Marriage and Money: Joint Or Split Accounts?

An e-mailer asked a question that opened up a very interesting discussion for my wife and me. It was “I know you are married, but is the Net Worth for you only or for both?” My initial internal response was “Duh, of course it was for both of us. We are married, how could it be any other way?” But in reading NYC Money’s post about splitting the money in marriage, my eyes were opened. Check out this comment (not by NYC):

My wife and I also maintain seperate accounts. In fact, when she needs money she applies for a loan with me. I then charge her the appropriate interest rate and make sure she pays on time (late charges make a nice side income)… I see marriage as a business venture with my wife being the most important client. It?s cold but why mix love and money?

What?

Of course, this is probably a bit to the extreme. This is how NYC Money does it (she is also under 30 and recently married) – they keep separate accounts overall, but know how much the other has. If there is a big purchase, they both send in a check for half. Many other people actually seem to do this. Is this the new thing to do? Here’s how Jose of Money and Investing does it:

We keep separate accounts, except for the running expenses like utility bills, vacations, and food. Large purchases like houses and cars are done independently. Each one should own whatever they have worked towards. We do not mix love and money.

Recurring theme about love and money. I must say, the idea of this is completely alien to me. Why wouldn’t love and money be linked if you’re spending your entire lives together? I know that one of my close married friends pays the whole mortgage and considers the condo they live in ‘His’ (not sure how they split other stuff). When I told my wife about it, she was equally incredulous. What happens if one spouse goes broke? Do you keep the love but make them eat ramen?

Here’s how we do it: One pot. Although I have various individual bank accounts (primarily for rate-chasing and bonus-seeking), we consider all our money as one. It doesn’t matter who pays for rent or dinner or shoes, since it’s all from the same source. We have no plans to change this… ever. Of course, great communication is the key to this, and well as relationships in general.

Of course, there are lots of reasons to separate assets. Maybe you’ve both been living independently so long that it’s really hard to give up complete control of your money. If you want to buy that new gadget with your own hard-earned money, why the heck can’t you?

Also, there is the ‘Money is Power’ argument. A man that makes a lot less than a woman may feel emasculated or lose self-esteem. A woman may feel the same. Personally, I’m like – the richer the better! =) Historically, I have made more money than my wife. Now, she makes more than me. In the future, who knows? We intend on being a one-income household when we have kids. That is, either we both work half-time, or one of us works full-time while the other one stays at home with the kids. If she ends up making twice as much as me, guess who’s changing diapers? Trip of Musing Money hasn’t earned income for five years now, and they seem to be doing well.

But hey – Different strokes for different folks, right? People can handle their money however they want, and I am not judging. There is no right or wrong if both people are truly okay with it. But what I do want to know from you couples out there is How do you do it and Why? Why do you keep everything together, some together and some separate, or completely separate? Tradition? Power? 50% divorce rate? Lack of trust? Individuality? Fear? Pragmatism? Enlighten me!

I just ask that you be honest! This is the internet, you can be completely anonymous.

Comments

  1. We have joint accouts. Individual accounts for online bank accounts. As for why, I guess like you I thought that was the obvious and most natural way to do it.

  2. I agree. These separate money folks are totally alien to me. Basically, we do what I grew up watching my parents do. We pool money and consult on big decisions, financial strategy, etc. That’s it. It seems to me that those people who want separate accounts probably view money differently than their spouse. My wife and I, who share funds, view money the same way. Same vision = no conflict.

  3. My wife and I do a little of both. We have a joint checking account that we automatically put a set amount of money into each month (actually comes out each paycheck) and then the rest goes to our own accounts. All joint expenses (mortgage, groceries, set investment amount, utilities, etc) get paid from our joint checking account. We then have our own accounts for whatever we want…that way, if I want to pickup a new Xbox 360 game or something one month, I just do it with my own money. No real reason, it isn’t as if she would get mad, we just always had out own accounts before we got married and just continue to have them now.

  4. Frequent Reader says:

    Good topic. I am a frequent reader and this is my first post….

    Ever heard of “two become one” when you get married? Well, the whole union involves combining two lives into one, including money. I was debt free before I got married. However, I now have “our” student loan and credit card debt. Sure, you can say that is her car or his car, but when it comes down to buying a new one it should be paid with our money.

    I don’t follow the logic or totally agree with those who do separate their finances. The idea of not mixing love and money in a marriage leaves me with the impression that the equation may be fully lacking the love portion.

    I could live with being “powerless” if my wife blew me out of the water with her income. That would only help our household and my pride or ego would certainly not get in the way. I am a firm believer that by getting married you give up your control of $$ and unselfishly work together towards financial freedom. Heck, we all take one for the team sometimes and the thought of leaving your spouse hanging is brutal and gross.

  5. Almost every single married couple that I know of that kept things seperate are no longer together. Those that work together in every aspect and keep the communication lines open are the most successul with their marriages. That is just my experience.

