accounts and open a joint account for household purchases and expenses. Some couples combine all their income into one joint account. In this case, it is a good idea for each of you to take a weekly allowance” to spend on yourself. Some couples never open a joint account, they just decide what percentage of each income will go toward bills and they each contribute their share. Couples relying on one income will also want to discuss how decisions will be made for expenditures.
The issue of money can be a sensitive one, they key is to be open about how each of you relates to money and how best to blend those differing perspectives into a peaceable, workable solution.