This is actually one of the most common financial questions and relationship questions in general. But, as always, this discussion will focus on a doctor perspective. So, should physician couples share finances?
Let me start off by saying that I know I am wading into murky and dangerous waters. This is a highly charged topic that is also highly personal. With that said, however, it is so important to a relationship and the individuals in it to have a healthy relationship with money. So we can not and should not ignore this topic just because it is awkward!
Next, I am not talking about couples that are on their second date. I’m talking about long-lasting, established relationships. Something like married or the equivalent to that.
I’ll also mention at the beginning that my wife Selenid and I by no means have this all figured out. But I believe that we have gotten to a very healthy point in our financial relationship. More importantly, however, it was not always like that. We went through an evolution and continue to check each other to this day as I think is healthy. And I’ll share all of that as transparently as possible as we work our way through here!
So, the question remains…
Should physician couples share finances?
I’ll fast forward. My answer to this question is yes. Physician couples (again, long term or married couples!) should share finances. And I stand by it.
I’ll admit that when Selenid and I combined our finances, it just made sense to us. We were still working on getting on the same page financially for sure. And we talked about combining our finances. But in the end, it just made sense. We didn’t overthink it too much.
And to be honest, it has worked out fantastically in our advantage.
But that is not enough. Our anecdotal, level V evidence isn’t enough. Plus, I have since realized that this decision just does not make intuitive sense to a lot of couples. Or maybe put better, there is a lot of vulnerability and commitment in this decision that can be pretty scary.
So, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this topic and gathering ideas. In fact, this topic has been near the top of my “blog post ideas” list for quite some time.
But I think we are ready.
Why I believe physician couples should share finances
So, you already know my answer. Yes, I believe that physician couples should share finances. Now, let me work backwards to examine the issue from various angles and show you how I arrived here.
From a relationship perspective
This seems as good a place as any to begin. And yes, I will be getting philosophical.
In a long-term, committed relationship, you and your partner are agreeing to be just that, partners. In life. And in everything that encompasses life. This includes finances.
I argue that if you are in a relationship in which you do not feel comfortable sharing all aspects of your life including finances, that is not the right relationship. I may be taken to task for this but remember, I am a simplifier. And this is as simple and straightforward as it gets here.
Now, I am fortunate and am partners with the love of my life and best friend, Selenid. I have not been burned financially from a prior long-term, committed relationship. I mention this because a lot of the push back on sharing finances comes from men or women who have been burned by a prior marriage.
A common thread in these cases however is often that, in the prior relationship, money was not talked about openly and finances were not shared. In fact, I think these examples only prove my point more. Sharing finances ensures that both partners are on a level playing field if the relationship ends…but to start off the relationship planning for this is bad juju.
Further, sharing this aspect of your lives, while not necessarily easy, will bring you together closer as a couple. It certainly has in our case.
A healthy relationship means sharing finances.
From a financial perspective
Two is better than one.
Two incomes (or more) is better than one. Two credit histories is better than one. And two minds in better than one.
Combining your finances makes you and your partner financially stronger than you are alone. And the effect is not additive, it is exponential.
This certainly goes for the actual money part of this equation. More cash reserves equals more power to invest. More investment accounts available means more tax advantaged investments. You even have better borrowing power together when it comes to things like using debt to buy cash flowing real estate.
Remember, the simple formula for wealth is create and grow the margin between what you make and what you spend. Well, combining finances increase “what you make” pretty efficiently.
But the more powerful and exponential combination is the combination of minds and money mindsets. This is certainly where Selenid and I have benefited from each other the most. She helped me overcome my past money trauma and grow a healthier money mindset. I like to think that I have done the same for her.
In fact, here are 5 Important Money Lessons I Learned From My Wife.
You are better financially together when couples share finances.
From a health perspective
Married couples live longer according to studies. I imagine we can extend this to couples in long term relationships whether legally married or not.
Why is this the case?
I don’t think anyone can say for sure but one of the leading hypotheses is that couples have more daily exposure to the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin, the love hormone, has been shown to reduce the effects of cortisol which, when over emitted, negatively impacts our health.
Further, money issues are a leading cause of divorce in the U.S.
Therefore, by sharing finances and growing a healthier financial relationship, we can better preserve our relationships, keep the oxytocin flowing, and live longer!
Is this scientifically proven? No. But it’s not a bad reason!
From a tax perspective
The U.S. tax code is essentially the government giving us monetary incentives to do the things they want.
For example, they want stable housing. So there are big monetary incentives for real estate investing as I show here.
The tax code also includes significant tax deductions and advantages for married filing jointly.
Not a reason to get married in itself. But if you are married or getting married, sharing your finances in this way helps.
