VOL. 127 | NO. 214 | Thursday, November 1, 2012
Rays of Wisdom
Dana and Ray Brandon
Splitting Bills Without Splitting Hairs
By Ray and Dana Brandon
Ray’s Take If anyone in your household has a problem with how bill paying is divided, it’s a problem for everyone. Resentments that build up over finances have a way of poisoning other aspects of a relationship. If you’re both willing to compromise and aware of your emotional responses to money, you should be able to work it out.
The three most common ways of dividing up expenses when there are two incomes are: each person pays a proportion of the total bills based on their relative salaries, simply split everything in half, or assign responsibility for certain bills to each partner.
Beyond bill paying, some couples find their finances work better if they combine all their funds in joint accounts, while some keep everything separate, and others do a little of each. There’s no best way, just the way that works best for you and your partner.
What’s far more important than the system of bill paying a couple settles on is realizing that they are in it together and however you account for it, it’s still just one pot of money that they both contribute to.
The push and pull of the fair division of monthly expenses and the dispersal of pocket money shouldn’t overshadow long-term goals and planning. Ultimately, the two of you need to have a plan that looks into the distant future – toward college funds and retirement.
Devote more attention to saving and investing in order to achieve these important life goals instead of worrying about absolutely parity in how money is spent. Focusing on your future together is certainly a lot more rewarding, both emotionally and financially.
When you spend more time and energy on the “big picture,” it helps give you perspective that helps you avoid getting bogged down by the minutia of who paid for what. As you see your savings grow, you’ll gain a joint sense of accomplishment. That’s what really matters when it comes to money.
Dana’s Take William Faulkner wrote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The ghosts of your parents’ money struggles may be haunting your relationship today.
Anxiety, anger, or denial about money may be anchored in your family’s past, sometimes going back generations. While some follow in their parents’ footsteps, others react by doing the opposite. Either way, the past is steering the present.
Did your folks argue about money or not discuss it at all? Who controlled the purse strings? Did mom and dad hide spending from each other? Did one parent take control of finances and leave the other in the dark?
Just looking at our families’ values and money habits can open up the conversation.
If money arguments persist you may need a neutral third party to cool things down. Schedule with a Certified Marriage and Family Therapist or hire a Certified Financial Planner. Either one may help you move forward toward your goals.
Ray Brandon is a certified financial planner and CEO of Brandon Financial Planning (www.brandonplanning.com). His wife, Dana, has a bachelor’s degree in finance and is a licensed clinical social worker. Contact Ray Brandon at email@example.com.