Confused.com columnist Sam Dunn says couples should tread carefully when considering a financial union.
I don’t pry out of excessive prurience, of course, rather from genuine concern for your cash.
When any couple make a commitment to each other, it’s not too long before their finances draw closer together too – a joint credit card often pops up first, followed by savings, then a current account and mortgage.
Naturally, two wallets are better than one: a step-up in spending firepower; more generous savings for a smarter car; a bigger mortgage for a larger property.
Yet your heavenly match could also leave your money in hell if it all turns sour.
For starters, your credit rating could collapse.
Or you could end up forking out for your partner’s profligacy and bad card debts.
And how about paying every penny of a joint home loan because your ex-partner is either bad-tempered enough to refuse to pay or has fallen on hard times and can no longer keep up?
The problems are twofold. First, very few of the lovestruck bother to stop and carefully question the risks of hitching their personal finances to those of another.
Second, and rather more delicately, even fewer would ever dare suggest a solution to the risks of bigger joint financial decisions such as a mortgage or pension: a neat legal document detailing what would ever happen in the event of a split.
Unfortunately, passion killers don’t get any bigger than two sets of lawyers’ bills so to spare you such humiliation, here are crucial pointers about knowing when to best pool your finances - and when you’re better off pulling apart.
Home is where the heart is
Doubling up has its greatest impact with a mortgage as you can usually borrow a larger sum than when going alone by adding your salaries together; an income multiple of three or four times a combined £60,000 tends to buy you a swankier pad than one with a solo £30,000.
Yet make no mistake, when you sign the mortgage forms, you become jointly and severally liable for that monthly sum; if the relationship heads south and either you or your ex can’t – or won’t – pay, the bank or building society can legitimately hound either or both of you for the money.
This same principle can sour joint credit cards or loans (and even utility bills) too: if your personal circumstances deteriorate, the debts must be settled. And if one party defaults or is unable to pay, the other half remains liable.
What about a joint current account? While it at least relieves a couple’s administrative burden by corralling payments for all bills, it also poses a credit rating risk by creating a financial “link” between the two of you noted by credit reference agencies (a joint mortgage will alert them too).
So if you or your other half hit the skids financially, the poor money management can be contagious if it damages your joint account and make it harder to obtain fresh credit.
A joint life insurance policy might sound like a simple money saver – a £500,000 payout for less than the price of two separate £250,000 policies – but carries particular risks all on its own.
If you were to split years down the line, that joint cover would need an instant junking in favour of a likely very expensive replacement (to pay for dependent kids, say) since you’ll be older with less robust health.
Similarly, even if still together and one half sadly dies, the survivor will benefit from the larger payout but any new subsequent life cover would likely cost more if many years have passed.
Get saving and avoid tax
At least joint savings offer a brighter vision of financial unity: two incomes channelling spare cash into an emergency fund will generate a bigger savings pot much more swiftly than one.
You’ll also qualify for double the usual £85,000 guaranteed protection in the event of a bank crash – cash in joint accounts counts as a half each, so together you can save £170,000 without fear of loss.
And if one partner earns significantly less than the other – or nothing at all – they can cannily avoid higher tax bills.
By parking as much in the way of joint savings in the name of the lower-earning partner, they can make use of the £7,475 tax-free personal income allowance (if under 65) and lower savings tax rates to legitimately keep as much interest as possible.