  6. We do it all as one pot too. It’s OUR money, so why should it be separate?

  7. We do joint, except the mortgage because I initially bought the house before we married and she didn’t have enough of a credit history when we refinanced; it would have dragged the rate up. With us, it’s all one pot. She stays home with the kids mostly and I go to work so in effect we’re both contributing equally to the household so no reason to split it. We do however each get a weekly allowance ($40) which we can spend however we want; we’ve found this to be great since it lets us buy what we each want w/o having to consult the other while at the same time not busting the budget.

  8. Like Frank, one money pot for us. We share financial (and life) goals, and work together to meet them.

  9. I think everyone’s different and every situation changes over time. I don’t know if I’ll be splitting the accounts 10, 20, 30 years from now. For now, the way that everything is set up was the way it was when I was single and dating. For now I like the way it is.

  10. Whew, looks like you touched a popluar nerve with this post. I’m with you on this one. When my wife and I became married 1.5 years ago, we became one. All of the accounts we have are joint, we both have free access to all of them, because god forbid anything happens to either of us. We’d like to believe we’re building our marriage on love and trust. Money is nothing unless you have someone to share it with………..

  11. Are there any studies that show that people who go joint vs don’t fair better in their marriage? I would initally think that there would be no difference.

  12. My wife and I were using a joint bank account even before we were married. We lived together, it was just more convenient that way. At this point, our finances are totally unified; we don’t have any separation at all.

    We have one income, so I’m not sure where money for a separate account would come from. And depositing money from my income into my wife’s “separate account” would just seem bizarre — like giving her an allowance or something. I don’t want that level of control over my wife’s spending.

    Now that I think of it we do each have an “individual” credit card, that we use almost exclusively when buying each other gifts (we both tend to check the web site for our main, joint credit card pretty often, so it’s hard to buy surprises for each other on that one.) But… we each have copies of the other’s card, so even those are technically joint accounts.

    This has never caused us any problems at all. We talk to each other before making any large purchases, but have never seen any need to have some account-based control on spending. It just seems to me that to need that implies a lack of trust.

    Why have a separate account? The only reasons I can see are if you want to spend or save more than your spouse would approve of, or if you want to buy things you want to keep secret from your spouse, or if you’re very concerned with getting “your share” of the money and are worried your spouse will spend “your” money on themselves. None of those apply to us. And while I get annoyed with the “Well, why do you need privacy if you don’t have anything to hide?” attitude when it comes to the government and corporations collecting information on me, there’s a big difference here — I trust my wife. I don’t trust the government.

  13. I personally am not married, but remember something my uncle told me about his finances with his wife. His paycheck is deposited every other week into his own account and he transfers the same amount (lesser than his paycheck) every pay date into his joint account. As far as his wife knows, that’s how much he makes. His wife has never dealt with finances in her life and therefore is very irresponsible with money. Everything that goes into the joint account gets spent one way or another (she spends what’s left over after bills). Since she actually believes that they have no “real” savings (aside from retirement funds) but still spends it all, he feels that he is 100% justified in keeping the extra from her cause she would just spend it anyway. Of course I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, but for those who married someone with no experience keeping up with finances, and spends recklessly, it might be a good option.

  14. We do a combination. We each have our own account and then we have a joint account. The joint account is our emergency money account. What has been funding it has been tax refunds since we have been married (7 yrs) We still maintain our own accounts and for bills, we split them up and pay with our own accounts.

  15. All of our accounts are together except, I think, a credit card that I don’t use or just have been too lazy to add the spouse to.

    Originally, my spouse had bad credit so most of the credit ended up in my name but since I have redeemed him, most everything is joint except for the minor things that fell below my lazy threshold. :)

    We don’t view money as my money or his/her money, it’s all our money.

  16. My wife and I have seperate accounts, my paycheck goes in mine, hers in hers. We both have check signing capabilities on each others account but we do not use them. We decided a long time ago that whomever made more would take on the burden of the mortgage, while the other took on most of the other bills. Right now I pay the mortgage…I don’t think I’d dare tell her that the house is mine ;)… also, we don’t pool our money but we do budget together and make sure every bill is accounted for. If needed we switch bills for a month (I’ll pay utils if you pay the car loan, etc.)

  17. DC Reader says:

    Our approach is similar to Herb’s (posted above). Everything is joint and our paychecks deposit into our primary joint checking account before we move it around into various joint savings accounts. We also have “play money” accounts for each of us — individual savings acct in which we place a couple hundred dollars each month, and a portion of any bonus or other incentive/award we might receive.

    Also, because my wife makes about 1/2 less, but worked a lot longer before we married (and used much of her savings to help us get started), we contribute 1/3 to 1/2 of her paychecks to her personal savings with the goal of replenishing her savings (which she has no plans to spend or use, so its really just another backup savings account, beyond our other cash savings that we are building in a joint account).

    We discuss all major transactions and also review how we are doing every month or two, or more often if a goal or problem is emerging that requires us to make new decisions or take new actions. One key thing in my opinion is that although we have not yet created a will, we have carefully setup every account with rights of survivorship and primary/secondary beneficiaries. All the money and accounts are worthless if they can’t be accessed in a real crisis, or if the state or courts get in the way. Our system has worked well for 5 years, so we anticipate continuing this way for the foreseeable future.

