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Moving in with your partner? Ask these money questions first

Before moving in together, make sure to ask hard money questions to your partner. (Getty Images)
Before moving in together, make sure to ask hard money questions to your partner. (Getty Images)

Moving in with a partner can be an exciting new change, but there are some steps to take beforehand to ensure a smooth process. And one of the big, challenging points to consider? Money.

People say that money often contributes to stress or even turmoil in romantic relationships. So experts recommend getting all your financial business out in the open before signing a lease with your significant other.

Anna Sale wrote in her Modern Love column for the New York Times that couples should approach conversations about money with the same care as talks about intimacy.

“We also don’t have a lot of practice talking openly about [money] in our social lives,” Sale says. “In our romantic lives, it makes sense that all of a sudden when you get to a certain level of seriousness with a new partner, it can feel like this really intense collision where you’re trying to figure out where the other one is coming from.”

5 money questions to ask a partner before moving in together, from columnist Anna Sale

What do you want our life together to look like?

“Rather than start with, ‘How much do you think we can afford in rent or a mortgage payment if we’re moving in together,’ start with ‘How many trips do you want to try to take together?’

“Are they trips to state parks down the road or do we want to go overseas? And what’s important to you?

“That can really start to loosen things up a little bit, because then you’re talking about fun things and not just things like bank accounts and perhaps debt.”

What would you do if you won the lottery?

“That’s a way to really sort of open up to your big dreams around money because we might think that it all looks the same, but maybe you want to buy a home for your mother. Maybe you want to support higher education for all of your nieces and nephews.

“That can look a lot of different ways.”

How much of our money and finances should we share?

“If you’re sharing a household with a partner, it doesn’t mean you have to share all your money, but it does mean you’ve got to talk about what are the rules you want to have between the two of you.

“Do you want to share only household expenses? And if you share household expenses, what’s the fair ratio of how much each of you contributes?

“All those sorts of things can be on the table or you can share everything. Because it’s just easier, but of course, that means you want to make sure you’re really clear on what that is going to mean to share everything and make sure you’ve got a foundation of trust. Or you can keep everything separate and just keep a running tally on the fridge.”

Do we plan to get married or have children?

“I thought this was really good advice from a lawyer I interviewed and also Dr. Stephanie Zepeda, the financial therapist. They brought up the idea of maybe talking to a lawyer, especially if you’re getting into territory where one or both of you are buying real estate together.

“Maybe one of you owns the house and another of you is moving in and contributing to the mortgage payment. Or if you’re looking at a house together, if you don’t plan to have the sort of legal infrastructure of marriage necessarily entering your relationship, you want to make sure you’re clear on what that means legally.

“Having a cohabitation agreement, or you can call it a prenup, means bringing in an expert who can help you both understand the obligations you are establishing to one another or the lack of obligations.

“The same goes for term life insurance. Many people don’t think about end of life or wills perhaps until they have kids. But if you’re buying a house together, you might wanna look into life insurance and making sure one of you is protected if the other dies unexpectedly.

“When you’re in a romantic relationship, especially a long-term relationship, you’re financially entangled and you want to make sure you’re sort of laying the groundwork to protect one another and also understanding what you’ll owe one another.”

Is there anything else I should know about your financial situation?

“We may not even try to lie or evade, but it can be easy if you’re talking about something a little bit embarrassing not to mention that you’ve got maybe an account that you inherited from a grandparent that you feel weird disclosing.

“There certainly can be things that you decide in a relationship that you want to keep private and separate from one another, but you want to establish that’s one of the principles of the relationship, not have it be something discovered years on that there’s this secret pot of money or this secret pile of debt.”


Karyn Miller-Medzon produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Grace Griffin adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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