It’s a hot topic in the personal finance world — and often one that sparks intense debate, too. Newlyweds are wondering if they should keep finances separate, even after marriage, or if it’s best to combine accounts.
It’s not surprising that this is a popular subject to discuss. After all, money is often cited as one of the top causes of marital discord. Learning to manage your money in a way that makes both you and your significant other happy can go a long way in avoiding fights, stress, and anxiety.
We’re here to present the arguments for both sides, so you can collect the information you need about these two different money management methods within marriage.
The Argument for Couples to Combine Finances
Communication is key in a marriage, and combining finances makes clear and open communication much easier to achieve. Couples can stay on the same page, work together toward financial goals, and understand what they’re building together with their money when they share joint accounts.
Many people believe marriage is about building a life together, and possessions — including wealth — should no longer belong to this person or that person exclusively. It’s no longer a case of “mine” and “yours,” but of “ours.” Plus, things can run much more efficiently when there’s no constant back-and-forth over who owes money to whom and for what.
When issues pop up, couples with joint accounts can sit down and work together to find solutions. They can support and encourage each other and know they have someone to lean on who is just as invested in achieving financial goals as they are — because it’s a shared pot.
This doesn’t mean you have to lose your autonomy completely, but if you made the decision to get married you also made the decision to build a life with your spouse. They should be able to depend on you, and vice-versa. Combined finances is just another way this idea manifests itself within a marriage.
The Argument for Couples to Keep Separate Finances
Working together as a unit is crucial, but so is maintaining your own sense of self. Proponents for separate finances explain that even if couples share one joint account with which to pay common expenses — like mortgage or rent and utilities — keeping other accounts separate allows each individual to maintain some independence and their own identity.
Couples with individual accounts usually don’t feel like they have to “ask permission” before making a purchase or putting away a little extra in the savings account. And each person is less likely to feel like the couples’ money as a whole is being unfairly used more on one person than the other. In other words, there’s less reason to have petty fights over money.
And, although no happily married couple wants to think negatively, both divorce and death are realities that happen to couples of all backgrounds, ages, and income levels. Keeping separate finances makes each of these unpleasant situations just a little easier to get through in one piece.
What to do?
Advocates and believers in both approaches present solid arguments and reasoning for handling finances after marriage one way or the other. Ultimately, personal finance is personal. The common ground in both viewpoints states that couples should maintain open lines of honest communication when it comes to money. However, here are a few things to consider when trying to make this decision in your own relationship:
- Is there a primary breadwinner in the relationship? For example, if one spouse in the marriage plans to stay at home with the children, then separate finances may not make sense. The stay-at-home parent will be doing a lot of uncompensated work for the family. An income is not the only way couples can contribute to the household.
- Are you extremely picky about the way money is handled? Consider keeping separate finances. This may help avoid petty arguments and resentment to build within the marriage.
- Does one partner have a considerable amount of debt — but the other is debt-free? Sit down and discuss how you’ll handle this debt. Then work out a plan to make it happen. You may want to keep your finances separate until the majority of the debt is paid off (this doesn’t mean you can’t help each other, though!)
- Do you believe that marriage means “ours,” but want to maintain some independence? Consider a joint account — but allow each person to receive a set allowance to spend as they like.
- Are you wanting to maintain some independence even as you build a life with your spouse? Separate finances may work for you, but remember: the key to successfully maintaining separate accounts is to communicate. Couples should never keep separate finances with the intention of hiding something from each other or because one individual doesn’t trust the other.
The bottom line? Keeping separate finances or combining to create joint accounts is an intensely personal decision that you and your significant other need to decide together, as a team.
By Kali Hawlk, Staff Writer