Couples & Money: Co-Habitation

BOSTON (CBS) – According to the Census Bureau, more than 40% of American women under the age of 45 have lived unmarried with a male partner at some point in their lives.

Many couples are trying this approach before marriage and sometimes instead of marriage. But only 40% of these relationships end up in marriage. And their divorce rate is actually higher than couples who did not cohabitate.

So, if you are moving in together my advice is to treat your finances just as if you were two strangers about to become roommates. Talk about the expenses upfront before your friends start carrying the boxes in. You’re dealing with a roommate, one you’re romantically involved with, but still a roommate.

  • Keep your finances separate. Do not open a joint checking account and do not put each other’s names on your credit cards as a user. Share the basic household expenses like the rent, mortgage and utilities. This may prove to be a problem if your incomes are lopsided. You’ll need to figure out a fair arrangement, 50-50, 60-40?
  • Make a list of the joint expenses and who will be responsible for them. Whose name will be on the electric bill? When you sign a lease you may have to do that jointly unless one of you moves in with the other. Who is going to be responsible for paying the bills? Who is going to mow the lawn or cook?
  • Credit cards: don’t mess with each other’s credit. It could come back to bite you in the butt. Each of you is responsible for your own credit card bills.
  • Food & Alcohol: these expenses can cause a problem. Is one of you a gourmet cook and the other content with a can of tomato soup and a grilled cheese? Who does the food shopping? Alcohol can be tricky and expensive. Key is to discuss these issues before they become a problem.
  • If you buy any large pieces of furniture together who gets them if you split up? Does one of you buy the washer and the other the dryer? Discuss ownership issues before you need to.
  • Insurance: If you are renting you both should have renter’s insurance to cover your belongings.

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You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.

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