Blended family: shared savings account or keep things separate?
Blended family, mixed family, assembled family or reconstituted family? Today, around one in ten families in Belgium are blended. Life in this type of family can be enriching for its members. But it can also be a source of tension about who is responsible for which roles and responsibilities in the new household. In a newly blended family, no one starts with a clean slate. Everyone comes with their own baggage and contributes their own habits, their own vision on upbringing and personal expectations.
Many relationships and marriages these days fail following arguments about money, often because couples assume that everything will 'take care of itself', including the finances. Newly blended families can be susceptible to these stresses too, perhaps even more so. Especially if one of the partners has already had bad experiences in a previous relationship and appears defensive – or even aggressive – when the conversation turns to money matters.
Trust in the future
It is important to discuss the topic together in a quiet moment. If you are worried about bringing the topic up, understand that talking about money is actually a way of showing your commitment and trust in the future. Don't be afraid of appearing vulnerable or sharing any negative experiences from the past. This will only help to improve mutual understanding. It will also help your partner to better gauge why you may (or may not) be able to support a particular decision.
Talking is always worth it
Before you decide whether or not to open a joint account together, it is useful to write down all your income and (expected) outgoings. This will help you to discover any potential stumbling blocks. Does your partner regularly buy expensive designer clothes for 'their' child? Are your travel expenses higher than those of your partner? Does your partner receive maintenance payments? 'Your' child still lives at home, while your partner's child has their own student room? As uncontroversial as it may sound at first, discuss everything properly so that you are clear about which income and outgoings are personal and which are shared, as well as which financial decisions you can make alone and which you have to make together.
What options are there when it comes to bank accounts?
You each have your own account
This solution ensures that you both retain complete autonomy. For joint purchases, you could use an agreement or allocation arrangement (for instance, relating to the size of your income, the number of your 'own' children, etc.). One partner pays for the monthly rent, while the other pays for the bills for utilities, internet, insurance cover and car expenses.
One joint account for everything
In this case, you both decide to manage the accounts together. You contribute your personal income to a joint account that is used to pay for everything.
A variation on this is the pocket money model. Here, one of the partners manages the joint account and the other partner receives a monthly budget, for instance, for their own personal expenses. This, of course, requires a high degree of trust.
Separate personal accounts and a joint account
Most families choose this solution. You each keep your own account, but there is also a joint account that is funded regularly through deposits of equal amounts or another ratio. If your partner's net pay is 30% higher than yours, it may seem fairer to adjust the allocation formula accordingly. The number of children of each partner, their ages, who provides the most care for the children and who does the household chores can also be taken into account in the allocation formula.
Finally, whichever solution you choose, there is no 'right' way. The most important thing is that you and your family are happy with the arrangements.
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