  18. My husband and I have separate accounts and separate credit cards. At the beginning of our relationship, my husband had an incident where a family member used his SSN to open a bunch of credit cards in my husband’s name, and my husband ended up carrying and paying off that debt. So we just decided it might be better to keep our money separate, in case of any more similar incidents. And we’ve just gotten used to it, I suppose.

  19. Great Topic.

    My wife and I have primarily separate accounts. We do have a joint checking and savings. We have been married for just over two years and both in our mid 30s. Each of us have been doing our own thing for so long that for the time being it works. We do have issues which we are trying to work through. She wasn’t happy that I opened a HSBC account (rate chasing and couldn’t pass up $25) and not add her name. I probably should have discussed it with her prior to doing, but at the time it just didn’t cross my mind. I don’t have a problem adding her to the account. I guess we need more communication.

    We have a condo in another state that has a tenant. Its mortgage is paid out from joint checking w/ funds from the tenant. We don’t have to pay out of pocket for our current living arrangments. We do have daycare which my wife covers.

    There were several statements made in previous comments, but two stand out to me: 1) If something were to happen to either one of us, one would have very little information on the others account (gotta work on this); 2) The two should become one! (I love this one). We currently see things a little differently and have to communicate and compromise. Boy that is going to be tough!

    I could go on and on, but I guess I will have to save that for my blog. Thanks for giving me some things to think about and the opportunity to share!

  20. Jerry Maguire says:

    Well I live in California and legally it really doesn’t matter whether the accounts are separate or joint. However, I am a big believer in having both joint and separate accounts. My and my significant other have joint checking and brokerage accounts. All of our money goes into the checking account then at the end of the month whatever is in excess of our budget goes into our brokerage account. Whatever is in excess of our budget into our brokerage account gets split to each of us for our own accounts.

    The reason that we like this method is that we both like to have some financial independence and privacy in our purchase and investment choices. For example, I am very risk tolerant and like to get involved in risky investments. However she is more conservative and likes to play it safe.

    We also have different spending habits. She likes clothes and bags and loves to go shopping at Coach and Bebe. I spend my money on food/dining, vacation excesses, and technology/gadgets. Because we have different spending habits, we sometimes don’t approve of each other’s purchases. She doesn’t like it when I got out to lunch everyday (she wants me to each a bag lunch). I don’t like it when she gets yet another Coach purse that costs 2 bucks to make in China.

    When we use our own discretionary money, we don’t gripe or complain that it is affecting our financial stability. We chuckle and say “I can’t believe you used your allowance for that!” This method has worked out great for us.

  21. Well, I don’t think joint accounts are for every married couple. Every individual has his or her own savings/spending habit.

    My suggestion is that whenever there’s a big purchase (say $100+), both have to sit down and agree on it (else guys can spend their money buying video games and girls can spend all their money spending on cosmetic stuff). Needless to say, they do have to talk about their investing/trading ideas, too.

    Don’t forget the government allows married couples to file either jointly or separately.

  22. Love your blog…
    I am not married but have been dating the same guy for 4 years and we live together (so I may not count ;)) We have a joint account, to pay household bills. We also have separate accounts for our personal use. This is something, as a woman, i always plan to keep. My parents have been married for 40 years and my father always insisted on her having her own account. In the beginning it was due to the fact he wanted her to have her own credit, independent of him in case something were to happen to him. She was on all of his accounts, house, cc cards, cars, etc.. He also stressed that he wanted it this way just in case he “messed” up and did a “stupid man thing” (his words, not hers). He wanted to ensure she and, in turn, the kids were taken care of. I think it works both ways, but I do listen to my father and mother on this one.

  23. “I then charge her the appropriate interest rate and make sure she pays on time (late charges make a nice side income)… I see marriage as a business venture.”

    This is totally backwards. Marriage as a business venture? Horrible idea. Once the profit margin drops, what’s the incentive to stay together? Can a partner be downsized or outsourced in this arrangement?

  24. I?m single so obviously I have a separate account. However, my parents had a joint account and gave each other an allowance each month. I?m not sure what the amount was but it worked out really well. My mom (the saver) never felt like she had to question my dad?s spending habits. Plus, my mom was a stay-at-home mom, and my dad never wanted her to feel like she had to ask for money.

    One aspect I think those with joint accounts (married or unmarried) should think about is having a will and ensuring their listed beneficiaries are up to date. EVERYONE should have a will (I?m doing mine soon) but what most people don?t realize is that your named beneficiary (to an IRA, 401 K policy, life insurance policy) always trumps the will. You may leave everything to your wife in your will but if you have an old IRA that names your parent as the beneficiary then they will receive the IRA. Anyone going through major life changes (divorces, marriages, births) should ensure beneficiaries are up to date. Also, if you have a mortgage in two names, the other person automatically gets your share of the house. This may differ state to state, but this is how I?ve understood it in the past.

