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4 Options for Sharing Finances with Your SO

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I was only 19 years old when my now-husband and I started living together. What started out as a platonic friendship turned into an ideal roommate situation and, later, a relationship. I remember the weird feeling when the relationship took the turn from “just friends” to “okay, maybe more than friends,” and with it came another realization: how we handled money together was changing.

We had always agreed to share finances 50/50 until then, but as we moved through college, we found that sometimes sharing finances equally didn’t always make sense. One quarter, his student loan refund didn’t come through. Suddenly I was footing the bill on a lot of our utilities and living expenses, and we found ourselves confronting a new question: should we share our money?

In our parents’ days, it seemed much more common for couples to pool all their finances, especially in times when only one spouse worked. But these days, the rules have changed. In times when both members of the couple need to work to keep up with rising costs of living, and when couples have endless resources to manage their finances independently, sometimes the status quo isn’t the best option.

Here are some common ways that couples typically go about sharing finances, but keep in mind that your solution doesn’t necessarily need to fit perfectly into one of these categories:

1) Keep Things Totally Separate

This is the way that many people – myself included – begin a financial relationship with a partner. In this situation, each person would hold their own accounts, and the couple would decide who pays for which bills. This has the advantage of allowing each member of the couple to budget for themselves without affecting the other, but the tricky part can be paying for joint expenses. For instance, if you adopted a dog together, who pays for the vet bill if Rufus has an emergency? However, with careful planning and communication, this can be an effective method for those who like to keep some independence. In this situation, you should decide with your partner if the portion of expenses each person pays will be equal to the other. That means, just because you’re paying the $1,100/month rent, it might be okay for his contribution to not total up to $1,100. Maybe $900 is okay. It’s all up to you.

2) Sharing Finances Somewhat – But Not All

Some couples choose the middle ground. By holding a joint checking or savings account, while still maintaining separate personal accounts, you can pool income for certain things – maybe rent or long-term savings – and use your personal accounts for other expenses. I know some people who have chosen this option for expenses that happen as a couple, like going out to eat or going to the movies, while the remainder of bills stays separate. By creating pools of “yours,” “mine,” and “ours,” this method can help some couples to better control their finances and you won’t have to get crafty when you want to buy a birthday gift for your SO.

3) Pool Everything

The more “old-school” route, this method can be better for those who have incomes that differ greatly from each other. By combining all income into a single account that is used for all expenses, the lines of “you contributed this and I contributed this” can be blurred. The pros are ease of payment and equal control of finances. The cons are that this can become tricky if one partner wants to splurge and the other doesn’t. A pro-tip for a healthy relationship on this method is to agree on a “fun budget” or a personal budget for each person ahead of time, so that there isn’t an explosion when one member of the couple decides that buying an Xbox One was the best use of funds this month.

4) The “Allowance” Route

Sometimes it works out that one member of a relationship can’t contribute—maybe it’s a lost job or the birth of a child. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to start packing your bags or feel lesser in any sense, but rather just that it requires a bit of careful planning. In this situation, you should, of course, be sure to communicate with your partner to be sure everyone is cool with the arrangement. This style won’t work well if one person feels like a freeloader, or if the other person is resentful about the lack of contribution from their partner. It’s also important to make sure that the money given to the spouse isn’t seen as a favor; instead it is simply the way you’ve decided to share finances. One tip in this arrangement is to be sure you know exactly what your expenditures are and decide the allowance amount accordingly. You don’t want to build resentment in the relationship by causing the other person to continually ask for more money.

For my husband and me, keeping our finances mostly separate and paying equally-proportionate expenses has worked well. But thanks to mobile banking apps we are able to use technology to help keep the money playing field level. Sometimes there are months when he contributes more, or I take care of a majority of expenses, and that’s okay! In the end, as long as both partners are happy and all your bills are getting paid, all solutions are good solutions.

When it comes to sharing finances with your significant other, what are ways that work best for you? Leave us a comment below!


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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

5 Hidden Risks in Retirement That Could Affect Your Financial Security

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Being well-prepared for retirement is wonderful, but there is no fail-safe plan. Things can unravel due to many inherent post-retirement risks. Understanding those risks that lie ahead and how they can harm financial security is key to making critical adjustments in a retirement plan. Sometimes without those changes, the impact of unfavorable and unpredictable events can be far more severe.

“Once you have a retirement plan in place, it’s not set in stone,” says Clayton Alexander (www.retireteton.com), an investment adviser and founder of Teton Wealth Group. “Things change. You may add or lose family members, your retirement goals may change, the economic environment may create new considerations, and financial innovations may present new strategies. Once per year is a minimum in terms of making sure your retirement plans (and beneficiaries) are constantly up-to-date.”

