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So it’s time to take the next big step in your relationship: you and your significant other have decided to move in together. If that describes you, you’re not alone. According to the Pew Research Trust, 9.2 percent of Millennial couples are cohabitating – a 59% increase since 1997.

It’s an exciting new phase in your life but without proper planning, it could end up in heartbreak and financial disaster. Before you jump in head first, here are nine things to consider. Use this as your own personal checklist for making the move successful and full of joy for years to come.

1. Discuss the reasons for moving in together.

We hear it a lot from couples on our Financial Helpline: “It makes financial sense.” But just because something makes sense from a money perspective doesn’t mean it is the right decision. While breaking up with a non-spouse is not as legally complicated as divorce, it can be emotionally gut-wrenching and financially detrimental. Don’t make the decision lightly.

Ask yourself before moving forward with cohabitation whether or not you’re doing it because it makes the most sense for your relationship. Are you both ready to make this move or was there an ultimatum involved in the decision? Wherever you land in your decision to move forward, you can feel much more comfortable knowing you are all in if you think of the “why” for doing it beforehand.

For example, I moved in with my husband Steve when we were engaged, shortly before our wedding. We had spent a lot of time together before then but still maintained separate living arrangements. Other couples may find that they are comfortable living together without plans to wed. No matter what, make sure you are making your decision for the right reasons.

2. Understand each other’s expectations.

A lot of times, couples go into the move thinking they understand what their significant other wants and expects from the situation, only to learn there were so many things they didn’t consider. In fact, assuming your significant other has the same expectations as you can lead to some major issues! Sit down before the final decision is made and talk through them. Don’t hide how you feel. Just remember to make this a casual conversation so that you both feel comfortable expressing your hopes and goals for the relationship.

Is this move a stepping stone toward a larger goal such as marriage or do you view this as the end game? What might change after the move? For example, will you be expected to cut back on happy hours with coworkers because you get home too late and your significant other can’t fall asleep without you? Will you expect your significant other to cook meals regularly? These may sound like silly issues to cover, but having these candid discussions will be extremely helpful to starting off on the right foot.

3. Talk finances.

It may be unpleasant to learn your significant other has a bankruptcy on their record, but you’ll be glad you knew about it before the move. Talk about each of your current financial situations: credit scores, outstanding debts, incomes, expenses, and how much you each can afford going into the new housing situation. What percentage of income should housing be? Use this checklist for your money talk. If you are making major financial decisions together, consider drafting a cohabitation agreement, a legal agreement which provides each partner some protection should one of you pass away or you break up.

4. Determine how you’ll split the household expenses.

Think about who should be responsible for what household bills – both from a financial standpoint and from actually managing those bills and getting them paid on time each month. Create a spreadsheet of all the possible expenses you expect to have, such as utilities, groceries and caring for pets. Then divvy them out among each other, notating what percentages you each will pay for different categories if you plan to share the load.

Following our engagement but before we moved in together, my husband and I discussed our money management goals and decided to use the “his, hers and ours” method of cash management. We opened a joint account and each contributed a percentage of our household budget based on our incomes. What was in our personal accounts was ours to manage as we saw fit. However, we did agree that we wouldn’t make purchases of more than $500 without discussing them with each other. You can read our money story here.

5. Agree on the right location.

Couples often find themselves talking about this after making their decision to move in together, only to learn that it was a make or break for them going into it. Ask your significant other if they have a preference and determine where they are willing to compromise. For example, you might land on a middle ground if both you and your significant other wish to be close to your jobs, which are 30 miles apart from one another. Learn early on which locations may work well for both of your needs, as well as which locations you both agree you can comfortably afford.

6. Prepare for the good, the bad and the ugly.

There are always pros and cons to moving in with someone. On the upside, you may find it extremely convenient to have your significant other around all the time and they may be tidy and respectful roommates to top it off! On the downside, they may snore like a bear and leave toothpaste all over the sink every morning. Sometimes, there are things you won’t know until you actually make the move, but if you think about what could be and fully understand the good, the bad, and the ugly beforehand you’ll be mentally prepared to compromise through tough situations.

7. Create a “breakup plan.”

Not many couples take this step, and it’s easy to understand why. No couple wants to talk about a future that might not include one another in it. That being said, having a plan for a possible break up is always a good idea. If you prefer not to look at this as a breakup plan, consider it a way to learn about what your partner values in terms of their belongings so that you can go into the move with a certain level of care and respect for those items.

Remember that cohabitating couples do not have legal protection, but your cohabitation agreement (see #3) can outline the equitable distribution of assets in the event of a break up. Be respectful about each other’s things (whether officially on a spreadsheet or more casually) and inventory what items have special meaning or value to each of you so that you can delegate back to each other appropriately in the case of a breakup. Consider which items you might want to have shared ownership over. These items are the ones you’d likely sell and split the proceeds of in the event of a breakup.

Lastly, consider how a breakup could affect any pets you have. Will there be shared custody? How often will you each visit or have the pets?

8. Divvy up the household responsibilities.

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Who takes out the trash? Who cleans the toilets? Who mops the floors? These questions usually work themselves out over time, but not without some heated discussions along the way!

Make the process easier on both of you by discussing chores you each like to handle. Maybe you hate doing dishes but never minded vacuuming. Perhaps your significant other likes to mow the lawn but can’t stand cleaning bathrooms. Create a loose inventory of the things you each may take ownership over to run the household but be sure it’s not a strict regimen that takes the fun out of the responsibility.

9. Make the move – with the mindset of working together.

At the end of the day, all relationships require compromise. Moving in with your partner needs to be approached in the same manner. Consider all of the above as guidelines to help you make smart decisions about your move and about how it will impact your finances, rather than hard and fast rules that leave no room for change. Once you’ve officially decided to make the move, enjoy your decision and the process, knowing you’ve covered all your bases with a well thought out plan.

This article was sourced from http://newszuma.com