When Roger, a 39-year-old chemical engineer, and Sarah, a 36-year-old pediatrician, lived together for several years, it was always a case of “his” money and “her” money. Sure, they shared the cost of food, entertainment and rent, but they were on their own when it came to everything else. Each paid separately out of his or her pocket for the two cars they owned, while Sarah continued to pay back her student loan, and Roger took care of the taxes and upkeep on a cottage in Maine that had been passed down to him by his late parents.
When they got married and within several months Sarah learned she was pregnant, they decided that maybe it was time for them to stop handling their finances like two single people.
“We had always kept separate bank accounts and had our own investment portfolios, and now we were suddenly in a different situation,” says Roger. “We needed help to transition, in a financial sense, to being a family.”
Personal Finances: Individual vs Couples
According to Frank Jaffe, a certified financial planner with Access Wealth Planning in Roseland, NJ, this is not uncommon. “Unlike with their parents who typically were married before they had much of a chance to live independently and so there wasn’t usually any issue, couples today often live independently, and often successfully, for years. Then they get married and start families in their late 30s or even older and suddenly wonder, ‘now what?’ when it comes to managing their personal finances. We work with couples to help them make decisions and put a system in place when it comes to managing their assets and liabilities, paying their bills, and figuring out ways to handle their finances moving forward.”