A few steps will ensure your financial marriage prospers, writes Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon.
Whether you're hitched, co-habiting or just hanging out, your partner can make or break you - and not just emotionally.
They got the "for richer, for poorer" part right it's not just in potential health but also wealth and, if the money match goes wrong, until debt do us part. Relationships Australia says money is one of the top three reasons for bust-ups.
Even if you don't combine finances, your partner's spending and investing habits can boost or batter you. And don't forget after two years of shacking up, the courts consider for monetary purposes that you are legally joined.
Here's a little love contract, whatever the stage of your romance, to see if your partner is financial supporter or saboteur.
LOVE THE IDEAS
Just as you start a relationship filled with the hope of possibilities, that's exactly how you should approach your collaborative money potential. As a couple you can achieve much more than you can as a single, not least because you halve some bills while doubling your income.
Take the time - perhaps over a romantic wine or three - to indulge in a little financial fantasy. If money were no object, what would you both desire for your life? Then you can set about scaling back these heady goals to a level that is achievable.
Arguably the key is to establish and chase your dreams together - after all, that's the only way you'll be equally committed to actually reaching them.
Then you need a concrete plan for achieving them.
HONOUR THE PLAN
The strategy to achieve your joint goals must be one that each partner buys into. You don't equally need to buy into it from a financial point of view - that may not be the reality of each person's earning power. But you do need to be "down with it", both to give it the best chance of success and to stop a power imbalance undermining your relationship.
The basic steps to formulating the strategy are:
Cost the goals.
Establish the timeframe to achieve them.
Calculate the regular saving/investing necessary to hit that. This is where the part about paring back your desires until they are realistic comes in. You might make your targets consecutive or concurrent - it depends on what you calculate is best for the two of you.
When it comes to maintaining equal focus, nothing works like a target date. You can even set this when it comes to as big an achievement as paying off your mortgage. Jump on accelerated repayment calculators offered by the likes of InfoChoice.com.au and type in your loan specifics and how much you are able to pay extra. That will throw up the saving not just in money but in time - which will allow you to pinpoint exactly when you'll be debt free and the master/mistress of your own money.
Spurred on by this enticing prospect, both people then need to honour the discipline that securing your financial future takes - tricky if you have different money modes. Say you are hooked up with a shopaholic.
This person will struggle to resist spending whatever they have whenever they have it and will need to remember - or be gently reminded - that you save so there's something left to spend later. It's not about depriving yourself for deprivation's sake!
OBEY THE WARNINGS
There are some clear - and often early - signs that you and your partner are a poor (excuse the pun) economic combination. Or that your financial approach is destined to failure.
Here are a few strategic mistakes to avoid.
Not allowing a fun fund or rewards - if someone feels too constricted or trapped by the plan, it will build resentment and go against success.
Failing to think ahead - many couples eventually want children, which invariably means some drop in household income. Make absolutely sure your targets account for this and you don't overcommit.
Starting to use credit to pay bills or, worse still, other debts - this is a sure sign your plan is too ambitious or not working for some other reason, and will come unstuck.
Neglecting retirement - I know it can seem a lifetime away, but one of your most important goals should be making sure you are comfortable always. You need to stretch the money made in perhaps 40 years of working across maybe 60 years of life. And you need to equally consider the nest egg of a spouse who may be earning less due, in particular, to caring for your children.
The wrong money match will see you - deliberately or not - fall short of your wealth potential and even in financial trouble. Is yours right?