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Sharing is caring: A fintech study reveals how couples are splitting the bills

CNBC Select spoke to Zeta founder and CEO Aditi Shekar about how to NOT obsess over your money when joining finances with your significant other.

NoSystem images | E+ | Getty Images

Today's couples face tough questions that, unfortunately, our parents and elders can't always help us with.

That's especially true when it comes to money, argues Aditi Shekar, CEO and founder of Zeta, a fintech platform designed for couples.

"With our parents' generation, 70% of the time, they were single-income households, whereas with our generation, 70% of the time, we're dual-income households," she tells CNBC Select.

The way that we earn and spend money has fundamentally shifted and that impacts our relationships. Between Venmo-ing your significant other, sharing a joint credit card or simply choosing to keep things totally separate — it's worth taking pause and reflecting on what's working well versus what makes you and your partner secretly (or not so secretly) resentful.

In time for Valentine's Day, Zeta examined data from over 20,000 couples, with a median age of 31. Below, Shekar takes us through how today's couples (both married and unmarried) are sharing their cash.

Not everyone is 'all in' with their partner

If you grew up in a single-income household, you might assume that every couple shares 100% of their resources. But Zeta's data points to a surprising truth: More than one-third of couples (39%) keep their finances in separate accounts.

Another 39% were fully merged, or "all in" with sharing joint bank accounts, credit cards and bills. And the remaining 22% chose a "yours/mine/ours" approach with partially merged finances (allowing for individual spending while paying shared expenses from a joint account).

Zeta's data breaks it down even further:

  • Of the 39% who were fully merged or “all in,” 80% were married and 16% were living together
  • Of the 22% who chose a "yours/mine/ours approach," 54% were married and 35% were living together
  • Of the 39% who keep separate finances, 30% were married and 46% were living together

Couples take issue with what's fair

As two-income households become more common, today's money conversations bring up new talking points.

Zeta's survey found that many couples face the following concerns when trying to optimize their household money management:

  • Fairness: Couples want to feel like each person financially contributes to the relationship in a way that is equitable and in alignment with each person's values. Plus, they want to make sure both parties stick to what they agreed to.
  • Financial independence: Couples like the idea of streamlining their shared fixed finances and splitting bills, but they worry about losing their ability to spend and save on their own terms.
  • Incompatible money management styles: Couples worry that merging finances will lead to problems if they have different money styles, such as if one person is a saver while the other is a spender.  

Transparency and communication are key

Even with these money hang-ups, Shekar is optimistic about modern couples successfully navigating the the perils of love and money. It starts, she says, with both individuals agreeing to sit at the table, even if one person has to gently nudge the other.

"We see pretty consistently there's a reluctant CFO, or chief financial officer, in every relationship," Shekar says. "Funny enough, they're often like, 'I didn't really want to be this person.'"

When you do sit down, each person needs to feel like their approach to money management is respected. And couples with vastly different styles need to find common goals that motivate them to work as a team.

Lose the judgement, says Shekar, whether it's an attitude you formed from internalizing other people's opinions or you just feel like your way is the "right" way.

"Normalize the idea that we don't have to follow a one-size-fits-all model," she says.

How to 'team-up' with your partner

Research suggests that couples who team up to achieve financial goals have more successful relationships. says Shekar.

The number-one way to get on the same team as your partner, especially when they have a different money management style than you, is to unite around a common goal or value.

This might be buying a home, saving up for a car, planning for a child or opening a business together. Setting your sights on something greater than you both as individuals can be a powerful motivator, plus it makes you both feel like any compromises are well worth it.

Next, start planning regular money dates where you come together and talk finances. Look at your budget and talk about changes you might want to make together.

You can find ways to make budgeting easier with the help of a money app designed just for couples. Here are just a few:

  • Zeta Joint Cards: Starting this Valentine's Day, you can open a no-fee joint checking account with built-in features like automatic bill reminders, budgeting tools and in-app messaging to help partners communicate and build transparency.
  • Honeyfi: Set shared savings goals, track individual and shared spending, and get notifications/balance updates so you both are always on the same page.
  • Honeydue: Collaborate on shared projects/goals and coordinate bills, while using the in-app messaging feature to let your partner know you're on top of it.
  • You Need a Budget (YNAB): Perfect for the "yours/mine/ours" approach, set up individual budgets and a separate budget for household spending. Adjust your income preferences so when you get paid, the money gets allotted to the budget of your choice
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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