  25. My wife and I have a joint checking, joint savings and a joint credit card. In addition to that, we each have a seperate checking account for personal spending like lunch, clothes, gadgets and so on.
    We used to have only one joint checking, but she has no control over her spending and constantly went over budget and spent money we needed for bills. That’s why we set it up this way, and it works. I don’t get iritated when she buys the 87th pair of shoes or goes to Starbucks all the time, and we still have enough money to pay for everything. The allowence thing really works for us. It has nothing to do with control or not trusting each other, but to give each other a little freedom to buy something without having to justify that purchase.

  26. TheFrizzeak says:

    Here’s my spin.

    My wife and I kept it separate for the first few years. In short, we kept it like roomates. Why? Simple. Money is probably the biggest reason people get divorced. When getting into a marriage initially why add the added pressure? Now that was 10 years ago and it went on like that for maybe 3 or 4 years (and we had been together for 8 years before that). When we were comfortable with how everything else was rolling we made the jump to sharing finances.

    My personal opinion is people shouldn’t get married before 27 and they shouldn’t share finances before 30. We all think we are mature enough to deal with all of these issues, but only a rare few truly are at that level.

    Besides, even when you do think you have it figured out — a few months later you may be sitting in divorce court.

  27. Virtuality says:

    My wife and I each get a percentage of the money that we individually earn, to spend any way we wish, and the rest goes in one pot. We have two checking accounts, one account is for bills, rent ect. and the other is our personal money. We keep track of our individual amounts in the personal money account (so we know whose is whose) and if we want to go in on a purchase together, we?re not writing two checks. This method is somewhat of a hybrid between joint/split, and it works well for us. ;)

  28. As a good married friend told me soon after I got married, ‘The good news is you’ll still have two separate accounts after marriage; the bad news, one is ‘Our’ account and the other is ‘Her’ account!

    But in all seriousness, this way may work for some, but I would rather think of my marriage as a loving relationship than a cold hard business!

  29. Kevin Lee says:

    Just curious. What happens if one spouse dies? Or how should one handle the estate issue for separate accounts?

  30. For us, it has been journey!

    We got married almost 3 years ago and moved to the US to pursue graduate degrees. Since we did not have any kind of history in this contry, we started building things separatedly. Now that we both have jobs and credit history, we are starting to merge our accounts. This week my idividual account will become a joint account and both our credit cards will be linked to this account.

    My wife will keep one of her individual accounts because she works for a bank and her DD goes to that account. From that account she will pay some house hold expenses and her personal ones and evrything else will go to our joint account.

    Although we has things under separate names, we never thought about money about yours or mine. Even now that we bought I car, I took the loan because I had the better credit score and could secure a very low interest rate, it is still our car. Even though she does most of the driving since I take the train to work!!!

  31. I will like to add that both our parents were complete opposites. My mom is a BIG spender, she makes more money than my dad but spends evrything and has not saved a dime. My dad is a saver, a very “cheap” saver. They hold evrything separatedly.

    My in-laws are a weird species, my father in-law used to bring 100% of the income and he gave everything to my mother in-law. If he needed to buy something he asked her for the money, and there was a huge possibility that she might say No!!!

    It is a funny deal, I guess we learned from our parentes! je ;)

  32. Good stuff! I was hoping for some more juicy confessions though =)

    I don’t think of giving each other $100 a month in ‘fun money’ is really splitting accounts, it’s just setting a formal limit on items to check-in with each other, as opposed to an unsaid limit like we have.

    Buying a bagel? No check-in. Trip to NYC to get the best bagels? Check-in ;)

  33. Money is a big marriage breaker. But I don’t think that means you split the money in a marriage. That will have the same effect. The key is to have that monthly budget meeting, reach a meeting of the minds, and keep the lines of communication open.

    This has to, by far, be one of the fastest growing comment strings on a PF blog that I have ever seen.

  34. Seperate – women spend way too much on clothes and shoes.

  35. My wife and I have joint accounts with the exception being credit cards. If for some reason one of us were to miss a payment, I don’t want both credit reports to get dinged. I used this strategy after others reported that the credit card companies are reporting authorized users to the CRAs as well. Also, having separate credit in theory should increase the amount of 0% balance transfer money you can both obtain.

  36. Dr. GreenBack says:

    Absolutely separate here in the asylum for the last several years. It is the only reason my marriage is still intact.

    I tried that combined thing early in our marriage. I didn’t even sign my paycheck. I just gave it to her, and expected her to deal with the expenses.

    What I got out of that deal was a bankruptcy (10 yrs ago), car reposessed (6 years ago), and sued for (individual) credit card debt (4 yrs ago) I didn’t know I had.

    3 strikes & you’re out. She wrecked both our credit ratings simultaneously. I’m still recovering financially, and my individual credit is slowly improving.

    My wife lives for today and doesn’t expect the sun to rise tomorrow. Perfect in every other way, just financially irresponsible.

    It’s working well for us. We’re happier now than we have been in a long long time.

    It’s going to take a while to fully recover. Yet I have made up my mind to systematically eliminate the debt, and have started saving for the future.

