Financial Planning for Unmarried Couples

Emily and Roberto had both weathered difficult first marriages but after dating for a year they were confident enough about the relationship to move in together.  They’re both quick to fend off questions from well-meaning friends about when they will get married.  For now they’re both happy to be together and not make it anything more formal however they would like to buy a home together and aren’t sure how to do that as an unmarried couple. 

Stacey was only 34 when her husband was killed in combat.  With two young children she wasn’t thinking about dating again.  When she met James several years later she was torn because she wanted to remarry but it would mean losing the military benefits she received (and counted on financially) as a military widow.  She and James have made an emotional commitment to one another but have decided to live together until they’re in a position where they can financially afford to be married and give up the benefits she is currently receiving.  However James would like to make sure that Stacey has financial protection for herself and the children in the event that something were to happen to him and he’s not sure what his options are since they are not married. 

Living together as an unmarried couple can create a different set of financial and legal questions than those that married couples face.  And yet an increasing number of opposite-sex couples are opting to live together in a long-term committed relationship rather than marry - according to the U.S. Census Bureau “America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2007” report between 1990 and 2007 the number of opposite-sex unmarried couples living together great 88% to more than 12 million people and 6 million households.  There are a wide variety of reasons that people choose to live together and not marry.  For some it’s because they don’t desire to make the commitment.  For others it’s because they would lose benefits they currently receive as a divorced spouse or widow/widower.  And still others would lose critically-needed social security, pension and/or health benefits if they were to change their marital status. 

If you are in a committed relationship and living together you will face many of the same issues as married couples.  However one area that can present different challenges is your personal finances.  Let’s look at some of the most important topics related to your finances that you should navigate together.