Five Things to Discuss Before You Move in Together

6 years ago

Moving in together with a romantic partner is a big and exciting step in any relationship. As couples decide to share their lives this way, they also need to discuss the financial aspects of cohabitation.

Some couples consider a dating prenup or a cohabitation agreement that spells out what happens in case the relationship goes south. Without the protection and guidelines afforded to married couples, cohabitating partners will have to go the extra mile to protect themselves. Written agreements hold more water than oral agreements. Even if you are not comfortable with such a written agreement, it's still important to discuss the issues with your partner -- before you decide to move in.

Man and woman leaning against back of sofa, smiling

Here are five questions to talk about and resolve before packing the boxes:

1. How will you pay the bills?

Each of you should have a clear expectation of how joint household bills (rent, utilities, groceries) are paid. Some couples ascribe to the 50-50 rule: each party will pay 50 percent of the total household bill. Some couples pay proportionally to their income (i.e. the person who makes 60 percent of total household income will pay for 60 percent of the bills).

When British blogger Plonkee asked this question, she got a variety of responses. The important thing is to be clear about expectations and come to a resolution that both partners feel is fair and workable.

2. Who retains ownership of large purchases?

If you two both chip in on an $100 big-screen TV, who gets ownership if you break up? It's a hard question, but it's far easier to settle it before the situation demands an answer.

Most experts suggest that each person buy items individually. If John buys the $800 TV, Jane could buy the $800 couch. That way, if the relationship ends in a couple of years, John will leave with the TV and Jane will walk out with the couch.

3. Whose names are on the lease? How will equity be treated?

It's preferable for both of you to be on the lease. That way, you'll each have the protection afforded to legal tenants. If John is moving into a house or condo owned by Jane, they should clearly set forth whether or not the "rent" payment that John pays is considered a payment into the equity of the home.

4. How will you resolve major money decisions?

If you're considering buying major assets together (like a car, or property), or if one of you is supporting another through graduate school, then you should probably get legal advice on how to proceed. While making a comittment to another person, don't forget to make a commitment to protect yourself financially.

5. Who will get custody of the pets?

Will there be visitation rights for the noncustodial parent? If you adopt a puppy together, it might be a good idea to outline what would happen to Fido when you either have to move apart (a long-distance relationship prompted by a job change, perhaps), or if you two break up. Savvy Living Through Personal Finance

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