  37. How many of the splitters also signed pre-nups? The Donald seems like the biggest prenup advocate these days.

    Single, 24 yr old male here prowling for ideas on how to build a better marraige. Parents shared accounts from the start, but ended up splitting marriage 20 years later. Never heard of, but like, the dual allowance idea.

  38. I’ll post because I havent’ seen anyone else doing what we do.

    We have a joint account for joint expenses (mortgage, utilities, groceries, insurance, houeshold, retirement) and we each have individual accounts for our individual expenses (our clothes, our own cars, our own etc.).

    We put our paychecks into our individual accounts and then put a fixed amount into the joint account.

    The fixed amount we put into the joint is a proportion of our joint budget and based on our relative pay scales.

    The benefits are that we can each choose to spend our “leftover” money how we want to, i.e. if she wants a new dress or a new car – that’s her expense, if she can afford it. At the same time our joint expenses, including retirement and savings are completely funded at a level proportional to our pay.

    This seem to make the most sense financially to me. Each person contributes what they can based on pay but yet has their own discretionary money. We even paid for our wedding reception and honeymoon at a “pay proportional” level.

    How does the poster in NYC Money fund “joint” expenses?

  39. I think going with seperate accounts makes sense if you are sticking to a budget and the seperate accounts have the extra “spending money” or something like that, but I can’t fathom how a marriage could work with finances completely seperated. Seperate accounts also seem usefull for gift giving, since the shared credit cards make it tough for either of us to surprise the other.

    I don’t really see how keeping money seperate will make it less of an issue in a marriage.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Me and my wife (only married for 3 months) keep joint everything. I closed my bank account and added all my money to hers, since when we moved and my bank just wasn’t nearby. I added her name to all my credit cards (2) and got her one of each. She will do the same for me, after she dramatically whittles down the number of cards she has. The only thing we didn’t merge was our student loans. We both have very high student loans. If the unthinkable happened, and one of us died, the other would not be responsible for that debt. If you merge them however, and one of you dies, then you are responsible for the combined debt. Therefore I recommend against consolidating your loan with your spouses (but do consoldiate all of your own loans into one loan).

  41. As a gay guy this conversation is pretty fascinating. My partner and I have been together for about 3 years. We’ve had separate accounts all along… mostly because neither of us thought it was worth it to take the time to figure out how to do a joint account, and also because we each have student loan debt and it just didn’t seem to make much difference to blend our money when we had so little of it to begin with. Each of us has changed jobs over the course of our relationship; he used to make more money than me, and now I make more (that is, within a range of 20-40%, not double or 3x the other person’s income).

    We occasionally “lend” each other money (though not at interest– wow, that seems dysfunctional), but that’s generally because our budgets are tight and it would mess things up if the money isn’t paid back. And we consult each other on big purchases.

    At this point, due to work issues, we’re basically living in separate cities so it still makes sense to have separate checking accounts. But we want to buy a house in the next 5 years, so we’re starting to look around at ways of establishing a joint savings account.

  42. That has got to be the craziest crap I’ve ever read.

    Charging interest rate on your wife.

    It’s like, asking to die or something. Or er, to do stuff by yourself a lot.

    That said, I’m going to go with the one pot idea when it comes time to, and I suppose only differentiate the accounts when the situation requires of it.

  43. seperate accounts imply mistrust in the relationship. Fortunately both of us are so in sync on the financial aspects that each has to urge the other to get new clothes, shoes, flat screens, sending money to help out each others parents and to eat out. We live out of my paycheck (minus my Retirement plan savings contributions) and use my wife’s paychecks (minus her retrirement contributions) for what I like to call ‘infrastructure building’ (paying down the mortgage and extra savings). Once the kids are around, we plan to use the flex-time aspects of our jobs to work from home. It is all one big pot with her contributions as green as mine.

  44. Catrijn says:

    Joint accounts for us. There is an element of a business relationship, but its that we are in a business partnership together, not that one of us is a ‘client’. I can’t imagine making my husband pay me back, much less charge interest – it’s all OUR money. I do still have a few accounts that are in my name only from before we got married, but we consider any funds/debts in them to be ours (and they generally don’t see any activity anyway). Individual discretionary money is a set item in the monthly budget, though, and any over-/under-spending accumulates. This prevents either of us from eating up the budget with small puchases that individually wouldn’t hit the “you need to check first” threshold. The amount we each get is the same, and would remain so even if our incomes were wildly unequal.

  45. If you’re splitting your finances then you and your partner obviously have different financial goals. That can be devastating.

    We are single income so the single check goes into our joint account. We each have a few hundred a month to spend as we wish and any big purchases are decided as a couple.

    She is more organized so she pays all the bills. Every cent goes into quicken which is really neat come end of year.

    The interesting thing…she has better credit. She has none of the big bills – I have the car, house, etc – she claims “household” income. Oh the irony!

  46. We have one big pot of money. Splitting is just one big hassle. Now, if one of us (or both) had “bad” spending habits, then I could understand splitting. But, we are both “low maintainance”, so this is not an issue.