Getting even more in the tax weeds, sharing our finances helps me and Selenid take advantage of REPS in our real estate investing for massive tax savings.
Stick it to the tax man, share your finances!
While I hope these points help to bolster my position, it is one thing to talk about it. And another to do it…
How Selenid and I practice what we preach
My #1 goal is always transparency. So, what doesn’t sharing your finances with your partner look like in practice? Let me and Selenid be the guinea pigs.
1. We share all financial accounts
This includes all bank accounts – checking and savings, investment accounts, and business accounts.
Our incomes both go into a communal account.
Now, some of the accounts are only in one of our names like, for example, some of our business accounts. But, we both have regular access to it with user names and passwords, etc. Similar for our individual retirement accounts where we are listed as each other’s beneficiary.
No shadow accounts here.
2. We both have full financial veto power
Over any financial decision. We decided this on day 1. And we both have exercised it a few times.
But, with this comes an agreement to have open discussion about our opposing views first. This usually honest happen right in the moment. But one of us will present an idea and if the other disagrees, we will agree to talk about it later at a less emotionally charged time. If after this talk, we still disagree, then we can veto.
Famously, we used this system when deciding to get into real estate investing. I had the idea. It seemed crazy to Selenid. But we both agreed to talk and learn more. And then we mutually came to the agreement that is was worth pursuing.
3. We run a monthly budget together
I talk about this practice as well as how to create your own budget the easy way here.
Doing our monthly budget, which now takes just 10ish minutes a month, keeps us both on the same page and makes everything transparent and fair.
4. We wrote our financial plan together
And we both had full veto power in it as well.
By doing this, we made sure that our financial goals were in line. Now, we have a plan ensuring that we will reach both of our goals as long as we just follow it.
I’ve talked a lot about how simply having a plan increased my financial well-being tremendously and alleviated my burnout. It also helped me focus back on what I loved about medicine.
Having a shared financial plan acts similarly in a relationship. With money addressed and a plan to reach goals in place, you can focus more on the other, more fun parts of your relationship!
Here is Selenid and my full written financial plan.
5. We manage our real estate investments together
Sure, Selenid has the REPS. But that doesn’t mean I am off the hook.
We manage these investments together and both put in sweat equity. If one of us can’t do something, then the other jumps in. Sometimes this isn’t convenient. But we do it for each other, again knowing that it will help us reach our shared goals.
Those aligned goals are so important!
One Year Real Estate Review of Investment Property #3
We also are both listed on all of our properties, including our primary home and all rentals.
I’m sure there are other ways that I am forgetting right now…
But those are the biggest in my mind and the most helpful in keeping us healthy in our financial relationship.
However, there are always 3 big questions that come up when I talk to physician couples about sharing their finances.
FAQs about couples sharing finances
So we better address them…
But what if one partner doesn’t care as much about finances?
This will be the case in 100% of relationships.
Why? Because there is no topic (other than maybe kids) that partners equally care about in exactly 50/50 fashion. And personal finance is no different.
Selenid will be the first to tell you that I am way (way) more interested in personal finance than her. I have a true passion for it. She loves that personal finance will take us to our goals, but wouldn’t describe it as a passion.
That’s totally ok. Remember, a relationship is about sharing. There are things she takes more of the burden on than I do.
Expecting a relationship to be fully 50/50 is unrealistic and unhealthy.
So, this does not excuse you from sharing finances in your long-term, committed relationship.
But I make way more money than my partner?
This one is a non-starter for me. Remember, money is just a tool. Money in itself is worthless. It is paper or “1’s” and “0’s” on a computer screen. Money only has value for the good it can do for and the joy it can bring to yourself and those around you.
Looking at money in your relationship as some sort of power chip is completely antithetical to this.
And, looking at money this way is a surefire way to lead to burnout in your career and unhappiness in your relationships in my opinion.
My partner has way more debt than me
See above about sharing. That means the good and the bad.
I had about 15x the debt that Selenid had. We pay it off together.
And this is how.
I don’t want to downplay what I said earlier. there is a lot of vulnerability and commitment in the decision for couples to share finances that can be pretty scary.
But the way to deal with these feelings is to go through them. Not around them by ignoring them.
Working through your financial issues, trauma, and goals with your partner will only make the relationship stronger and better.
I can truly say this from experience!
Here are some other posts to help you and your partner get on the same page financially!
- Finances and Your Partner: How to Get on the Same Page!
- My Past & My Unhealthy Relationship with Money
- How to Grow A Healthy Relationship with Money
- Exploring the Time Value of Money for Physicians
What do you think? Do you share your finances with your partner? How has it worked out? Would you do it again or no? Let me know in the comments below!