Q&A: When You’re Moving In Together, But One Partner Makes a Lot More Than the Other

By Rachel Puryear

In response to the recent post about discussing finances with your sweetheart before moving in together, I got a great question from a reader. The question was (paraphrasing for brevity): Where one person in a relationship doesn’t make much income on their own, how can they protect themselves – and specifically, ensure that they both have access to an emergency fund when needed?

This can be a tough and tricky matter. In short, I don’t think there’s one right answer for everyone. One issue with this (and the reader acknowledged this) is that for many people, it will be difficult to afford to create a separate fund for each of them right away, in addition to a joint fund for shared expenses; if they are not that well off. So, the couple would need enough resources between them to ensure that a “yours, mine, and ours” exists from the start of cohabitation.

In an ideal world, partners in a couple would always treat each other ethically and fairly. They would be able to trust one another to act in their shared best interests, and that each one would always be honest with their intentions. An ideal world would also, of course, include everyone having enough for a strong emergency fund.

Woman holding a stack of coins in each hand, and one stack is higher than the other.

Where partners can comfortably afford to do so, and there is sufficient trust between them that each partner is comfortable with the idea; it is indeed a great idea to ensure that each partner has access to funds without the other needing to sign off on it, in case something comes up. This also underscores the importance of establishing mutual trust before merging finances. Each person having access to a safety net is fair, and important. Where there is a disparity in wealth, one person will likely need to contribute more than the other (or maybe all of it) to make this happen.

And yes, it is true that if partners do not trust one another well, that they should not move in together. However, people do sometimes get embroiled in unhealthy relationships, and in abusive relationships people might not realize who someone is until they already live together. Kind and giving people with a traumatic past seem especially prone to getting used.

If you’re wary about moving in with a partner – either worried that they will shut you out of the finances and leave you in the dark, or that they will be irresponsible with finances and leave you on the hook for paying expenses; either way, you’re not ready to move in together – and should be seriously questioning the relationship.

For the majority of couples, both people do at least intend to do the right thing by one another, generally speaking. Sometimes, people can also both have good intentions, but different points of view around finances, and other matters. If you love each other, talking things out is important.


Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to relationships where both partners look out for one another.

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