    I totally understand the “split” approach if one or both is a big spender/not a good money manager.

  47. I definatly believe in having accounts together. I try and keep “the Two Shall Become One” as a guiding principle in our marriage, and (for most people) keeping separate accounts leads to only mistrust and envy.

    That said, we do each have our own small amount of “fun money” (would be larger if we were not paying off debts right now). Any purchase that doesn’t fit elsewhere in our spending plan (I dislike the term budget) has to either come out of our separate funds or be agreed upon ahead of time.

    I can see the need for separate finances if one spouse is totally irresponsible with money, in order to reap those extra account bonuses (free money is always nice), or if necessary for the purchase (e.g. one spouse with better credit). However, unless there is a legitimate need for protection, we put a barrier between us and our spouse whenever we divide something as important as money. Those barriers always have consequences in other areas of our lives (emotional, spiritual, etc)…

    I would much rather seek after more unity in my marriage than add in any more division – relationships are already tough enough!

  48. How many women do care about investing or retirement planning at all?

    That’s why it’s dangerous to let them control all the $…

    Speaking of bills, whoever earns more pays more. For ex, the husband earning 60k pays 60% of the bills while the wife earning 40k pays 40%.

  49. Relationships that are built around the thought that “the money is kept separate” never work.

    Money is a HUGE issue in relationships and people divorce over this reason more than any other.

    I COMPLETELY disagree with every poster who feels “who makes more should pay more.” This is assbackwards. Remember, you are married. what a novel concept.

    Put you money into the same account and make a budget. Yes, I do make more than my wife, but that doesn’t mean I can go out and buy a $1,000 watch on “a whim” without telling my wife or without budgeting for it.

    Most men are too insecure and have inflated egos. Thus, they have this, “who makes more pays more” attitude.

    Why don’t you stay single if you are not willing to co-mingle your income with your wife?

  50. The other thing I find interesting is that most married couples wait until AFTER they are married to discuss their money, debts, etc., and then expect the marriage to work reasonably well in regard to money.

    Yes.. Money IS THAT important.

  51. My husband to be and I are keeping our separate checking accounts, but joing our savings account. The savings account will then link to our checking accounts, so we will have access to eachothers money through transfers,etc. but share a common saving goal.

    For us, the reason is simple. We have different spending habits. We are both very aware of eachothers spending, and we both contribute to the savings account, but we budget differently when it comes to personal money (for shopping, etc.), which is why we keep them separate.

    I do, however, think that at least one joint account, preferrably a savings one, is essential. You should share a common plan for the future with your spouse.

  52. Anonymous says:

    As an estate administration attorney, I know what a hassle it is in my state to have to go through probate to get some asset released from an estate when they’re titled in one spouse’s name alone. Therefore, all of our assets are jointly held as husband and wife (tenants by the entirety) to avoid probate and, (in my state) to provide a measure of asset protection in case one of us gets sued. A gay couple could achieve much the same result (without the asset protection) by owning as joint tenants with right of survivorship.

    Even for those couples who wish to have “separate” accounts, I would recommend that they think about at least titling the accounts as joint accounts for probate avoidance. Each state’s probate rules are different, though, so YMMV.

  53. The Fatwallet finance forum has a useful topic on why keeping separate accounts, even for married couples, can be a good idea.

    Joint Accounts – as BAD, or worse, than cosigning! (attention married couples!)

  54. Katherine says:

    Seems like a lot of the men are justifying keeping their finances separate because “How many women do care about investing or retirement planning at all?” or because all women do is run up your bills, or they can’t help but buy 10 pairs of shoes a month – men who feel that way, why are you marrying someone who is completely irresponsible, ignoring planning for the future, and who disrespects you by using you for your money in the first place? We’re not all like that!!! Certainly that may be true of some women (and also some men!), but to generalize like that just seems angry and bitter. I’m sorry that you have come across women who have run you into debt, but don’t think that we’re all looking to do that. And certainly don’t get married to someone that irresponsible – then you won’t have the problem to begin with.

  55. Katherine says:

    To respond to the previous post – I am a 25-year-old woman with $20,000 in stocks and mutual funds (I care about investmenting!), own my own car outright, have been putting 13% of my salary into my 401K since I started full-time employment three years ago (retirement planning!), have a credit score of 790, and I bought a new townhome almost two years ago(that will finally be done this summer!) Now, I’m sure there are other women who are doing a lot better than that, but I’m feeling pretty good about my financial life so far, and how it looks for the future.

    Yes, I love new shoes and clothes – but I don’t go crazy – I buy a few items every other month or so and of course I’d like more – but my financial goals are way more important than some cute sandals that I’ll wear a couple of times before they get old.

    Anyway, I’m just saying – don’t generalize!

  56. I think it’s interesting that people assume if a couple keeps joint accounts, they are better communicators about goals and budgets.

    My boyfriend and I (been together 6 years, but not married), keep separate accounts. I find we communicate more since we don’t see all of the small expenses. We have an overall house budget: our rent is split based on % of income, and we split utilities evenly. We take turns paying for groceries, dinner out, etc. We communicate about how each is doing in the budget, and always check in with each other.

