One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about relationships of all kinds, but romantic ones in particular, is that they are never 50/50. That applies whether it’s splitting money 50/50, household work, or emotional labor.
Thinking you can split everything right down the middle with your partner is a nice idea. It sounds fair and equal. But it’s almost never realistic and trying to hold yourself to that standard can leave you feeling frustrated and resentful. I’ve found that living with my partner is more an ever changing dance than an easy statistical split of time and money.
We can work as a team, but ultimately, successful relationships comprise of two people who can share a life together and maintain their individual selves. As individuals, we bring different resources to the table. We all have different amounts of time, energy, and support to give.
When I’m slammed with work one week and don’t have the time or energy to take care of household chores, my boyfriend Eric picks up the slack. He takes care of our two cats, makes breakfast for me, and keeps our place tidy.
The next week when he has a million meetings to squeeze in before leaving to speak at a conference, it’s my turn to do more than my “fair share.” I run errands, clean the house, and do his laundry because he doesn’t have the time.
90% of the time, I feel like we’re very much in balance and our contributions are fair because they reflect our realities as individual units and as a team. It’s not 50/50. In fact, trying to split everything exactly down the middle would be the unfair approach.
That idea applies to our finances, too. We aren’t splitting money 50/50. We’re not married and we keep our accounts separate. We’re committed to each other and the idea of keeping finances fair within our relationship.
To that end, we don’t split our rent into two equal halves.
When we moved in together, I netted significantly more than he did. I had a full-time job with a salary and I earned extra from doing freelance work on the side. He was in his second year of running his own financial planning firm that he built from the ground up.
We split the rent with me paying 60% and him paying 40%. As our professional lives continued to evolve, our incomes gradually shifted. I quit my job to run my own business full-time instead of just on the side.
That increased my gross income considerably, but also meant I started paying business expenses and taxes, too. To adjust, we agreed that I’d pay a little less in rent and he’d start paying a little more.
Meanwhile, Eric gained more clients to his firm and increased his revenue streams by landing speaking gigs. Both our incomes grew, but his rose faster than mine. This year, he’s on track to outearn me. That means we’ll sit down to discuss who pays what in rent again in a few months to ensure it remains balanced in relation to the money we actually earn. Splitting money 50/50 would be unfair to both of us at any point in time, since we both work in fluctuating businesses.
Eric and I also set a few joint financial goals this year. One of those goals is to buy an investment property at the start of 2018. We sat down and looked at our finances to determine what existing savings we had that we could pool together.
We each had money invested that we knew we could allocate toward a large down payment. I also had about $10,000 in cash that I could contribute to the fund, which I did — even though Eric didn’t have that same amount of cash.
At this point, we’re working together to create the life we want. The home will be in both our names and I’m not worried if we don’t fund our down payment 50/50.
Plus, the monthly savings goals we set to fully fund the goal aren’t 50/50 either. In this case, I’m putting about $300 a month less toward the rest of the down payment than he is.
We do believe “what’s mine is yours,” but we also know that we don’t always have equal amounts to give or contribute to the relationship. Whether we’re talking splitting money 50/50 or another resource, like mental space, energy, or time 50/50, it’s not always going to boil down to half and half. And we’re both ok with that.
And we know life ebbs and flows. Things change. If I can’t contribute today, I expect to be able to do so in the future. If I’m the one pulling more weight right now, I also know there will be a time when I need support from Eric (financial or otherwise) and he’ll be there to provide it.
Kali Hawlk is a personal finance writer and small business owner. She helps freelancers and entrepreneurs build better businesses (and lives) by creating compelling content that helps attract prospects, capture leads, and convert clients. You can find her on Twitter @KaliHawlk or on Instagram @KaliHawlk.
3 thoughts on “Why Splitting Money 50/50 Doesn’t Work For Me And My Partner”
My mom has this story of how my grandfather thought her and my dad were crazy to split groceries 50/50 when he eats way more. She thought it perfectly reasonable because he would never pack a lunch and they counted toiletries in the grocery budget and she used way more toiletries than him. My husband and I follow a similar philosophy that you cannot keep track of who is using how much of what, so it makes more sense to just split everything 50/50.
Your story feels to me an example of why so many couples go with the one-pot solution when they are married. For my husband and I, 50/50 is the way we handle the ebbs and flows of varying income and asset levels. At some point in your wealth growing years, your income isn’t all that matters – your assets are also available for spending. That’s where we are and in fact, the higher income earner has fewer assets than the lower income earner, so a percentage of income based budget no longer feels like a fair option. We’re not interested in one pot, so 50/50 feels like the simplest solution. It means that neither of us earning more money allows us to inflate the lifestyle past what both of us can afford.
Interesting take! It makes me think of how people say marriage/relationships are 50/50. Yet, there are days when one person needs 80% of emotional or financial support. My wife and I combine our finances but it’s 100% hers and mine, if it makes any sense. It’s never split half way down the middle. We both just put in and take out from the same coffin. I know it’s different for some non-married folk, still I think this is very helpful in helping me understand some of my own audience! Great read:)
You’re so right! It’s not always an even divide in the relationship, and so why should it be in money? Plus, every couple is different. EVERY ONE. So there’s no general rule that will work for everyone.