So just how will we be combining our incomes, anyway?

March 28, 2019 by David Riedel

Each family is different, and when I explain how my family’s finances work, it may sound like the greatest thing you’ve ever heard…or the dumbest. Only you know how you and your spouse (or significant other or life partner or best-friend-with-benefits or ex-spouse, whatever) should combine your incomes.

Also consider this: Maybe you shouldn’t combine incomes. If you’re living together or engaged or married with no children, maybe you’ll want to keep everything separate. There’s really no wrong way to approach this subject, except for not talking about it before your relationship gets serious.

Joint Accounts for Joint Expenses

So here’s what my wife and I do: We have a joint checking account into which we throw in about two-thirds of our respective incomes. That covers the costs of utilities, daycare, preschool, kids’ clothing, food, gas, insurance (we buy our own as we both freelance)…just about everything involved in being two parents raising two kids.

Separate Accounts that are Truly Separate

The rest of our respective incomes is ours to do with as we wish. I put mine into a rollover IRA I opened about a decade ago when I left a company that had a great matching program. (I’d recommend putting in the yearly maximum, but that’s just me.) The rest I spend on dumb things like old books and vinyl records. (See, my wife hates Frank Zappa, but I have literally all of his albums, and there’s no way I’d spend our joint income on something that brings her no joy.)

Plus, I always put away extra for tax season. I never know when my accountant is going to call and say, “Yeah, the jet ski isn’t a work expense. You need to pony up for that.”

And what does my wife spend her money on? You’d have to ask her, but a lot of it involves horses and saddles. She’s been riding since before she could walk; I’ve never been on a horse. You can see where our spending habits may diverge.

Communication is Key

That’s just a simple snapshot into the way we combine things, it’s pretty straightforward, and we’re always revising. We just had a big talk about 529 accounts and whether my wife should increase her contributions to her IRA. (Outcome: Undecided.) The point is we keep a constant dialogue open so there are as few surprises as possible. It works for us, and maybe it could work for you, too.

 

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