    Large expenses are always split and planned for.

    This works best for us since we have the same goals and overall spending habits, but completely different ways of getting there. I’m the person that writes down every transaction and tracks spending almost obsessively. My boyfriend on the other hand, has his paycheck put into his savings account and uses the transfers out of savings as his monitoring of a budget.

    I think communication is always important. If a couple has completely different goals and spending habits, it won’t really matter if there are joint or individual account, there will be problems. As long as the communication is there, it all depends on what works for each couple.

  57. My comment got unwieldy, so I posted it at Tired but happy.

    Here’s my response to this fascinating thread:
    Joint accounts in relationships.

  58. I’m surprised by the level of misogynistic comments here, and I hope that most of you who’ve said things like “women waste their money on shoes” are joking. You should check out the amazing, grounded, and empowering women-centered personal finance blogs out there. You’d be impressed.

    I am a single woman, but I can’t imagine not sharing accounts once I’m married. The idea of having separate cars and only one person’s name on a mortgage strikes me as strongly repugnant.

    It seems to me that as long as you have compatible long-term goals and both partners actively working towards them, the logistics of automatic transfers and the names on the financial statement are just tirival minutiae.

    I would want to know within a few thousand my partner’s income, account balances, and spend/savings habits, and I would need to feel more than comfortable sharing that information with him before I’d consider getting married. I would also be comfortable telling him how to access all of my accounts in case of an emergency, and would ask the same of him. If we didn’t agree about the long term stuff, I wouldn’t marry him!

  59. There are very, very good reasons for having separate accounts. Suppose that one of you gets sued and you end up owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to someone? The joint accounts would be fully liable. However, if you have separate accounts, only the accounts of the person who was sued would be subject to attachment.

  60. I used to be in the one-family one-pot camp, but now things look a bit more complicated.

    One issue is psychology. Some people, like my partner, can’t help equating balances with available money. So they need to use strategies such as having money automatically withdrawn from each paycheck to help keep them inline. I, however, feel better having extra money in an account in case I make a math error (and need that money to keep the account from going negative) and so I have quick access to money.

    So, in my current relationship (not married), we each have our own accounts. (And when he needs fast money, I can just write him a check.)

    Also even though we become one family when we get married, we are still made of two individuals. Before we get married, who gets our stuff in a will? Friends and other family. Do those people suddenly not matter at all after a marriage?

    No. There are some things I want that my partner would have no interest in; those things should still go to people who do have an interest. Same with my partner. Some of our things will become ours (like music and DVDs) and some will remain separate (like clothing and weirdo interests).

    So, here’s how it’s working for me now. We each have our own accounts. We calculate how much is our fair share of the monthly bills. I pay them, and he writes me a check for his half. This will probably continue if we get married.

    In addition, we each have different priorities. I want to work at a low-stress job, which means I have a low income. I also want to keep monthly expenses low to retain flexibility in case the worst happens. So, I want to work less hard, and I’m willing to drive an old car and shop at thrift stores so I can do that. He thrills on his higher-paying job and deserves to get more stuff. We often subsidize each other if we want the other person to do something the other person wouldn’t normally do. For example, when my partner was unemployed, I still dragged him to another country to visit my sister. And if he wants to move to a bigger house, he will pay a higher proportion of the rent. (I will probably pay more in rent than I do now, because I will also like living in a bigger house, but I won’t pay half, because I don’t want it that much. Also, he will be using more than half the storage space for all his stuff!)

    Another reason I like separate accounts and credit cards and such is that sometimes things go wrong. If we both have the same checking account, and it has been locked (accidentally, perhaps), then we’re stuck. Or if we share the same credit card and want to go over the $400 limit for that day, it’s nice to have an additional card for back-up.

    I also like having separate separate investments. My current partner and I have different philosophies. I like that we are both investing our own money according to our own philosophies. Then we both stay informed and practiced in the investment arena, we of course both have tidbits of interest to discuss with each other on this topic, and if one of us has done something very unlucky, then the other person can help.

    Of course married people are in the same boat, but I’ve decided I’d rather be in two boats that are strongly tied. If something goes wrong with one boat, that person jumps into the good boat.

    About marriage being a business, my boyfriend says that it is a business arrangement, but that the clients are all outside the marriage! I like that.

    And finally, people, please be careful with the sexist attitudes. Jeez, it’s the 21st century. In my relationship, my boyfriend thinks I spend too little on clothing and shoes (I should get higher quality stuff and replace it more frequently), and I’m the one with the retirement and long-term investments (my house will be paid off in 7 years, and I’ll retire in 9). Like the other posters have said, if you can’t deal with the other person’s spending habits, maybe you shouldn’t marry that person. And like the guy who’s wife is great except for her spending habits, he is figuring out how to deal with that.

