And while the Beatles were right when they said, “money can’t buy me love,” the harsh reality is that if not planned for properly, money can often ruin relationships.
Long term relationships extend far beyond flowers and romance. A relationship will only survive when both partners are able to discuss their finances and have an honest and open relationship about money. It’s the lack of communication that sinks the ‘perfect’ relationship, not a lack of money.
Money can carry a lot of meaning for most people and it tends to be a difficult subject. Not having enough creates worries and for some people, having too much is often worse. The one most common mistake made by couples is assuming that they have the same financial priorities as their partner.
Michelle DuBois, Legal Marketing Specialist at Liberty Retail shares a few tips on how to prevent money getting in the way of your relationship:
Appetite for debt
- What do you and your partner regard as an acceptable level of debt? One partner may be happy to make the minimum repayment on debt, while the other may believe in living debt free. This can cause significant friction in a relationship especially if one partner continuously spends on their credit card.
- You also need to understand what debts your partner may already have especially if you marry in community of property where both partners are liable for any debt incurred. Also find out if either of you signed surety which may have been forgotten about, but which could one day wreak havoc with your personal finances.
Budgeting as a couple
- It is important that you create a joint household budget as well as your own personal budget. For the household budget you need to discuss which expenses each person is responsible for and how you divide your joint expenses.
- For example do you share costs pro rata to income or do you each contribute a set amount towards joint expenses? This discussion is very important especially if one partner earns significantly more than the other.
- Make sure that your budget includes your joint and individual savings. Both of you should be using your tax deductible allowance for contributions to a retirement annuity, as the taxman allows this deduction per person.
Joint bank account
- Legally there is no such thing as a joint bank account. In practice this is usually an account in the name of one partner and the other partner has signing power and is authorised to use the account as their own. If, however, the principle account holder should die, the account would be frozen.
- It is imperative that each partner has their own bank account to ensure their own financial independence and build up a credit record.
Life after death
- No one likes to discuss what would happen in the event of death, but unfortunately it is a reality and it is better to be prepared for these matters than to simply ignore the possibility.
- Ideally couples should discuss their succession planning together so that they have peace of mind knowing what the financial position would be if something happened to their partner. Each partner should create a “book of life”. This is a file of everything their loved ones would need in the case of an emergency. This information will make tying up loose ends so much easier for those left behind.
The book of life should contain the following information:
- ID number
- Copy of medical aid details
- Passport details
- Tax details
- Financial adviser contact details
- Policy documents
- Bank details and anything else that could be relevant