Managing family financial obligations as a couple

Cebisa Mfenyana from Metropolitan, provides tips on how to manage family financial obligations as a couple:

No matter how strong your relationship, financial situations may arise that will place pressure on the bond you have with your partner. Debt, different spending habits, and financial obligations towards family members are just a few of the issues that you may have to deal with in your journey together.

Cebisa Mfenyana


Many young South Africans are faced with the ‘social burden’ of having to provide financial support to their parents, family and even extended family members. As a couple, family expectations and financial obligations that each partner brings to the relationship may cause challenges.

“When you are in a relationship with someone, you are in a relationship with their family too,” says Cebisa Mfenyana from Metropolitan. “This includes providing emotional and often financial support to each other’s respective families.”

Here are some tips that will help you deal with the pressure this may place on your relationship.

  • Check your financial baggage at the door. When entering into a relationship, try to get a sense of your partner’s role within their family finances. Does your partner’s family traditionally rely on him/her for financial support? What does your partner’s family expect and need? Communicate with your partner to share any obligations you may have. This will enable you to gain a clearer picture of both partners’ financial obligations towards their family.

  • Discuss family responsibility. It is a good idea to do this sooner rather than later. Ask your partner how much support their family needs – whether it is financial, emotional, moral, etc. Agree on the best approach to handle each individual’s family responsibilities. In some instances, one family needs more help than the other. You will need to find the right balance as a couple.

  • Draw up your budget as a couple. Make a joint decision about how much you can afford to allocate to family responsibilities. Then stick to it!  Make a concession for family responsibility in your budget. Remember to create an emergency fund for unforeseen events – for example, a parent falling ill or injuring themselves.

  • Avoid divide and conquer situations. Set boundaries with your family to manage their expectations on you and your partner. Avoid falling prey to the ‘divide and conquer’ trick, where family members approach one partner to get what they want.

  • Use the joint income approach. If either you or your partner no longer earns an income, it can become even more complicated. However, the same rules apply. Discuss what you can afford as a couple and then agree to stick to it.

  • Manage money matters as a couple. Lastly, sit down together and plan your short, medium and long term goals as a couple. Make sure that your goals and priorities are in sync to avoid any misunderstandings further down the line. If in doubt, get in touch with a financial adviser, who will be able to assist you in making joint financial decisions. Look at products that cover extended family, such as Funeral Cover. If one of you is responsible for a sibling’s education, then take out a savings policy to save for education.

“While it can be challenging, you need to try to balance your needs as a couple and the needs of each respective family,” says Cebisa. “However, if you communicate properly and take the decision to handle these responsibilities as a couple, the silver lining is that they will make your relationship stronger than before.

“Remember that if it affects your partner, it will affect you too.”




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