Integrating finances

Money management is usually pretty straightforward when you’re on your own. But when you make the switch to couplehood, managing for two brings fresh opportunities and challenges.

Bank accounts: joint or separate?

Some couples prefer to keep things separate. Others like the convenience of joint accounts. Why not try both?

A joint chequing account can cover shared expenses like rent, utilities or grocery costs. A joint savings account can help you save for vacations, or big purchases like a home or automobile. Open up lines of communication to discuss what the accounts are for and how much you can each contribute.

Supporting your joint account with a jointly held line of credit can make it easier to handle unexpected expenses. Just be sure you are comfortable being responsible for any funds your partner may use.

Keeping your own accounts and credit cards helps maintain your individual credit ratings while living together. And small accounts for personal spending can not only help keep the peace, they can even come in handy for top-secret purchases - like anniversary gifts.

Budgeting: blissful planning

It's okay to keep small secrets about gifts. But when it comes to managing joint accounts and budgets, an open, honest approach is best, especially if one partner earns significantly more than the other. By discussing your finances openly and frequently you’ll prevent hard feelings.

In some ways, budgeting for two can be easier than budgeting for one. Fixed living expenses can be paid out of a joint account. And if you’re both making regular contributions, you may find the account accumulating money.

For help with budgeting see:

Investing: long-term options

Decisions. Decisions. There is lots to focus on when you first get together or decide to marry. But sooner rather than later, you should be thinking about your longer term money plans.

: If kids are part of your plans, you may want to study up on education savings plans, before sleep deprivation and your new household addition arrive.

Retirement savings: Building a retirement nest egg takes teamwork. By planning RRSP or TFSA contributions together you can save efficiently and maximize your tax benefits today and for the future.

Spousal RRSP: This type of RRSP is available for married or common-law couples and lets one spouse get the tax break for RRSP contributions while the other spouse owns the funds.  They can help create more equal income in retirement, and minimize your family's tax bill, now and in retirement.