What happens when shifting gender dynamics, earnings roles and relationship norms meet? Just ask a millennial.
With little precedent for shared financial management beyond a traditional “male provider” model, millennials are learning to negotiate their own domestic and economic roles, and it’s not always easy.
In fact, one 2016 survey found that 88 percent of millennial couples consider financial decisions a source of tension in their relationships.
I reached out to three coupled millennials about their finances and fiscal approach to see how they’re navigating evolving social norms and economic roles.
Related: 9 Smart Spending and Saving Tips
Erin Lowry, 28, New York City
“When my boyfriend and I moved in together, we elected not to have a joint bank account before marriage, but we do sit down and go over bills at least once a month.
“To simplify the payment process, all of the bills are in my name and paid by me, and he reimburses me via Venmo for his share. We split utilities, rent and groceries evenly, which we did more for the sake of not nickel-and-diming each other. Because I out-earn my boyfriend, I like to pick up the tab a bit more frequently when we go out on dates.
“We also like to have monthly money meetings in which we talk about our personal financial goals and our goals as a couple in the future. We agree on not sharing accounts until after we’re legally tied to each other.”
Kevin Matthews II, 27, New York City
“[My wife] and I have weekly family meetings to discuss our financial goals and updates. We have one joint account we use for savings, but everything else is separate because our spending habits and incomes are so different. She earns 60 percent more.
“Instead of splitting our expenses 50-50, she pays the rent and contributes the rest of her income toward our savings, while 100 percent of my income goes to our other expenses: food, groceries, taxis, phones and so on. Our goal was to try and live off of one income, and this system gets us pretty close to that.”
Kathleen Ventura, 32, Sedona, Arizona
“Years ago, when both of us worked [traditional] jobs and he made more than I did, we had the same money-management style. It was all ‘our money’ even before we were married.
“Now I run a successful coaching business working from home, and Brock—the 6-foot-3-inch, hyper-masculine outdoorsman—is the homemaker. Brock’s role includes cooking, cleaning, hiking with the dog twice a day, paying bills, remodeling our house, grocery shopping and doing laundry. He supports me in each and every way, and that is invaluable to my ability to earn the income I do.
“The revenue comes in through my business, but we share the income equally. We have one bank account with our personal funds, and we are both on the credit card accounts. There is no 50-50 split or allowance for him, or anything like that.”
Despite different money-management styles, income distributions and household roles, the constant in these successful joint millennial money arrangements is an open and shared approach to household finances: A notion supported by findings that couples who talk about money more frequently report higher levels of happiness.
Despite changing social norms, economic roles and generational shifts, the golden rule of relationship success still stands when it comes to managing money: Talk about it!
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.