Before you combine finances
Having an open and frank conversation about how you would like to operate joint finances is a great jumping-off point. Questions to cover include:
- How did your parents manage their family finances? What did they do well?
- Will you have a joint account?
- Where will each person’s wage be deposited?
- What are your financial priorities?
- What are your partner’s financial priorities?
- What are your joint and agreed financial priorities?
- What are your individual career aspirations? What is the plan to achieve this?
- Whose responsibility is it to ensure outgoings and bills are paid?
- How will you coordinate the payment of invoices?
- Will you allow personal accounts for each person? How much could be deposited into that each month? Where will those funds come from?
- Will utilities, loans and agreements be in both names? Or one person’s name? For items that can’t be in two names, will you give full authority to your partner? (NB: the people named on any accounts hold the liabilities and responsibilities for those funds, including the debt and interest charged)
- Will you set a limit on spending and when it is exceeded that the other partner needs to be consulted? If so, what is your limit?
- Will you give an allowance or ‘pocket money’ to each other for weekly expenses? If so, how much? What types of things should these funds go towards?
- What types of charges do you think should be automatically put on the credit card?
- Will you use the assistance of a money-tracking app (or a budget app) to help you stay on target?
Planning a life together is an ideal time to address any existing loans or liabilities. Common debts include (but are not limited to) personal loans, HECS/student debts, car loans and unpaid credit cards. After declaring your financial baggage, you could create a plan to pay off the debt or change the status quo. Should you pay off the smallest debt first, the debt accruing the highest interest or consolidate the debt?
It is equally important to discuss how you may share your current assets. Your assets may include:
- Cash or cryptocurrency
Westpac has a Proof of Balance statement which could make it easy to share the balances in each of your accounts. This is available to download from Westpac Live Online Banking or is available from your local Westpac branch. You could choose to share the Proof of Balance statement or your account statement when creating your asset snapshot.
Knowing how you currently spend your money and how you plan to spend your joint income is an important step to ensuring that you are on the same financial page.
Beyond working on your monthly/quarterly expenses, ensuring that you both have the same future financial aspirations is important. Questions you might like to discuss could include:
- What are your financial goals for the next 5 years?
- What are your partner’s financial goals for the next 5 years?
- What are your combined priority goals for the next 5 years?
- How will you achieve these goals?
- How much will each goal cost?
- What time do you need to save that amount in?
- What amount are you going to put aside to save on a weekly/monthly basis to achieve this? (amount needed divided by the time in weeks/months equals your saving amount)
- Is this achievable?
Talk about emergency and discretionary funds
Depending on your joint budget, discuss and agree upon how much money will be put aside into a separate fund for emergencies, medical expenses, unforeseen expenses or future study.
Why financial agreements are a good idea
Financial agreements, previously referred to as pre-nuptial agreements, are becoming widely accepted in marriage.
A financial agreement will outline the distribution of assets, liabilities and how (and whether) any maintenance is required. The agreement will need to be lodged at Court and must be done with the advice of independent lawyers.
Financial agreements are common when one person in the relationship has more assets than the other, or when both people come into the relationship with assets which they choose to retain as their own throughout the union. An agreement could be written up either before the commencement of the relationship, during the relationship, or both.
Financial agreements should ideally be regularly reviewed and updated as circumstances change, such as life events, children and assets. You should consider seeking appropriate legal and accounting advice about whether a financial agreement is right for you and your circumstances.