What are your rules when it comes to relationships and money?

Hey everyone!

We recently published this Dear Penny Q&A over on The Penny Hoarder, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it! It’s this one: “Dear Penny: My boyfriend won’t tell me how much he owes. Can I pull his credit?” Interestingly, I was also reading Marie Claire’s Couples + Money column this week. It’s fascinating to me how different couples have different “rules” or guidelines to managing money within their relationship.

It got me thinking — what are your guidelines and rules when it comes to relationships and money? Do you manage your finances separately from your partner? How soon should you discuss money in a relationship? How do you decide who pays for what?

Also, curious to hear what you all thought of the woman who wanted to pull her BF’s credit report without his knowledge. eekWhat advice would you have given her?

Look forward to hearing what you all think…


For the PH who wanted to pull her boyfriend’s credit I believe that is almost impossible unless she has power of attorney for him and can complete the required documentation that asks for quite a bit of confidential information.

My life partner and I keep all of our finances separate and have for 30 years. We have legal paperwork, wills, deeds, etc that protect each other’s interests and that of other beneficiaries when we die.

It started because we were, and are not, legally married. But having never in 30 years had any negative argument about finances, we can’t find any reason to change our way of handling money. Any arguments are always over one of us paying the bill at breakfast…we each try to grab it first!!

Even if there was a need or reason to have a joint account, I would always maintain my own separate account, as well.


While the romantic in me wants to say never go into a relationship prepared for it to fail, the cynic in me says marriages do fail and you should always have a contingency plan. But my rules are be open and honest about money. Communicate and don’t keep secrets. It seems to me that in relationships one person spends while the other saves–the object of the game is to find that happy middle.


She wants to know how much he owes, wow, that’s a deal breaker and lots of red flags on so many levels. What is she going to do with that info?


My husband & I have been married a little over a year now. We’ve lived together for 3 years and have always had separate finances but we share bills, rent, etc. Up until recently, we’ve had a pretty big money break through as far as a realization about spending, saving, debt, and the like. I made it my new year’s resolution to FINALLY understand/learn the art of budgeting, in order to meet out goals of paying off debt, and prioritizing saving each month for our long-term goals of buying a house.

For the longest time I suffered in silence because I felt ashamed of my debt and felt it was my responsibility to get out of it on my own, not his. Although now I am starting to learn that we should tackle this as a team, even though he makes more money than I do. We will be joining finances soon, but I want to make sure we go about it in a healthy way. I don’t want us to fight over who’s buying what and how to reign back if someone is overspending in a certain category (like eating out).

I’m super interested to know what other successful couples do in how they talk about money. Do you plan monthly or weekly money meetings to discuss finances open & honestly? Do you build a budget and stick to it together by recording all spending? I’m open to any advice! Thank you so much


My husband and I have separate checking accounts and a joint savings account. I think it is important for women to have their own accounts so they have the ability to obtain credit on their own if something happens to the relationship (including death of a spouse). We have been married for 46 years and this works well for us. We are beneficiaries on each other’s individual accounts.

We are not wealthy people and have always had middle-class jobs and income. We were always in agreement about when to take on debt and how much that would be. We paid off our mortgage early which has allowed us to both retire early without any debt - - - my husband at 56 and myself at age 60. Partners have to be in agreement about debt and financial priorities in order for a relationship to last.

I think it is entirely reasonable for people in a serious relationship to share financial information, goals, mistakes, and viewpoints - - - if your serious boyfriend or girlfriend wants to know about your credit history it is a reasonable request. Especially if you are talking about getting married.


I re-read your post Maryann, about how we decided who paid what.

In our case (not legally married) it evolved on its own. I moved into his house and rented out mine. Since I was not on the mortgage or deed, we decided he’d keep making the mortgage payment and I picked up the utilities, repairs and groceries. That was an equitable arrangement in the expenses. I could have paid the entire mortgage payment for 30 years, but if I wasn’t on the deed and not legally married to him, the house would never have been mine. Several years later, we took out an equity loan and at that time we quit claimed me onto the deed, and then I started paying 1/2 the monthly payment and we re-assigned the expenses so we again were about 50/50 on everything.

I agree with Beckastsila that it’s a bit uncomfortable to go into a new marriage with caution on finances. There is a stigma, I believe, that it means you do not trust your spouse. In today’s age, I think it’s best to get over that guilt and make legally wise decisions about protecting your total assets individually. Leave the romance for the bedroom!!

In this day of privacy and non-disclosure, things you may never think about can cause you issues in the case of divorce or death.

We’ve lived together 30 years… and when the power bill was in my name alone, my partner could not call up and discuss anything with them. Your state laws will dictate what happens if you are married and find yourself alone. If you are sharing your life with someone but are not married, I surely recommend sorting out everything with the help of an attorney while things are well!


I think you have to know each other really well and this takes years and not months. Marrieds and non-marrieds have a different set of legal criteria especially in the eyes of the law, and that is a good thing. The vows change everything. This is the 2nd marriage for both of us and we have individual checking accounts. It works well for us. Initially I was the source of major income and paid the mortgage and credit card bills, now the rolls are reversed, he handles the big bills by putting the $ into the checking where I am primary and and I pay them, full transparency, we discuss what the best decisions are financially, so no arguments. He handles the utilities & he does a great job of overseeing.


hey there Mint Julip, why didn’t you get married?

