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Real Life Planning Podcast Episode 28: 9 Things to Discuss Before Moving in Together

Real Life

In Episode 28, I offer nine questions to tackle with your partner before you move in together. It comes down to sharing expectations in advance.

“You want to have some financial transparency around your current financial situation. At a minimum, that means sharing some information about credit score, any outstanding debt, income, and expenses, and how much you can both afford to pay going into this new situation.” - Cynthia Meyer

This week on Real Life Planning Podcast:


Do you both agree it is the right time to move in together? [00:02:08]


Do you understand each other’s expectations? [00:02:54]


Do you know each other’s financial history? [00:04:32]


How will you split the household expenses? [00:06:10]


Have you agreed on the right location? [00:07:50]


Are you prepared for the ups & downs of living with someone? [00:08:44]


Should you have a breakup plan? [00:09:29]


How will you share home responsibilities? [00:07:50]


Are you willing to compromise? [00:11:59]

Takeaway Quotes:

“You want to make sure that you've got all your ducks in a row and that you're prepared for things going well and what you can do to support the relationship – and for things being financially difficult.” - Cynthia Meyer

Connect with Cynthia Meyer:

About the Real Life Planning Podcast

Host Cynthia Meyer welcomes fascinating guests to share real-life stories of how they are realizing their financial potential. Each episode explores practical, realistic steps to create results.

Transcript of Episode 28

[00:00:11] So you're taking the next big step in your relationship and you're thinking about moving in together. It's a big decision. It could be romantic, but there are financial implications. I'm Cynthia Meyer with Real Life Planning, and today on the Real Life Planning Podcast, we are going to be talking about how to plan for this exciting phase. We are going to be talking about nine things to think about if you are thinking about co-habitating. 

[00:00:37] According to the Pew Research Trust, about one in 10 millennial couples are cohabitating, and that's a 59% increase since 1997. It's an exciting phase in your life. I was talking to some clients the other day who were moving in together for the first time. They were engaged but not yet married and they were full of positive plans, right? And I think it'll work out really well for them, but some people move in together- it comes with some heartbreak and could be financially disastrous. So you want to make sure that you've got all your ducks in a row and that you're prepared for things going well and what you can do to support the relationship and for things being financially difficult.

[00:01:22] So I wrote about this in a Forbes column a while ago, five or six years ago, I think. And so thinking about some of the things that I wrote in that column- the first is, to discuss the reasons for moving in together, right? So I hear it a lot from clients- particularly when I used to be on a financial helpline, that while moving in together, it's just a financial decision; it just makes financial sense. We're at each other's place all the time. We should just move in together and save money on rent, right? Just because something makes sense from a money point of view does not necessarily mean that it's the right decision. You know, you want to make sure you're doing it for the right reason. 

[00:01:59] If it doesn't work out, breaking up with a non-spouse- with a domestic partner, if you will, or somebody you're just living with and don't share other financial things with, it's not as legally complicated as getting a divorce, but it's icky, right?

[00:02:13] It can be emotionally gut-wrenching and financially detrimental. So you don't want to make the decision lightly. 

[00:02:19] Ask yourself before moving forward with cohabitating whether or not you're doing it because it makes the most sense for your relationship? Are you both really ready to move? Was there an ultimatum involved? Which is generally not a good way to get started. Wherever you land in your decision to move forward, you can feel much more comfortable knowing that you're all in, right? If you can think about the why for doing it beforehand. 

[00:02:43] So when my husband, Steve, and I were engaged shortly before we got married, we did move in together.

[00:02:49] We had spent a lot of time together before, but we still had our separate places; separate living arrangements. Other couples may find that they're comfortable living together without plans to get married. No matter what, make sure you're doing it for the right reason. 

[00:03:04] The second thing that you should consider is to understand each other's expectations. A lot of times, people are going to move together thinking that they understand what their person wants and expects from the situation only to learn that there were a lot of things that they hadn't considered. Assuming that your significant other has the same expectations as you do without discussing them can lead to some big issues.

