Coordinating any financial activity can be a challenge. It becomes even more arduous when it’s dealing with shared financial accounts as a couple. How can partners ease the strain on their relationship that having joint finances brings? Here are a few tips from some experts in the field:  


Draw up a budget together
Sharing a household also means dealing with joint expenses. Drawing up a budget for yourself can be a trial and if you’re new to the relationship it’s an even bigger obstacle to overcome. But just using a pen and paper to write down all your expenses is a start.


Young couples can even take a course to help them manage their joint income as they begin their life together. Educate24’s ‘Basics of Budgeting’ is an affordable online course perfectly suited to couples who need to merge their finances. It can be done on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone and the readings are dedicated to improving shared budgeting and communicating over finances. It’s an easy and helpful way to begin budgeting as a couple and can be done at home while sitting on the couch together. Budget for six weeks of your time if the daily readings are done at the suggested pace.


Whatever you do, don’t join accounts
It might seem romantic, but sharing debt isn’t wise. As a couple, having separate accounts will improve your chances of being financially stable.

Authorised financial adviser Ian Cloete says: “You need to gauge individually what financial situation suits your relationship the best, and one that incurs the least amount of debt. After all, lending from friends, family and partners doesn’t come with inflation and interest rate hikes.”


Consider the type of contracts you use to finance dreams
A couple – especially a newlywed pair – might get whipped up into a competitive whirlwind (keeping up with the bloody Joneses!) and feel the need to purchase new items for their home as a fresh start to the relationship. But this type of thinking will put you in major debt, and as newlyweds you probably won’t have disposable capital to splash around.

Rob Katzen of the Teljoy group and rent-to-own specialist says there is an alternative to getting trapped in debt: “Rent-to-own is an all-inclusive and completely flexible plan to get your home appliances and electronics that covers more than just extending your financial reach. Included in the monthly fees are risk cover, a maintenance plan, delivery and set up, as well as the option to cancel at any time with a month’s written notice.”

Couples shouldn’t keep secrets
Financial secrets can create rifts. Registered financial advisor Marc Joubert says: “Keeping funds secret and hidden is not only dishonest, but stumps your potential to take advantage of investment growth. The more streams of income going into a set investment fund will ensure larger returns on these policies. These results can’t be replicated if only one partner is contributing, or keeping the account a secret.”

Joint chequeing/savings current accounts are a bad idea, but combined investment funds can and will yield better returns.  


Talk about money issues, clearly and calmly
Financial issues are quick to push blood pressures, especially between couples. Professional life coach and motivational speaker Godfrey Madanhire has given tips to deal with situations that can easily escalated into conflict.
“Before you engage with the topic, make sure to draft what you’d like to address,” says Madanhire, “Setting out exactly what touch points you’d like to talk about will help you from straying off subject.”
Madanhire also states that when you’re dealing with difficult subject matter it is best to steer clear of addressing and placing blame on the other individual. Leave personal attacks out, and make sure that for every issue you bring up, you suggest an alternative and actionable solution.


Make sure your financial goals are the same

If you’re not keeping secrets from each other, and talking to each other like human beings, now is the time to ensure that you’re both moving your finances towards the same goal. A misunderstanding could mean missing the mark and losing a wad of cash.
Joubert says, “As a couple, living under the same roof, you should both be focused on the same goals – but assuming what these are isn’t good enough. You should sit down at least once a month and set a goal on the money front. Whether this is to address who is paying a certain bill, who is making the larger payment into the investment, you need to have this discussion to avoid crossing wires and misspending.


When in real trouble, don’t be shy
Debt counselling may seem like an extreme measure, but in some instances (and nearly all cases) it is great solution. The National Credit Regulators (NCR) offer their services for counselling if you’ve overstepped your capacity to repay your debt, which for a large amount of South Africans it the case. Remember to print out your bank statements, credit agreements, bond contract, all documents/contracts that deduct from your account and listen. NCR does issue one free report for every indebted South African. So if you’re close to the edge, credit wise, call up NCR and they’ll help you on your way.

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