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I think the woman who wanted to know about her boyfriend’s finances is smart if she was thinking of having a future with him. I’ve heard a couple of horror stories where the spouse had no idea their significant other was deep in debt.

Personally, my husband and I got married when we were young and dumb 48 years ago when I was 18 and he was 22. We pooled our money. I did a better job at paying the bills and had a free checking account (because I worked at a bank) so I was nominated. We had a joint savings account and we did have occasional financial discussions for large purchases, saving for a house, etc. We’re not wealthy, but our house and cars are paid for and we don’t have any loans or credit card debt. We have a modest retirement income, but we manage to do most things that we want to by generally living frugally.

I’m not trying to say we had a charmed life. There were problems and arguments and children and children with problems, but we worked them out.

This is just what worked for us.


Well redcatcec, we both went through divorces and his was full of the trauma that writes books. Mine was adult and civil but I think both of us became pretty protective of ourselves…I stayed “single” for 14 years, my kids became adults and were out on their own by then. As most of us do, I witnessed what divorce can do to children, families, friends and finances and I don’t think either of us ever wanted to go through the lawyers and all the financial stress again.

We have everything we need without that piece of paper and have lived together for 30 years. We’ve owned a business together, we are both greatly accepted by each other’s families…geeze my Mom likes him better than she likes me!! We discuss it now and then, so we might change our minds someday but we haven’t really come up with a good reason to do it yet! What we have works wonderfully for us!


My lovely and I are planning on tying the knot this fall. We come from very different families, lifestyles, and jobs. Because of he’s Navy he’s decided to add me to his bank account, but we’ll have separate checking accounts. We started discussing money maybe 3 years into our relationship, and until then we did whoever picked the date paid. We kinda just let it happen naturally, but I wasn’t afraid to talk about it just because of the way I grew up.


Such good news to hear about honest relationships where people actually communicate rather than just say stuff to the other. Bet your practice will spill over into all aspects of your life styles…raising children, parents, finances, pets…lots of stuff gets in the way, it is how you handle it. Best to you.

I was surprised when we got married. My husband is 15 years older than me and was already divorced and still had no clue about money. Not much debt, but just was the kind that worked and paid bills with his accounts and never thought about the future such as savings, retirement, homeownership, etc. I just figured he would be so much more knowledgeable about that stuff. I was the 18-year-old who already had savings, house plans, and retirement on the brain. So weird. But it worked for us. We combined finances and I’m in charge of everything. I tell him what I’m doing, but since we run a business together, he takes care of the field, I take care of the finances, it’s a very symbiotic relationship. He has more than enough to deal with in the field. And I do my own thing. Same with us that we are middle income, nothing fancy. But our cars and travel trailer were bought in cash. House is almost paid off. All this allows him to semi-retire where we can pursue our dream of restoring old houses for resale when we WANT to and not have him crawling around attics or crawlspaces because he HAS to.


We keep it separate as we have different ideas of how and when to spend money. We have been together 20 years and it works. He pays a set amount for portion of housing and monthly utilities. We each maintain own credit cards and bank accounts.

We did not start off relationship talking about money and have learned we do not see eye to eye.

Also, curious to hear what you all thought of the woman who wanted to pull her BF’s credit report without his knowledge. eekWhat advice would you have given her?

She should mind her own business. They are only dating and it’s not her business unless he wants to share the information. It would be a giant RED FLAG if you are planning marriage and he isn’t sharing information…


We have had joint finances since 2008, except for retirement accounts. We are the beneficiaries on each others accounts. We decided joint accounts work for us. I am the nerd, he is the free spirit. I am the financial person who pays the bills, gets out taxes done, etc. We are debt free, except a tiny mortgage. We have a great emergency fund, and we pay cash for everything. It works for us. I did know his one debt before he moved in, and his credit score(2005). I feel people should ask to see credit scores and records before marriage, student loans, etc. Marriage is a huge step, and not one to be saddled with huge debt, ex: $100,000 plus.


relationships and money, that takes communication, communication, communication. and an exit plan, particularly if you are not married. by Exit Plan, I mean, right now, while you are in love, what would you think is a fair split if you did have to break up? No one is in any shape to decide this when they are already in the breakup. In my own case, he owns and I am a renter in his house. If we do any large home improvements, we keep receipts in an envelope, with the plan that if we ever break up, he pays me back my investment in the home, because, being his home, he keeps the improvement that was made. Another couple went to a financial planner and got their wills and intents made out to go with what they want to happen, so that any untimely events will not hurt the surviving person.

To my grown daughters, we advise them to always save a large chunk of money in their own savings account that does not belong to anyone else. My relative lost her hubby unexpectedly and he was a great financier, and when the commerce world realized she was now a widow, suddenly all her credit changed and all the interests went up. So whoever above said develop your own credit, yes, YES, do that.