[00:03:33] So I want to invite you to sit down together before the final decision is made and just talk through all of them, including some of the things that we're going to talk about in this podcast. Don't hide how you feel . You got to get it all on the table. You just remember to make this a casual conversation so that you both feel really comfortable expressing your hopes and goals for the relationship.

[00:03:53] Again, like I said, this isn't the place to bring ultimatums. But it's a good place to bring a lot of clarity before you start to merge your financial lives, even if it's just with rent. So ask yourselves, is this move a stepping stone towards a larger goal like Steve and I did when we were getting married?

[00:04:11] Or do you view moving in together as the end game? That's where you want the relationship to be. What could change after the move? For example, does your partner have expectations that you won't go out as much with your friends, or do you have this expectation about your partner?

[00:04:26] What are your expectations about chores and cooking together? They sound like silly things to cover, but they're really important and they affect the day-to-day comfort and collaboration in your relationship. This is going to be really helpful in getting things off on the right foot.

[00:04:42] So step three would be to talk finances candidly. It might be unpleasant to learn that your person has some financial stress in their life, or maybe they have a bankruptcy on their record, or poor credit score or a lot of student loans. Hopefully, at this point in your relationship, if you're talking about moving in together, you've discussed some of these things before, but if you haven't, you do want to have some financial transparency around your current financial situation. At a minimum, that means sharing some information about credit score, any outstanding debt, income, and expenses, and how much you can both afford to pay going into this new situation. Now unlike getting married, for example, moving in together without legal marriage did not require the exact same level of financial disclosure; but it's close, right? You're merging your day-to-day financial lives and so even if you're keeping your accounts separate you got to be upfront with each other. If you are making major financial decisions, particularly not just renting, but buying a house together, then you really got to kick it up a notch.

[00:05:47] There really isn't much difference in the financial disclosure that is required for couples that are getting married or couples that are moving in together- but plan to own property together. 

[00:05:56] I know this is going to sound a little strange, but if you're thinking about moving to in together, you might want to have a cohabitation agreement.

[00:06:03] Being co-owners of a property or being co-renters together, for example, does not have the same kind of legal rights that marriage does. You want to make sure that you've laid it all out in a legal agreement that provides each partner some protection, should one of you pass away or you break up.

[00:06:19] Tip number four is to determine how you'll split the household expenses. So think about who should be responsible for which household bills, both from a financial standpoint and from actually managing those bills and getting them paid on time every month. Maybe create a spreadsheet of all the possible expenses that you expect to have and those are things like utilities and groceries and caring for your pets if you have them, and then divvy them up among each other, noting which percentages each of you will pay towards each bill or how it's all going to balance out at the end of the month.

[00:06:53] So when my husband, Steve, and I got engaged and then when we eventually moved in together, we discussed our money management goals and we decided to use the kind of his, hers, and ours method. We each had accounts that we had complete control over. We opened a joint account in which we each contributed a proportionate share of the expenses that was proportionate to our incomes.

[00:07:15] When we first got together, he made more than me, so he contributed a little bit more into the pie. We each put money into that every month as a percentage of the total budget for the household. Our personal accounts were ours to manage as we saw fit. So in our relationship, we decided that we would not make a purchase of more than $500 without discussing it with each other. 

[00:07:37] A situation where you're moving in together, but you're not totally combining your finances, you've got to decide for yourself what the rules are. Maybe, you are going to check in with each other about major expenses. Maybe you're just going to contribute to the joint pot, and everything else is fair game. Whatever it is, you both have to agree on what the rules are going to be and how you'll share information.

[00:07:59] So, step number five is to agree on the right location. So couples often find themselves talking about this after they make their decision to move in together, and I want to invite you to do it before you make the decision to move in together, right? Because it could be a make-or-break issue for somebody. You want to ask your person if they have a preference and determine whether they're willing to compromise if the two of you are far apart about where you should live and what kind of place you should live in. For example, you might land in a middle ground if both of you wish to be close to your jobs, but your jobs are far away from each other.

