The money challenges of multiple relationships


Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam

Blog author Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam is a money writer and educator. She helps artists and freelancers get creative with their money at Hey Freelancer.

Published February 14, 2018 | 4 min read

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Household budgeting can be enough of a terror to deal with when you’re coupled, but what if you’re polyamorous?

Whether you have a main partner and multiple lovers, or are part of a “triad” or “quad,” it’s complicated is a bit of an understatement. Besides coming up with a plan and rules for a budget, and the inevitable squabbles over money, a multiple-partner relationship can potentially create more confusion and conflict. So just how can those who are poly make it work?

A few poly households share how they handle their money matters:

Create a system

While Jamie and Heather Calame, a married poly couple in Santa Cruz, California, have separate savings accounts, each has access to the other’s account. The couple divides their bills according to how much income they bring in. Since Jamie earns more, he pays more.

When it comes to savings, because the couple has separate savings accounts, travel and gift money that goes toward other partners outside their relationship isn’t an issue. “It’s really nice never have to feel that my income is going toward Jamie’s vacation with someone else,” says Heather. “It’s going toward my vacation with someone else!”

The Calames also share a credit card, which both are free to use on treating their partners or on dates. “While I rarely use the joint credit card, sometimes I’ll use it to pick up the bill while I’m on a date or out with a friend,” says Heather, who is 34 and a high school music teacher. “They might squabble with me for the check, but with a wink and ‘Jamie’s buying this time,’ they’ll just laugh and order another drink.”

For Patricia, who has two husbands and who all live under the same roof, the triad plans and budgets together. The three of them designated the most prudent among them as the household treasurer. And to curb their spending, they primarily use cash. None of them have credit cards. “Not having credit cards simplifies our accounting, and helps us keep a transparent bank balance,” says Patricia. “Plus, the physical presence of dollars keeps us more cognizant about how much everything is worth, and we spend less money when we use cash.”

You can never communicate enough

“Have you ever watched your friends try and split a dinner bill?” says David Rae, a CFP and founder and president of DRM Wealth Management. “In poly units all financial decisions can end up this way without some good communication and planning.”

For Patricia’s household, all money matters are talked about and negotiated, and major financial decisions are agreed upon unanimously. “As in most things poly, we try to over-communicate to avoid jealousy and resentment,” says Patricia, who is in her 30s and is an L.A.-based artist in the entertainment industry. This includes having important recurring bills posted on a shared calendar, so everyone stays on the same page. The triad communicates on a daily basis what is needed and cash is doled out accordingly.

Stay on top of estate planning

To make sure everyone feels they are the same level legally, estate planning is crucial in poly households. “Many times one partner is not legally part of the couple, so having things in writing will be helpful when life eventually happens,” says Rae.

“For any partners who aren’t legally married, you need to recreate many of the rights of marriage, with things like medical power of attorney, and who gets your assets if you pass away,” says Rae. “In states like California your ‘spouse’ needs to sign off if you have any beneficiaries other than them.”

To resolve complications in splitting assets equally among three partners, Patricia and her two husbands have created an LLC in which all are members and hold their assets in. They each have living trusts and have designated a power of attorney. And they’ve also listed one another as beneficiaries on their life insurance policies.

Even though some of the longer relationships outside of their marriage were super important, neither of the Calames, who have been together for 12 years, have considered adding an outside partner to their benefits. “I suppose if either of us took the steps to move in with another partner, we probably would add one of them as a beneficiary,” says Heather. “But we haven’t had any partners that have fit that bill for us yet.”

While it is indeed complicated, it’s totally doable to create a system and rules to manage money in poly households. And as with all things in any relationship, with a bit of planning and loads of communication, poly units can drum up a plan to put their joint money matters in good order.

Image: oatawa