BY Nina Smith

September 11 2009 9:00 AM ET

Avoid relationship penalties by creating both individual and joint bank accounts.

Merging lives often means merging finances. But it’s best to see eye to eye on money management before pooling your income. The “three-pot money system” is a wise option for many gay couples, largely because it’s a combination of accounts -- mine, yours, and ours. Create a joint fund for shared living expenses and financial goals like buying a house. But maintain your individual bank accounts for discretionary spending. This establishes a unified approach to significant joint assets yet still allows you to spend, say, $127 on Acqua di Parma cologne without necessarily drawing your partner’s ire. Each partner can contribute 50% of the mutual pot, or you could devise another ratio. “This system is also practical when there’s a disproportionate level in income,” says Helen Maynard, principal of Affine Financial Services. “For example, if Brad makes an annual salary of $210,000 and Daniel earns $90,000, they might fund the joint account with a 70-30 split to make things more equitable.”

Trading Faux Fun
Sports aficionados aren’t the only fanatics to have fantasy team games. Fiscal nerds have long managed their own fantasy stock portfolios with virtual trading floors like WallStreetSurvivor.com. For neophyte traders, WeSeed.com  is one of my favorite sites. This free site simulates the online trading experience, helping you develop your investing skills and learn about the market without losing real money. Since man cannot retire on mutual funds alone, every portfolio should have a few individual stocks for diversification. WeSeed recommends that you start with your personal interests. Let’s say you’re into gay rodeo and boot-cut jeans: WeSeed helps you translate your country-western affinities into stocks. Buy 1,000 shares of VF Corp. -- maker of those tight Wranglers -- and watch to see if your investment pays off.

In Defense of Luxury
A recession invariably puts conspicuous consumption on hold. But even though thrift and prudence are prevailing buzzwords with financial advisers, luxury tempts those trying to live within their means. “An occasional splurge here and there is part of what makes life interesting,” says Paula Gregorowicz, a life and business coach for lesbians. “As long as it’s tempered with enjoying what you have in the present as well. That’s the Holy Grail of financial planning -- finding that balance between splurging periodically because life needs to be enjoyed for our own well-being and saving for the future. You can’t constantly deprive yourself, or it’ll only backfire in the long run.”How then should you defend what you spend on nonnecessities? We shouldn’t have to defend our luxuries of choice. Consider the gym membership that many gays see as nonnegotiable. Technically it’s defined as a luxury, since luxuries are optional. But the label is irrelevant. If you can afford $89 a month to pump iron at Crunch and it brings you joy or some other benefit, go for it.

If working out is important to you but you can’t really afford it, then make a trade-off with other items in your budget. Remember that personal finance is just that, personal.





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