Why Married Couples MUST Combine Their Money!

CouplesI was reading Millennial Money Challenge’s blog the other day and came across their article entitled, “HELL YEAH WE KEEP OUR MONEY SEPARATE WHEN MARRIED!”  I retweeted the article because it was well written, and I enjoy reading conflicting views.  I also encourage everyone to read and watch things that contradict their own beliefs, because it makes you a smarter more well rounded individual (Fox News, CNN, BBC, and NPR).  It also allowed me to reflect on my own beliefs and how I completely disagreed with the whole two accounts idea.  Read above and below, and decide for yourself.  I think my way is better for me and maybe you too.  It’s up to you to decide in the end.

Just as a little background about how important combining money is for me.  A month before my wife and I married, we combined our bank accounts, since we where paying for our $500 wedding, $2,000 honeymoon to Jamaica, and setting up utilities and such for our apartment.  My basketball coach told me that the secret to a great marriage was separate checking accounts.  I knew this was lie.  I wanted to share everything with my new wife.  So I had to mark the occasion and show the world how i really felt about our newly combined accounts (this should have been a red flag for my wife). I had never bought my wife any gifts up to this point (red flag), except her $150 engagement ring, fast food dinners, and movies (we were juniors in college when we got married). I knew this was a huge step in becoming one functioning unit, so I went to Whole Foods in Austin and hand picked a bouquet of flowers (it took me an hour to do this, it had to send the perfect message of oneness).  Now in 15 years of marriage, that was one of three times I got her a gift of flowers, and the only time I bought the expensive hand selected variety.  I knew combining accounts would be a blessing to our lives.  So, let me tell you why you should ALWAYS combine your money if you are a married couple (green flag?).

Money
This was our entire Wedding/ Honeymoon Budget!

I know that in the Millennial Money article they list all the “top reasons” why people speculating would want to keep their money separate, and some of those are valid reasons.  I’m not here to judge, but to encourage my point of view to be seen in the proper light.  But, the number one reason to join your accounts is that when you get married you become one unit.  You, no longer exists, and all transactions become “our” or “we.”  “We will get our groceries.” and “Welcome to our house, we are glad you came.”  Your money is no longer roommates, but one unit.  Her money is my money, and my money is her money.  The money got married too.  We are building our lives together, with our children, and using our money to fund the entire marriage experience.  Even if she stays home and I work, which was about 8 years of our 15 year marriage, the money has always been our money for us both to share evenly.  Now that we have two paychecks that are practically equal, the money is both of ours still.  We doubled our income, and it is all put into our joint checking account.

Trust is a big issue with this arrangement, and I know of some people who love to gamble at the casino, play online poker, or just enjoy to shopping for things online.  But, you married this person, and you had to trust them in the first place to give your heart to them.  Their spending habits should not be a surprise, and open shared accounts and honesty with money is great for continuing to build that marital trust. We budget shopping, vacations, fun money, gambling in Vegas, and anything else together.  I trust my wife to stay in the budget, and we talk throughout the month if changes happen.

navigator
Navigate life together!

Part of this trust is just the idea of having no secrets between us.  My wife can see my fun money account, and I can see hers.  It is attached to our joint checking account, and each month we get a little budget to play with.  Hers is more than mine since she shops with the kids, and mine is mainly for eating out, and fun activities. If I get a little surplus after a few months we can go to Six Flags or the Zoo.  We take weekend trips with my excess fun money, and she knows what is happening, she can see what I ate, and how I spent all my money.  I can see that she spent her money on kids soccer shoes, and I can make a point that month to take her out with my fun fund for some fun if she didn’t get to have much.  We have no money secrets due to our shared accounts.

Sharing accounts is also easier to have.  I love easier with money!  All the money goes into one account, we auto pay ourselves first (IRA’s, 403b, 529’s, etc.), pay all the bills on auto pay, put the rest in a fun account, pay extra mortgage payments, go on a vacation, or spend it on Christmas.  It’s all in one place, on one computer screen, and it’s easy to sit down and look at for planning purposes.  It’s just easier for everything to be in one place together.

