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Couple talking to family counselor
  • By Shannon Caissie
  • Posted September 12, 2022

Budgeting With ADHD - Should I Combine Finances With My ADHD Partner?

Congratulations on moving in with your significant other, that’s a big step! There are a lot of fun things to do like picking out curtains, buying neat kitchen gadgets, and at least one of you learning that there are ways of sorting laundry that you didn’t know existed before. There are also less exciting things to do, such as combining your finances. We here at Planning Across the Spectrum, understand better than most, the struggle that comes with planning for the future. As neurodiverse certified financial planners, we have the experience to help you plan for any situation.

Actually, TALK to your partner about money

Even though this isn’t the easiest conversation in the world, it is incredibly important to have when two adults are combining their lives, whether one, both, or neither of a couple is neurodivergent. You will likely find that your partner has a different attitude towards money/spending/debt than you do, and that’s okay! You may agree you need an emergency fund but disagree on whether it should be $2,000 or $10,000. Homeownership may be one person’s dream while the other partner prefers the convenience of renting. One of you may have a goal of early retirement while the other barely knows what an IRA is. More notably, both of you will most likely assign different weights to each goal. The numbers you track to the penny may be meaningless for your ADHD partner and a number you barely glance at may be a huge source of stress to them. You will both need to be able to express to each other how important or potentially stressful your goals and circumstances are in order to come up with common goals and fair, comfortable compromises. What matters most is that you have common or at least complementary financial goals.

When your brain doesn’t work the same way as your partner’s, or even if you just come from a different economic background, you probably have some different ideas about money, spending, saving, etc. One of you may come off as being overly possessive of resources such as money, or one of you may be concerned about an ADHD partner’s seemingly free spending habits. Those differences or opinions are fine, as long as you can get on the same page where it matters.

This is also a great time to share any loans or significant regular expenses that haven’t come up in conversation as well as your financial assets. There may be some “ADHD tax” in the form of lingering debt that you need to be honest with your partner about. It’s difficult to volunteer information like this, especially if it was due to your own misinformed actions or inactions, but it is best to have everything out on the table with your partner. We specialize in financial planning for neurodiverse families and can help with this process.

Whose Money Is This?

There are several options when it comes to dealing with combining finances. Some may prefer to keep their bank accounts separate, while others prefer to create a joint checking account for shared expenses, i.e., rent and utilities. For the latter, you would divvy up your paychecks between your joint and individual accounts in a way that you both agree on. The most common choices are agreeing on a set dollar amount, contributing percentages based on your income, or combining it all, and then once the bills are paid, splitting the remainder. If you are putting some of your money aside as “yours” or “theirs” then you will want to set out some guidelines for what expenses are okay for the two of you to pay for from your joint account versus what expenses must come out of your individual accounts. If you like surprising each other with gifts, for instance, you may wish to save up your own assets to buy a gift for your partner. Since there are so many options, it is best to have an open and honest conversation to figure it out.

Another way to go about this would be to divide up expenses by category. For example, one of you pays the mortgage or rent, the other pays for Internet and electricity, one of you pays for groceries, and the other pays when you eat out. Or you can Venmo/Zelle each other to cover expenses equally if you so choose. You may each wish to set some income aside as savings each month, or one of you may pay for everything while the other puts most of your income into a retirement or savings account. There’s no right or wrong as long as you are both comfortable with the situation and it works for both of you. There is also no need to get complicated if neither of you cares that much. If you’re a “just as long as the bills get paid” kind of couple, then all you must worry about is whose job it is to make sure a bill gets paid. You can use whatever combination of notes, calendar events, auto-payments, or more tangible reminders to make that happen. However, you might not be very well-prepared if a surprise expense comes up or when you reach retirement age.

Whose Responsibility Is This?

While it would be ideal for all responsibilities a couple has to be taken care of with a 50-50 situation, it rarely ends up that way. It’s fine for financial responsibilities to come out closer to 60-40 or even 80-20 if that’s what makes sense for you; just make sure every bill, utility, or account is getting taken care of between you. For some neurodiverse couples, especially if one of them has ADHD and poor money management skills, they find it most comfortable for one person to essentially handle all the finances.

That one person makes sure each bill is paid, keeps an eye on the bank accounts, and knows whether they can afford to go out to a fancy restaurant when an anniversary or birthday comes along. For some, that may feel like an unfair burden, while others would see it as over-controlling. Again, as long as it’s accomplishing what needs to get done and both people are comfortable (it’s not making either partner feel left out, controlled, overworked, unappreciated, etc.), then it works.

