How to cope with changes to your finances as a couple

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In the current economic climate, it’s not uncommon for one — or even both partners in a couple to lose their job, to have their hours reduced or to decide to go it alone. Change on this scale means that the financial habits you established when you got together may not work anymore. Find out how to deal with major change.

Common causes of change
Everyone’s situation is unique but there may be common triggers that mean you have to rethink what you do with your money.

SAVVY TIP: Just as your relationship will have its ups and downs, so will your relationship with money. And even if you each keep your money quite separate, what you choose to do with your cash is likely to affect your partner in some way.

Perhaps:

  • You or your partner has changed jobs. It could mean you’re earning a lot more or a lot less than you were a few years ago.

You or your partner has given up work altogether. Maybe you planned to go back to work after having children and have changed your mind.

  • You or your partner would like to start their own business.

If one of you wants to give up work
If you decide to stop working because you want to be a full-time mum (or dad), it’s normally expected that your other half will support you. But what happens if you want to stop work so you can retrain or do something completely different?

  • If you’re unhappy in your current job, your plans for a change will probably be welcomed by your husband or partner. No-one wants to see someone they love doing a job they don’t enjoy or worse, one that actually makes them feel depressed. But they may be concerned about the financial implications for both of you.

SAVVY TIP: Your plans mean your income will take quite a drop, or even disappear altogether and your partner is bound to feel the financial pressure. Denise Knowles, a relationship counsellor says: “They may feel that it’s down to them whether or not the bills get paid and may even resent the fact that you’ve been able to pursue your dream while they can’t.”

Action plan
Try these steps to help you get back in control:

1. Work out exactly how much money you’ll have coming in and how easy it will be to live on your reduced income.

SAVVY TIP: Work out whether you can spread payments using a 0% credit card (apply for it while you’re still in work) and look at where you may be able to make cutbacks. If you’re worried about paying your mortgage, talk to your lender and see what options may be available. They’re not always as sympathetic as they could be but it’s definitely worth getting in touch.

2. If you’re the one who’s planning to retrain, get as much information as you can about financial support, how long you’ll have to study for and what the likelihood is that you’ll get a job at the end of it. It’s like drawing up a mini-business plan.

If one of you wants to start a business
Starting a business can also signal a massive change in lifestyle for both of you: the one with the business will probably be eating, living and breathing it, while the other may find they end up doing more of the chores or childcare, or both.

It’s also likely to affect how much you have coming in and – just as important – the predictability of that income. Starting your own business requires real bravery and you (and your partner) shouldn’t underestimate that.

Action plan
Starting a business needs more than a winning idea. You have to think about what you’ll live on before your business makes money.

1. Do your research. It’s a real cliche but there are some people who start a business without looking at whether or not there is a market for it. There are loads of websites, such as Everywoman, Women in Business Network and Smarta (and articles on SavvyWoman) to point you in the right direction.

2. Sound out the market. Don’t give away secrets to everyone but run your ideas past trusted friends and family – and listen to their feedback. It’s easy to get carried away but if you can’t make money from your idea, it’s not a business.

3. Assess the risk. Most successful business owners have taken risks to start or expand their business, but you should be aware of the worst case scenario and limit your financial exposure (i.e. don’t rush to remortgage your home or to put it up as a guarantee if there are other options.

Related articles:

How to turn your business idea into reality; small business marketing tips from an expert

If you and your partner are about to move in together, make sure you have ‘the money conversation’

Are you affected by financial abuse? What can you do if your partner is controlling over money or abusive?

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