Making Money | How to manage the cost of coupledom

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and it’s time to explore the way you handle your money as a twosome.

Our approach to managing household finances can make a big difference to the health of a relationship. Today’s lifestyles, housing commitments and our career ambitions mean that in many households both adults work, each making a valuable contribution to overall income.

Yet the question of who controls the purse strings continues to throw up some interesting responses. The general gist of research is that the majority of men say they make the financial decisions in a household while the majority of women believe they control the money.

The real issue is how you manage your finances as a couple.

There’s no right or wrong approach. Some couples like to maintain almost entirely separate financial lives by only pooling money where necessary to pay the mortgage or rent and other shared bills. Others maintain a joint account, pooling most or part of each individual pay packet to cover household expenses, and holding only a limited quantity of cash in individual accounts to cover personal spending.

Maintaining multiple bank accounts can mean paying more bank fees, though this can be a small price to pay if it gives you both financial independence.

Take the time to devise a system that works for you.

Both parties should know where household money is spent to help avoid unpleasant surprises if the relationship ever hits the rocks.

Paul Clitheroe is a founding director of financial planning firm ipac, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.