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The 14 Rules of Long-Lasting Relationships

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Keep Your Finances Separate

Now I know lots of people who would argue with this Rule. Just remember that this book isn't about what I think you ought to do, it's about what works. I've seen lots of couples argue about money -- in many cases it's contributed to break-ups -- but I've never seen it happen in a relationship where the finances were separate. I'm only telling you what I've observed.

There's really no need at all to pool your money. It doesn't achieve anything useful. Okay, there's often a case for having a joint account that you both pay into (from your separate finances) to pay for shared things, such as the children's clothes or the monthly bills. You'll need to agree right at the start how much you each contribute -- half and half may not be fair if one of you earns much more than the other or uses the phone more.

That's just a technicality. If you both earn money, you will both need to cover the expenses according to whatever arrangement you agree. You may want to put money into a kitty for shared luxuries like a holiday. Beyond that, your money is your own. So, if your partner wants to blow all their savings on something you consider wasteful, that's their business. It doesn't affect you. The bills have been paid this month, and it's their money. You can save yours, or invest in something sensible, or spend it all on sweets if you want to. See? No arguments.

Before you ask, this can still work if you earn an unequal amount, or if only one of you earns. Broadly speaking, the best arrangement if your earnings are very different is that you contribute to joint costs proportionately. If one of you earns double, you contribute twice as much to the pot, or you pay equally toward bills but the high earner pays for evenings out or for vacations. You can sort out the details between you.

If one of you is working all day in the home and with the kids, and therefore not earning anything, the other partner needs to give them a fair share of the money that's left over after the bills are paid. (Personally I'd suggest half of it.) This is not a generous gift or a favor, but is fair payment for the contribution the nonworking partner makes to the partnership. One of you earns the money, and one of you looks after the house. You're swapping a share of the earnings for a share in the meals, the clean house, and the kids. If one partner wasn't pulling their weight in the house, the other couldn't have earned that money, so it's joint income and should be divvied up accordingly. After that has been done, you can each keep your share in a separate bank account.

Next: Contentment Is a High Aim

More on: Marriage and Divorce

From The Rules of Love Copyright © 2009, FT Press. Used by permission of FT Press, and Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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