1. Agree on goals and begin with the end in mind
What do you want to achieve together? Do you want to see how you feel in six months and then have The Money Talk or are you ready for the big questions?
Are you thinking one year ahead, two years… or the rest of your lives?
If your timeframe is one year, perhaps the goal is to work out a good budget for a rental property and find a place. For those with a longer term view, the two main aims may be saving for a home loan and having children.
2. It all adds up—have a plan
Everyday expenses and bills can chew through hundreds of dollars each week, and set off arguments.
For some, a spreadsheet can be the best way to have an overall view of expenses and how they’re shared—check out our budget planner. You may find it helpful to have monthly money dates where you discuss income and expenses.
3. Bank accounts: singles, doubles or both?
Some couples manage the issue of bank accounts by having a joint account that each person deposits an agreed amount into, plus their own account for personal costs. It’s important to discuss the types of accounts you’ll have.
If your partner is not keen on having a joint bank account, create an opportunity to explore the reasons behind your partner’s thinking.
4. A roof over your head—rent or buy?
Some prospective couples agree to rent first and buy later—you'll find our insights in our rent versus buy article.
If you’re planning to rent, you’ll need to discuss whether to sign a joint lease or one person signs the lease and the other pays rent to the sole signatory. Remember though, if the relationship ends and you have no rental history you may find it harder to rent a place on your own. Check out the pros and cons of putting your name on the lease1.
5. Get it in writing
If you’re moving in together, think about setting out a no-nup (no nuptials) so everyone’s clear about who owns what when you start sharing. Also, factor in existing debts that either of you have.
If things go well down the track you may want to convert the no-nup into a pre-nup. But if things go pear-shaped you’ll both know where the other stands.
6. Protect your assets
Even if you’re not thinking about marriage just yet you need to consider that—under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)—de facto couples may have a claim on property after two years of living together, with some exceptions2. Michael Hallinan, special counsel for Townsends Business & Corporate Lawyers, says family trusts can help quarantine assets that were owned before living together. But take care. It’s best if the trust is controlled by a group of trustees and can show autonomy from a beneficiary so it doesn't form part of a spouse’s assets.
So, where to now?
Managing money as a couple can be complex and some people find it helpful to speak with a financial adviser. Advisers are trained and qualified to look at the whole financial picture. In fact, some couples find having an adviser as a third party outside the relationship helps them discuss financial matters they hadn’t even thought about. So speak with an adviser today—and enjoy your future together.
1 Tenants NSW Factsheet 15: Share housing.
2 Family Relationships Factsheet: Property division when de facto relationships break down.