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Is there a right way for couples to combine their income?

26 May 2020

You know what they say, couples who finance together.... Have joint accounts? Not always! Here’s three different ways couples manage their money.

Falling for someone doesn’t always come with chats about money over a Lady And The Tramp-style shared plate of spaghetti. But in every relationship, finances do eventually become a big part of your love story.

We’ve all got some form of bills to pay, holidays to save for, pets to feed and dates to fund, and someone’s name has to be on the mortgage. So, who pays for what, and how do you navigate the numbers?

Every couple is different and each person within a relationship has a different approach to money. We all come with a long history of unique financial habits, ingrained values or attitudes from our families and childhood, and even debt. You have to work out what works for you and your relationship.

We sat down with three couples to explore the different ways partners share their expenses and reach their savings goals. Where do you fit in?

1. I got you babe

In some relationships, one partner handles the bulk of the money stuff. For some, that might mean one person foots the bill for all shared living because they earn more or because it means a lot to them to be able to support their family unit. For others, having one person in charge is more about cash flow and admin.

For William and Lou, leaving the day-to-day stuff in Lou’s hands just makes more sense. She is a full-time schoolteacher, with a dependable salary and a relatively stable timetable to tick things off in.

“William is a filmmaker and gets paid in erratic waves throughout the year,” she said. “We still technically contribute similar amounts to our lives but everything comes through me and most of our bills and our mortgage are in my name.”

William pays Lou back when work comes in, and contributes significantly to their savings account when a large film project arrives. “It works for us, and as long as we regularly talk about when money is coming in, we’re happy.”

What works for William and Lou:

  • Combined savings and goals
  • Separate day to day spending
  • Home loan attached to one partner
  • Finances organised by most financially savvy partner

2. Our powers combined

Pooling your income may open doors to easier admin and more opportunities, especially when it comes to stuff like buying a house, which is why Terry and Ruby tackle their accounts this way.

“We didn’t do it just for the gesture of being more ‘together.’ It actually makes a lot of sense for us - we’ve both got access to cash whenever we need it and there are no surprises. We never forget to pay bills anymore or lose track of where our money is going.”

Plus, saving for a big holiday is easier. “Because we were putting all our money into one account,” said Terry, “it was so much easier to reach our savings goal and set aside our spending money when we went on our big Japan adventure last year.”

What works for Terry and Ruby:

  • Combined household spending
  • Combined savings and goals
  • Combined budget

3. The three-legged race

Just because you sleep in one bed doesn’t mean you have to be restricted to one bank account. There are many couples who don’t combine all of their incomes, like Andy and Kris.

“We have a shared account which all our bills, mortgage payments and emergency fund comes out of,” said Kris. “Every month, we contribute to it straight from our salaries, and the amount is based on our previous years’ spending and how much we each earn. I earn more so I put in a little bit extra.”

For everything else, they keep it separate. “I like the freedom of having my own accounts,” says Andy. “From our joint account, we pay for essentials and groceries every month, but I’ve got the flexibility to splurge on myself when I really want to. We talk about our big goals all the time, and how much savings we have to contribute to them, but having independent savings is really important to me.”

What works for Andy and Kris:

  • Combined household spending
  • Separate savings and day to day spending
  • Combined savings goals

Want to get on the same page?

Organise your accounts today with a little help from the ANZ Financial Wellbeing Program. Find out about the 50/30/20 rule, and how to separate your needs from your wants - together.

Start organising

The information set out above is general in nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs.  Before acting on the information, you should consider whether the information is appropriate for you having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. By providing this information ANZ does not intend to provide any financial advice or other advice or recommendations.  You should seek independent financial, legal, tax and other relevant advice having regard to your particular circumstances.