Managing money in relationships

06 April 2023 / Published in Your Money

Different people have different money styles, and while that can bring harmony for some couples, it can create challenges for others.

Recent ASB research* found that ahead of work, children and health, money is the leading cause of relationship stress and nearly a quarter of people in committed relationships keep money secrets from their partner.

Decisions made while in a relationship can also have unexpected consequences in the event of a break-up. For example, guaranteeing someone else's loan or buying together on hire purchase could make you responsible for the other person's debt. 

But the good news is that being in a relationship can bring opportunities to reduce costs and build wealth which we wouldn't have on our own. For example, you can invest together, share living costs to help reduce spending and work towards financial goals in partnership. In fact, ASB research shows that on average, couples have better financial wellbeing**.

So how can we make the most of the opportunities that being in a relationship brings? Here are some things to consider, that might help you and your significant other agree on your best approach to managing money.

Put your cards on the table

Be upfront about your own financial situation. Having a clear understanding of the total financial picture is important as it will help you develop a game plan and avoid surprises further down the line. This can include all assets (bank accounts, investments, property) and debts (student loans, credit card balances) and who they belong to.

Create shared priorities

Couples who set goals together and talk openly and regularly about money are more likely to be on the same page and working as a team to achieve their financial goals. Money can be an emotive subject, but it is a good idea to get into the habit of talking about it regularly. 

Decide if pooling your income is right for you

If you are considering pooling your incomes and wealth, now could be a good time for a financial wellbeing conversation with your bank or financial advisor. They can talk through the options that might work best for you as a couple, to help achieve your joint and individual goals.

Create a joint spending and saving plan

Once you've landed on some shared money goals, your budget may need to change. It can be a good idea to make a new budget together, so you have an agreed spending and saving plan. Then you can track your progress as a couple, celebrating your successes together along the way.

Decide how to split the bills

Whether you're sharing costs for date night or share a home together, there will be joint expenses and bill payments to divvy up. Discuss who's going to be responsible for what. Some couples like costs to come out of a joint expenses pool, some like to split bills according to their different income levels.

Play to your money strengths, but stay involved

In a couple there's typically a saver and a spender, and this can lead you and your partner to assume different roles. One may be better at managing the household finances, but you will both need to be responsible for your end of the overall financial plan. Come to an arrangement based on your individual strengths, with both staying involved and making important money decisions together.

Review your insurances

As things change, so can your insurance needs. If you are moving in together, making joint purchases, starting a family, or don't yet have any insurance, now might be a good time to review what the best cover is for you as a couple.

If you're considering investing together

As a couple there will be a variety of ways you can grow your money together. Whether it's buying a property or other investment options, it can be a great idea to get expert guidance. Consider speaking to your bank or relevant expert to get the advice that is best suited to your lifestyle, budget and goals. 

Contributing to your KiwiSaver account

If one person assumes responsibility as main caregiver (for kids or others who need support), this may reduce the other persons income and could result in a pause to their KiwiSaver contributions. 

It can be a good idea to speak with a KiwiSaver expert to get personalised advice, including what fund could be best to help you reach your savings goals and to find out if you're eligible to boost your savings with the annual Government contribution. 

Keep talking

Above all, when it comes to money and relationships, you need to talk, talk, talk.

More help and resources from ASB

*1000 Kiwis in committed relationships aged 18 years and over from across New Zealand took part in the ASB/IPSOS survey. 50% percent of respondents identified as male and 50% percent as female.

**ASB's financial wellbeing research was developed in collaboration with the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research. All data is anonymised and aggregated to protect the privacy of customers. Research conducted in 2019 surveyed 3,471 customers whose main banking relationship is with ASB (where main-bank is internally defined). 

Interests in the ASB KiwiSaver Scheme (Scheme) are issued by ASB Group Investments Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of ASB Bank Limited (ASB). ASB provides Scheme administration and distribution services. No person guarantees interests in the Scheme. Interests in the Scheme are not deposits or other liabilities of ASB. They are subject to investment risk, including possible loss of income and principal invested. Fees may change. For more information see the ASB KiwiSaver Scheme Product Disclosure Statement available from this website and the register of offers of financial products at www.disclose-register.companiesoffice.govt.nz (search for ASB KiwiSaver Scheme).


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