So you’re moving in together.
It’s exciting, maybe a little nerve-racking, and you’re trying to go about things in a smart way, because your pal Justin lost a lot when his ex-girlfriend moved out of his place, taking half his bank account and possessions with her.
Moving in together is a big step.
We’re in the day and age of the pre-nuptial agreement, so I’d like to introduce you to the cohabitation agreement.
I know, I know. I don’t want to rain on your parade of IKEA shopping but it pays to be smart in the beginning to protect yourself in case of emergencies.
Plan for the unexpected!
I know it’s hard to imagine your beau leaving you, or to imagine yourself falling out of love but the reality is that these things happen. It’s best to determine what belongs to whom, who is responsible for what and how you would go about a separation while you still like each other.
That is, if you even break up.
Many break ups are totally civil but a woman or man scorned can be a frightening thing. This is particularly concerning when one of you is a homeowner, or if you decide to buy a house with your main squeeze.
Let me put it this way — a mortgage might as well be a marriage.
The good news is if you never separate, you don’t have to worry about your cohabitation agreement. It was a "just in case" plan.
Phew! Now let’s throw that gross document in the closet and never think about it again.
Merging lives can be really exciting. You can be on each other’s benefit plans, you can qualify for family gym memberships, and you’ve probably thought, "OMG, let’s get a Costco card!"
But take it easy — the more you weave your lives together, the harder it may be to unweave if something goes sour.
There is nothing wrong with doing things together. By keeping separate bank accounts for the first while — or opting to open a joint account while hanging on to your personal accounts — you can maintain some independence.
It is important to have a "couple" identity and a "personal" identity. Do you know what your partner’s credit history looks like? Do you know the amounts of his/her personal bills such as student loans or credit card debt, or whether he/she has an unpaid utilities bill looming in the background?
Asking these questions in the beginning can make for smoother sailing in the future.
Vanessa Kunderman is a financial security advisor in Winnipeg. She writes every second week on money issues facing Millennials. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org