There are a couple of caveats with that option. If one partner handles all the money matters, the other still needs to know how it’s done in case of emergency or absence. At the very least, both partners must know how they can look up or find out what bills need to be paid and when. Just because you don’t need to pay the bill personally isn’t an excuse not to know what company supplies your electricity!

Secondly, if you’re going to hand responsibility to someone else, that also means trusting them if they tell you that a given type of spending needs to be reduced. If you don’t want to think about managing money, you have to let your partner set spending guidelines and follow them. If you don’t want to be given spending guidelines or you don’t believe what your partner is telling you, you need to take part in managing shared finances and seeing where your money is going each month. If you struggle with numbers, whether you have dyslexia or just can’t sort through them well, ask your partner to walk you through everything until you reach a comfortable level of understanding. Budgeting with ADHD usually involves some trade-offs when it comes to simplicity versus freedom—go with what brings the most peace of mind to you and your partner. We provide neurodivergent financial planning and mentorship services for those who need assistance.

Who’s Earning Money?

Whether it’s a mathematical necessity that you both work or you have the resources to be a one-income household, be sure that you’re each comfortable with your respective employment statuses. Some couples feel strongly that both partners should contribute financially even if it’s not necessary budget-wise. If one of you receives benefits that would be affected by having an income, traditional forms of employment may not be an option even if you’d like it to be. Some individuals may want to take time off from work to pursue higher education and eventually a career, whereas others may consider it a point of pride to singlehandedly provide for themselves and a home-making spouse. If the home-maker happens to be the primary money manager, it’s a great way of splitting up responsibilities based on each other’s strengths. Once again, there is no right or wrong arrangement as long as both partners share an understanding of the situation, and any related goals are in agreement.

What Does Our Spending Look Like?

If you are coming from different economic backgrounds, you likely have different definitions for terms like “affordable” or “costly.” For instance, how much are “cheap sneakers” and how much are “expensive sneakers”? You and your partner are not likely to give the same numbers. You are each accustomed to spending certain dollar amounts on various regular life expenses, entertainment, and recreation, so chances are both of you will, individually, want to change your spending habits in certain categories. A more frugal person who now has access to more discretionary income may learn to recognize that they can now afford to pay more for a higher-quality version of a product or service that will serve them better in the long run (or just be more fun) instead of automatically going for the cheapest option. For neurodivergent people with executive dysfunction, having a little extra money can make a huge difference in being able to purchase more convenient forms of everyday necessities or gadgets that simplify tasks. Meanwhile, a person who is used to spending freely may, in the short term, want to put some effort into reining in their spending to avoid stressing out their sticker-shocked partner. You can browse this page to learn more about neurodiverse money skills and financial wellness. There, you can also check out our podcast where we like to talk about all things money, like one of our episodes called, “The Great Joint Bank Account Debate”.

Whose Account Do We Keep Open?

If you haven’t already started sharing a Netflix account or other streaming service, now is the time. Weigh the benefits and inconveniences of closing one account or the other (or keeping both open). A few other subscriptions/utilities you may want to consolidate or add your partner to are:

  • Club memberships/Amazon Prime accounts
  • Rewards programs for grocery stores/department stores/retailers
  • Auto insurance
  • Health insurance (if you are eligible)
  • Music/entertainment subscriptions
  • Meal/food subscriptions
  • Cellphone plans

Making Your Partner an Authorized User on Your Credit Card

Separately from the considerations of a joint bank account is whether you want to share a credit card account. There’s no hard and fast rule of whether this is a good idea for you and your partner, simply discuss the circumstances with them. Questions that could be asked include, do you pay for everyday expenses with a credit card, or is it for emergencies only? What constitutes an emergency? Do you intend to pay off the balance every month? What is the credit limit? Does either of you have an issue or a history with card-related impulsive spending? Do you both understand the risks of making someone an authorized user?

If your partner wants to be an authorized user but you are unsure that they can handle a credit card responsibly, do not make them a user in order to avoid telling them that. Ideally, you would want to gently and respectfully express your concerns, and together establish an avenue through which they can gain your trust in the matter. No one is perfect, no one is good at everything, and any healthy relationship involves recognizing each other’s weaknesses.

In Summary

It all boils down to respecting each other’s priorities and keeping each other on the same page. You and your partner can use any system whether it’s putting a designated amount in a joint account for shared bills, or just assigning certain bills to each person. It is pertinent to set aside time with your partner to discuss the ways you will finance that accommodate both your individual needs and limitations and line up with your shared goals, financial or otherwise. Our certified financial planners and neurodiversity professionals are here to help set you up for success when it comes to handling money.

Reach out to us and let’s chat about how we can help start you out on the right foot for the future! Contact Planning Across the Spectrum for neurodiverse certified financial planning services.