  61. This is definitely a big topic. I am currently looking into to how others handle their money in their marriage. I have been married for 11yrs and our money has always been in one big pot. My husband now wants to have seperate accounts, some without my name on them! Yes, that is right… and this may very well cause to divorce. I have told him that I WILL NOT live like that. If he cannot trust me with “our” money (because yes, we are ONE), then I cannot trust him with my body and that means… you know what I am talking about. I am furious that he would want to seperate our funds. I think a marriage should be built on trust and with seperate accounts, that shows a real lack of trust. Maybe more to me because we have always had everything joint. I have appreciated reading everyone’s different outlooks and it has been very helpful. It has actually shown me that there is a possibility that it CAN work for some, so maybe it will for us too.

  62. in the begining i made all the money put in one pot paid bills what was left we shared 10 years later she added to the pot but spent that much more. my cut was the same as before. soon she was living on all her money and half of mine. at 20 years she was making as much as me. she had new car every 2 year 3 closets full of clothes and shoes rube’s friday’s for lunch 4 times a week. got her own accounts at credit union took out loans to pay off loans opened cards to transfer balances unknown to me. when i reduced my deposit into the pot by a car payment without buying a car and started saving money on my own she was furious.now we are getting divorced after 27 years and she wants half of whats left
    in a nut shell we had $10 she spent $8 now she wants half of the 2 left probably will get it. BE FOREWORNED YOUNG MEN BE FOREWORNED!! the spouse who contributes the least to the finances ie spends the most,comes out ahead in the end. and there will be an end…THERE WIL BE AN END!!

  63. Guy from NY says:

    “Steve Says:

    March 7th, 2006 at 8:37 pm
    Seperate – women spend way too much on clothes and shoes.”

    I agree. I earn twice as much as my wife but she spends twice as much as me (more than her salary). This joint account thing ain’t working for me.

  64. I feel most people do not appreciate resources. To some degree I believe most people will use most of the available resources, no matter the quantity. It’s a bit like upgrading to a larger hard drive only to wonder how you ran out of space again without a clear reason.

    Some people, inexperienced or unappreciative, will simply use up what is there, often greedily, and perhaps subconciously.

    If I have an account into which a variable amount of money is deposited each month, my wife might spend 95-105% of the amount deposited each month on groceries. So if I deposit $3500 we will be spending about $3500 on groceries that month. If I deposit $2000 we will be spending about $2000 on groceries that month.

    Protecting resources from this and similar behavior is probably beneficial.

  65. Two become one…joint accounts for sure!!! Agree on a spending plan…and any large purchases (set an amount that you both agree on) and consult each other before purchasing, out of respect for each other.

  66. BigBurban313 says:

    I have a question for every one If you make the most money in a realtionship then you should control spending right.

  67. My parents split the bills 50/50. Each had their own checking account (no joint account) and have been married 38 years. They both earned about the same amount of money. My mother always said this was the best option and I agree with her. My father was a big spender, so if they had shared one account he would have spent all the money in it. To this day, he still has a hard time managing a large sum of money. – He never balances his bank account and buys things on impulse. And growing up, that woud have been a disaster for my family because we would have likely lost our house if he’d had access to all the funds. Since my mom insisted they treat the finances as separate but equal responsibilities, he knew he was obligated to pay his share from his own account. This also meant he had his own discretionary income to spend as he chose after the bills were split. Even so, he would sometimes have to borrow money from my mother when he went through his own money. But this was a better alternative than giving him access to all of the money. Every couple is different and not everyone is fair minded when it comes to spending. My mom recognized this early on and insisted that she and my father split the bills in half. I am thankful she did so because it worked out for our family.

  68. Up in Canada says:

    I came across this blog, in search of ending the constant battle with my wife over money. Together we make a good living, though I do make over twice as much as her, we are a married couple and things should be equal as they say. Our problem is, she works a 9-5 type job and I put in over 100 hours a week – 7 day shifts. I do not spend anything while I work, due to the long hours. Then when I go to check the accounts, it seems she has been going on shopping sprees, yet she says she is just getting the things that are needed. We have tried to do a budget with a weekly limit on spending and even that doesn’t seem to work. I’ve tried to allocate a certain amount for food, gas etc, then when the money runs out, she is back spending out of the account again.

    I’m kind of in a pickle as I am at my wits end on the money in our marriage. I’ve told her that we are going to be splitting accounts and allocating a certain amount for joint expenses and then whats left over she can spend as she chooses from her income and I would do the same… Though I am all for this, she doesn’t seem to keen on it due to the fact that I make alot more than she does.

    After reading this blog and reading what others are doing, I think I will make a last attempt before splitting accounts. All our bills, rent, insurance etc are paid online threw our joint account. I am going to take out a certain weekly amount for groceries, that we will sit down and make a list for. Then I am going to give each of us a weekly allowance, inwhich we can spend on whatever we want. That way, she is not asking me for things and I am not getting mad when she buys things out of the blue. We have alot of big purchases in the future that we need to be saving for and I think this is our last resort before splitting accounts. It should work, so I will be crossing my fingers.

  69. People who do not consider money as ‘ours’ are far too self centered to be married. I would even go one step further and say that these self centered people have defrauded the other person out of a legitimate marital relationship.

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