Important information - the value of investments and the income from them, can go down as well as up, so you may get back less than you invest.

With Valentine’s Day here it’s a good time to make sure that if you’re in a couple you don’t lose sight of your own priorities and your future financial security either. So, here are the golden rules, whether you’re married, co-habiting or just thinking about it. 

1. Talk about it

Before you skip merrily, hand-in-hand, down to your local bank branch (if you even have one near you) to open a joint account, it’s important to make sure you are both on the same page.  

Joining your finances is a big step, so take time to assess whether this is right for you. One thing to remember is that having a joint account could affect your individual credit score. If one of you has a poor credit rating this could impact the amount you are offered as an overdraft and can risk pulling both of your scores down in the longer term.
 

2. Set the record straight

If you’ve opened a joint account or are thinking about doing so, it could be just because you think it will make it easier to pay household expenses. But it may be wise to discuss the purpose of your joint account a bit further. Will you just use it for household bills? Or will you pay for nights out and other things too? Have a conversation about the purpose of the account before you apply for one, this will help avoid any future misunderstandings when one of you uses the account for a late-night takeaway or an Uber ride home.
 

3. Who holds the purse strings?

When money is involved it can feel very personal and often a taboo topic, but with a joint account every decision becomes, well, joint. While both of you will be able to manage the account without the other one’s permission (unless you explicitly set that up with the bank in advance) you are also both equally liable for the account and denying knowledge of how the overdraft level was exceeded won’t mean you’re not ‘jointly and severally liable’ to repay it. As joint account holders you have joint responsibility over everything that goes on with the account. So, make sure you keep an eye on your statements and check payments are going out on time. Doing that on a regular basis can make all the difference between staying in the black or edging towards the red. 

4. Be prepared

While no one wants to spend too much time thinking about what will happen if your relationship breaks down, it’s important not to go in with rose-tinted glasses when it comes to joining your finances. Indeed, even if you are already co-habiting and have done so for many years, if the worst happens you won’t necessarily have any rights to a share in your partner’s finances or the property you both live in, unless you’ve set it up correctly from the start.  Put plans in place early to ensure you are both protected in case things don’t work out as you’d hoped.  

For instance, have you written you will? As many as six in every 10 adults in the UK haven’t made a will1 and even among people over the age of 55, more than three in 10 have yet to write theirs. This means a lot of people are risking leaving their loved ones in financial limbo if they die without leaving a will.  

Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy. So, fail to leave clear instructions in a will and relations by marriage, close friends and carers and even unmarried partners – often misleadingly referred to as common-law spouses - could be left with nothing, as they have no right to inherit under intestacy laws.  

For more take a look at Exactly what happens if you don’t write a will

 
5. Don’t put all of your cards in one basket

Having a joint account is very common among couples and can be very useful when it comes to bills or living expenses. However, it’s wise to make sure you maintain a separate account of your own as well, to ensure that you retain some financial independence and both parties are financially protected – should the worst happen. 

This applies to savings and investments too. Maintaining an element of financial independence is still essential. Prioritising your financial wealth will mean you’re more likely to keep up regular savings into an ISA and pay into your pension. Because, let’s face it, relying on your partner to be there and willing and able to support you financially decades down the line is a big ask. So keep up your own savings and pension.  

You can save as little as £20 a month into a Fidelity SIPP, which will be topped up to £25 thanks to the tax relief available on pension contributions, giving you financial security in later life. And the beauty of it is, the earlier you start saving into your SIPP the more time your pension pot has to grow. Trust me, your older self really will thank you for it. 

Source:

Unbiased.co.uk, December 2023

Important information - investors should note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon. Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and all tax rules may change in the future. Withdrawals from a pension product will not be possible until you reach age 55 (57 from 2028). This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to one of Fidelity’s advisers or an authorised financial adviser of your choice.

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