[00:08:35] Or one of you wants more green space, and one of you wants more urban activities, right? So, get clear before signing any lease or making your purchase which locations are going to work well for both of your needs as well as locations that you can both comfortably afford. 

[00:08:51] So tip six is to prepare for the good, prepare for the bad, and sometimes prepare for the ugly. There are always pros and cons to moving in with somebody. On the upside, you might find it extremely convenient to have your person around all the time, and they could be the tidiest and most respectful roommate, which could really contribute to making your life more fabulous.

[00:09:15] On the downside, you have moved together before, you may find that they snore or they leave toothpaste on the sink in the morning, or they leave the clothes on the floor and sometimes those are things you don't really know until you actually make the move right? But if you think about it, and you're trying to have a lot of good conversations in advance, hopefully, you can ferret out some of those things before you move together.

[00:09:38] Now, the other thing I want to invite for people who are moving in together but not getting married is to think about making a breakup plan. And I know that sounds dire because I wouldn't necessarily- I wouldn't counsel a married couple to have the same plan, right? Not many couples are going to take this step, and it's easy to understand why no couple wants to talk about a future together when they're feeling positive and happy, which might not include the other person.

[00:10:06] But having some basic structure around a possible breakup, right? Agree how you'll handle a situation if for some reason, one or both of you decide you do not want to live together anymore? But so maybe you don't even look at this as a breakup plan. You just consider it a way to learn about what your partner values in terms of their belongings so that you can go into the move with a certain level of care and respect. So remember that cohabitating couples do not have any legal protection generally. If in the absence of a cohabitation agreement, a formal written agreement that can outline an equitable distribution of shared property, there are all sorts of things that you might want to think about. Pets is a good example. What if you buy a pet together? What if you buy dishes or bedding or furniture together? What if you've each put money into a renovation, right? So thinking about all these issues in advance as you're making these decisions and come at it from a place of love, but saying to each other, "Hey, we're going to be civilized people if this doesn't work out."

[00:11:10] Then the other issue, as any couple knows or even any pair of roommates knows, is that you're going to have to divvy up the household responsibilities. Now this going to get really interesting for many couples. If it wasn't interesting, we wouldn't have sitcoms.- but who takes out the trash? Who cleans the toilets? Who mops the floors? Are you paying a cleaning service? Who's mowing the lawn? Are you paying for a landscape service? Et cetera. These questions usually work themselves out over time. Again, you can discuss them before you move in together, so the process will be easier for both of you if you're just really upfront in a non-confrontational way.

[00:11:48] A home takes maintenance, right? There are certain tasks that have to be done. Somebody's got to do them. You're going to do them. Your partner's going to do them. We're going to pay somebody to do them, right? So create a loose inventory of all those things that decide who is taking ownership over what or how you'll alternate if that's what you plan to do.

[00:12:07] So the final tip is when you make the move, have the mindset that you're working together. As somebody who has been married since 2001, all relationships require compromise. Moving in with your partner, you have to approach it in the same way. 

[00:12:23] Consider all of these tips that I've talked about as guidelines to help you make smart decisions about your move, about how it's going to impact your finances rather than just really hard and fast rules that don't leave you any wiggle space, right? So once you've officially decided to make the move together and you've moved in with your partner, they've moved in with you, you've rented or purchased place together, right?

[00:12:47] Go all in! Enjoy your decision. Enjoy the process because you've covered all the bases and you have a well thought out plan. 

[00:12:53] So thanks for listening. If you have any comments, please leave them below and subscribe so you'll have notifications of future episodes of the Real Life Planning Podcast.

If you like this video podcast, consider joining Real Life Planning’s Question of the Week where CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and rental property business owner Cynthia Meyer answers the most common questions about real estate financial planning direct to your inbox each week. 

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