Alexander says retirees and those making retirement plans should be aware of these five risks:  

  • Longevity. Running out of money before they die is one of the primary concerns of most retirees. This worry is heightened by the fact that the average life expectancy has increased. “A pension or an annuity can lessen the risk, but carefully investigate any company where you’d place an annuity and be cautious of fees and interest rates,” Alexander says. “It’s best to tailor your plan to run to life expectancy plus five years.”
  • Loss of income. “Make sure both you and your spouse are protected from the unexpected,” Alexander says. “Consider the financial impact of the loss of one spouse. Remember that your surviving spouse will only get the highest of your two Social Security checks. A spouse’s death can bring additional financial burdens, including lingering medical bills and debts. Life insurance and estate planning are important vehicles to protect survivors.”
  • Health care costs. Longer life expectancy could lead to high costs in a long-term care facility. “It’s estimated that approximately 50% of people over 65 will need long-term care,” Alexander says. “Do not overspend on policies that may be subject to drastic premium increases. And surprising to some, Medicare is not free — your premiums for coverage are usually deducted from your Social Security check. Medicare doesn’t cover dental, hearing or vision, is subject to deductibles, and doesn’t cover long-term care. Long-term care insurance is advisable.”
  • Negative return risk. “A 50% gain does not allow a portfolio to recover from a 50% loss,” Alexander says. “In fact, a 100% gain is required to restore a 50% loss. The ‘buy and hold’ strategy that works when you are young — where you wait for the markets to come back up after a downturn — does not apply in retirement as we saw in 2008, when many people’s retirements were wiped out. Common stocks have substantially out-performed other investments over time and thus are usually recommended for retirees as part of a balanced asset allocation strategy, but the rate of return you earn can be significantly lower than the long-term trends.”
  • Inflation risk. “You should plan on prices for food, goods and services getting higher during retirement, reducing your buying power incrementally as you are living on a fixed income,” Alexander says. “Your retirement plan has to factor that in. Ways retirees can curb the effects of inflation include annuity products with a cost-of-living adjustment feature and investing in equities, a home, and other assets.”

“Understanding what the potential post-retirement risks are and considering them in the retirement planning stage,” Alexander says, “can help to ensure that they are mitigated and properly managed.”  

About Clayton Alexander Clayton Alexander (www.retireteton.com) is an investment adviser and founder of Teton Wealth Group. A graduate of Dixie State University with a B.A. in administration, Alexander also worked at Northwestern Mutual and Goldman Sachs. He is licensed for life and health insurance in the state of Utah and has passed the Series 65 securities exam. Alexander focuses on building holistic retirement plans, and with the launch of Teton Wealth he developed the four-step Ascent Plan – a system to help clients gain clarity and perspective on creating a financial plan for safe, secure and tax-efficient retirement income and estate transition.  

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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Are Americans Undervaluing Paid Time off + Quick Trip Tips

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It’s August, which for many Europeans means taking almost the entire month off. So why is it difficult for Americans to take even the little vacation time they receive? A recent piece in The Economist states workers in the U.S. are doing it all wrong by going on short holidays, which can add even more stress or taking none. Instead, it’s essential for employees to recharge their batteries. It’s also beneficial for companies to have a consistent holiday month during which junior employees can head to the beach, and managers can take stock of things, says the report.

While many Americans may not receive paid time off, especially those that only work part-time, even those who receive it generally don’t take all of it. What we don’t realize is that not taking a vacation is like giving money back to your employer, especially with companies that have a use it or lose it policy. Which should encourage employees to use their time but unfortunately it does not. According to recent polls conducted by Bankrate, nearly 2600 US adults say they plan to take a quarter of their vacation days while 4% are not planning to take any vacation time at all.

Time off is a valuable perk, to the tune of millions of dollars! Just to bring the point home in 2017 Americans gave up 212 million days off that amounts to $62.2 billion in lost benefits! So, take your vacations and follow the tips below to not break the bank while taking time off:

  1. Take a Staycation – Stay local and vacation somewhere that is less than a day drive away, this helps save gas, mileage, and spending on lodging. Look for local attractions, vineyards, interesting museums and landmarks or even travel to your closest big city and be a tourist for a day. You would be amazed at how much you can discover and learn by staying local and all on the cheap! It’s a bonus if you have friends in the town your visiting they can serve as a tour guide and let you stay over for free if they have the room.
  2. Book Flights Off-Season – July 4th, Memorial Day and Labor Day seem like a great time to go on vacation; unfortunately, everyone is planning to take time off during those busy weekends, and ticket prices are through the roof because of it. Book flights after major holidays and during the week you will generally find that they are cheaper than weekend flights.
  3. Take a Road Trip – Road trips are fun and cheaper than taking a plane, especially if you must rent a car when you get to your destination anyway. Plan cool stops along the way and finds interesting places to eat that way you can make the journey part of the vacation.
  4. Plan to Eat In – Food adds up on vacation so pack food and making one or two meals in your hotel can keep you under budget.
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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Top Ten Freshman Money Myths

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Starting college is one of the most important and exciting times of your life. Now that you’re all “checked-in,” enjoy your college experience without worrying about where your next meal will come from by chasing away these common freshman money myths. (more…)

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