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7 money rules unmarried couples should follow

If you're sharing your life with someone should you be sharing finances too?

Being a new couple includes many financial “firsts,” including paying bills, managing bank accounts or even becoming homeowners together. From deciding whether to blend your money to knowing if you should cosign a mortgage, these critical life events can make or break your romance.

This article covers seven money rules every first-time couple should follow for a successful financial future.

1. Know your financial history

A critical part of a successful relationship is building and maintaining a foundation of trust, which includes knowing the details of each other’s financial histories, such as how much debt you owe and your credit ratings.

The good news is that even if your partner has less-than-perfect credit, it doesn’t hurt yours.

However, that could make qualifying for a joint credit account, such as a credit card, auto loan or mortgage, more challenging. Reviewing your credit reports is a great place to start if you’re unsure of your financial history.

2. Only mix money in a long-term relationship

Commingling money is only wise when you’re 100% committed and plan on staying a couple for the long term. Unraveling your finances can be complicated if you break up.

For example, having a joint bank account means both of you own it and can spend or withdraw any amount of your balance at any time. Being co-signers on loans and credit cards means that if one person decides not to pay their fair share, the other is on the hook for the entire debt — not just half.

The bottom line is that if you’re uncertain how long your relationship will last or have concerns about merging money with someone else, it’s probably best to avoid it.

3. Create financial goals as a couple

Discuss what you want to achieve with your individual and joint money over the next few years and the long term. It’s better to know sooner rather than later if you have vast differences of opinion.

For instance, if your priority is to live frugally to build a sizable retirement nest egg, but your partner is a free-wheeling spender, your financial philosophies may need adjusting or be too far apart for a harmonious relationship.

4. Set a joint spending plan

Once you know your financial histories and goals, consider how you’ll handle expenses as a couple. While splitting everything 50/50 may seem like a good strategy, it may not work if one person earns much less than the other.

One option is dividing costs by percentages. For example, if your partner earns 35% of the total household income and you make 65%, you could pay 65% of the household expenses. However, if you go all in and merge money as a couple, you won’t have to worry about dividing expenses because you’d pay bills from a joint account.

5. Communicate about money regularly

Unfortunately, many couples talk about money only after problems arise, which is the wrong approach. Instead, set a time each week or month to discuss your goals, budget, debt, income and plans for the future. That will help iron out any wrinkles in your relationship and improve your financial well-being.

6. Know the pros and cons of buying a home

An increasing number of unmarried couples and partners buy real estate together. In many cases, teaming up and buying a home or an investment property may be more affordable. However, getting a mortgage with someone else can damage your finances and relationship if you’re not careful.

When you cosign a credit account, you assume equal responsibility, and the payment history will appear on both credit reports. That means you can both build credit if the payments are made on time. But if one person in a couple fails to pay a cosigned credit account on time, it hurts both credit scores.

Remember that you’re not legally responsible for repayment unless your name is on a mortgage. Being named on the deed indicates ownership, but that isn’t the same as having financial responsibility for a mortgage on the property.

7. Get professional advice when needed

Even if managing money is a breeze for you and your partner, it’s often wise to get help from a financial pro, such as a financial advisor, retirement planner, tax accountant or estate attorney.

Yes, professionals cost money; however, getting good advice for retirement planning or navigating financial challenges can really pay off. You might consult with a financial pro once or work together over the long term to meet your financial goals as a couple.

About the Author

Laura Adams is a money expert and spokesperson for Finder. She’s one of the nation’s leading personal finance and business authorities. As an award-winning author and host of the top-rated Money Girl podcast since 2008, millions of readers, listeners, and loyal fans benefit from her practical advice. Laura is a trusted source for media and has been featured on most major news outlets, including ABC, Bloomberg, CBS, Consumer Reports, Forbes, Fortune, FOX, Money, MSN, NBC, NPR, NY Times, USA Today, US News, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and more. She received an MBA from the University of Florida and lives in Vero Beach, Florida. Her mission is to empower consumers to live healthy and rich lives by making the most of what they have, planning for the future, and making smart money decisions every day.

This article originally appeared on Finder.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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