BY: MARSHA BARNES
Financial Literacy Coach

As extreme as it may sound, love does not pay any bills—and lust will not keep a relationship alive. Women have what we refer to as a ticking biological clock. Most of us know of at least 2-3 women that have made the decision to cohabitate with their boyfriend based upon the assumption that wedding bells are near. Unfortunately, this often results in men shying away from what they refer to as the “old” ball and chain affect. At all cost we must avoid a narrow scope of thinking by protecting our feelings as well as our finances. Positive tactics to protect your identity provide a cushion to any negative deposits that a woman may encounter on the way.

In many cases, there are zero to minimal obligations involved between a man and woman who are not married, and people often have totally different views when it comes to finances. While opposites may attract, he or she may come from entirely different backgrounds. Without a sound financial plan for the relationship it can potentially crumble at the first sign of financial stress over spending, saving, and budgeting differences. Be aware of his financial
habits. Proper money management is a clear indicator of the level of commitment and ethics that one possesses. Being financially planted is about much more than money. Life’s abilities of having a clear grasp on a person’s finances provide a clear snapshot of personal strengths, knowledge, level of preparedness, and potential.

MONEY RULES FOR LIVING TOGETHER:

RULE 1: Be Open To Communicating
• Often times relationships are consumed with topics that make us feel warm, and fuzzy. We discuss our future short term plans with our mates such as where will we eat dinner tonight, our next vacation filled with fun, and meeting the family remains on the to-do list. However, one very important dialogue always seems to wait patiently on the back burner—which for many is FINANCES.
Effective communication is the doorway to any successful relationship. Recognizing that avoidance of discussing ones financial standing rather good or bad does not make it go away. If you are seriously considering taking the leap of cohabitating, your individual fiscal state should be and remain an open book.

RULE 2: What’s Mine Is Mine, And What’s Yours Is Yours
• Until we are married. Let’s be honest here and keep an open mind. There are specifics around finances and the legalities therefore, when it comes to marriage and finance; however, those same rules do not apply to committed relationships with our beau.

Vow to keep your individual bank accounts separate. A great rule of thumb is to apply the mine, and our approach. Avoid those feelings of selfishness and replace them with making mature life decisions. Account separation does not diminish the love or care that you have for your mate, however; it does provide protection against those unexpected financial woes that could surface, or potentially disastrous pitfalls that you could grow to regret in the future. Treat moving in with your boyfriend/girlfriend the same as you would with any other roommate.

RULE 3: Show Me The Credit
• As uneasy as this could feel, it is of the upmost importance that you are fully aware of the financial habits that your sweetie partakes in. This strategy could serve as a segue to Rule 1. There is a cliché that says “women lie, men lie, numbers don’t lie”. A credit report reveal allows you to see in black and white concrete viable data from the (3) major credit bureau reporting agencies. Remove emotions from this conversation by still remaining open and respectful to your mates’ situation. Discuss the how’s, what’s, and whens of each negative finding while celebrating the positives. In doing so you will also be able to quickly assess if either or one of you are prepared financially to take this leap.

RULE 4: Major Purchases
• Prior to moving in with one another, create a list of large appliances that will serve as essentials (furniture, washer, dryer, TV’s) any big ticket items. Share the responsibility of providing these items by way of fully purchasing opposed to splitting the costs. It could become very difficult to prove who carried the blunt of expenses for these items. Instead tag the receipts with writing down who purchased what and store them away neatly for future reference.

RULE 5: Equal Share Or Not Really
• Ask yourself who brings home the bacon and who fries it up in a pan? A 50/50 split in some situations may not always be realistic. Outline the monthly income of each individual and determine who will fork over the finances to cover specific expenses that could range from the, rent to the garbage bill.
Talk all plans through prior to making the move, and ensure that each party is comfortable with the final agreement.

RULE 6: Who Will Serve As CFBP (Chief Financial Bill Payer)
• Tossing a coin in this case may not be the best solution of deciding who will be responsible for paying the bills. Reflect back to Rule 3, and identify who has developed a history of paying creditors on time. Ask yourself if this individual is also organized and detail oriented. As partners, create a strategy that promotes teamwork, and combined decision making skills that will be beneficial to the overall success of a blissful financial relationship.

RULE 7: Cohabitation Pre-Nup
• Remember our brief talk on marriage and legalities? What are your plans to protect what’s yours and to solidify the agreed commitments that were made during the planning phase of moving in together?
It is not always necessary to visit a lawyer and have them draft up an agreement full of terms and lingo that neither you nor your honey may understand, which could also lead to a pretty stiff price tag. Instead create a document that clearly outlines the specifics of your arrangement. To reduce any anxiety of creating a cohabitation pre-nup and utilizing the correct verbiage, there are many downloadable forms and templates available online at a reasonable cost; however, it will still be necessary that you have an attorney review your document(s) and sign accordingly. Be willing to pay the price now to avoid long term headaches.

RULE 8: Become Familiar With Common Law Cohabitation Statues
• A common law marriage is defined as a marriage relationship created by agreement and cohabitation rather than by ceremony. The burden of proving that you have a common law marriage status lies with you. Familiarize yourself with the laws within your state. This CLM (common law marriage) statute provides couples with the benefits of filing joint tax returns, and in some cases sharing the same last name.

RULE 9: Keep The Conversation Light Hearted
• As mentioned previously, finances are not the easiest topics to tackle even in mirror conversations with ourselves. Remain open to listening, by being understanding and free of judgment. Finances are often not taught in schools, and many times never discussed in homes, be mindful of these statistics when addressing such issues with your loved ones.

RULE 10: Be Accountable
• Be accountable for your actions and become supportive by acting as an accountability partner to your boyfriend/girlfriend. Always be truthful and willing to share your financial standing with one another. The decision to cohabitate is a huge step combined with a massive undertaking.

Follow Marsha on Twitter @finance_litcoac
http://www.financialliteracy-coach.com