We also must save together if we want to get ahead in life.  That means keeping the money together in savings accounts, retirement accounts, and other investing accounts together.  Both our names are on everything, so if something was to happen to one of us, we are good to go (monetarily speaking).  Again, we are one unit!  Most couples who save together are wealthier statistically.  We also have to know about everything together to plan for a better future.  How do you plan for a future with children if you are only seeing half of the financial picture?  I can put a plan together that we both agree on, and we can watch it grow together in our retirement accounts.  This also helps with accelerated savings rates when we get closer to a financial goal.  We can both see the finish line and suddenly we don’t need the fun money for a few months.  The goal becomes more important, and we put things into hyper drive!

 

Hole
Talking about finding holes in our budget is a key to success!

The last one isn’t a fun reason, but it does make a married couple a stronger couple.  Sharing checking and savings accounts causes us to have those hard conversations each month about money.  Early on it was always, do we have enough money, and where can we cut to make it work.  These were tough, but needed to happen for us to have survived and later prosper.  Now, it is how do we invest the excess, what do we want our life experiences to be for our children, how do we picture our lives 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now, do we go to Europe again, or do we help someone in need?  How can we use our money today for a better tomorrow.  Our financial communication is improving all the time, and most Americans still feel weird talking about money.  After 15 years of talking about money, we are feeling like it’s normal, and our kids talk about it also, helping with our budget and looking at the shared accounts online.  It is funny listening to my wife talk about how so many people spend so freely without a plan and how couples fight over money (red flag).  We are seeing the same financial picture together, and that strengthens our marriage every single week that we talk about our money, and how to use it best.  Communication is awesome for money and for a healthy relationship.  Have the hard conversations early on in your marriage.  It gets better with time.

couple
Life Experiences on a Budget!

Now, just a quick note on debt.  My wife and I married young, with no student loans or debt, and our biggest debt was a car payment early in our marriage, that we rapidly paid off and never had debt again.  I also asked my future wife early in our dating relationship if she had any debt (green flag).  She laughed and replied’ “nope.” I thought we have a Keeper!!  Asking these questions are crucial in an early relationship, because I believe that if you become one unit, than the debt is our debt, not her debt.  We better have a plan to get rid of it together, and throw all our resources at it, because at the end of the day, debt would hurt our family.  It doesn’t matter who’s debt it is, it has to go, or the family has less resources.  Never have separate debt and get rid of it as quickly as possible together.

I hope I have convinced you to reevaluate your account situation, your relationship with your spouse, and how you handle your money.  I hope I have challenged you to get closer with the one person on Earth you chose to love forever, and trust them to make sound decisions with you with our money.  You can have multiple checking accounts and savings accounts, but it should all be under one roof account, together for all to see.  I have two savings accounts and two checking accounts for our different money arrangements and savings goals, but we know about, and can see all our money together.  Reevaluate your life goals with your partner and see how sharing accounts can benefit your life together as one unit.

 

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15 Comments

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  1. Good thoughts! And generally a good idea when things are great. It all depends on if spouses relationship.

    If I had a daughter, I would tell her the same thing as I will my son: be financially independent so that no matter what happens, you’ll always be financially OK.

    It’s very seldom that each spouse is financially equal, therefore, that creates financial dependence on one.

    If you can give each spouse the gift of financial independence, that is one of the greatest gifts of all in a relationship. Money does cause friction as we all know.

    Sam

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  2. An interesting perspective. I’ve seen both styles of money management succeed and fail for other couples. I think you’re right about it ultimately coming down to trust and communication – no matter how you arrange your marital finances. The issues tend to come from partners being on different pages when it comes to their spending habits and financial goals.

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  3. Agreed with the One Unit thing. We also work toward shared goals and have mostly everything combined.
    But we do each have a ‘fun money’ account. The purpose is so that I can’t roll my eyes when my wife wants to drop $2k on a purse she saved up years to buy haha. I mean, I will still…but it’s some money that let us kind of have our own frivolous purchases and have some independence still.
    I expect that over time that arrangement will change, and it’s a pretty small line item in our budget now.
    Overall I’d say whatever works for both people is what you should do. For some folks that’s one unit, for others it’s totally separate, and some folks fall somewhere along the spectrum between those two.

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  4. I totally agree with this. Coming from a divorced woman who did the separate account thing with my ex. It allowed room for lies and deception. And then came the lack of trust. It ruined our relationship. I think the key is that if you love someone enough to marry them, you need to be able to trust them financially too. If there is mistrust in your finances, then you aren’t ready to marry that person!

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  5. Mr. Groovy sent me over because I totally agree with you. It’s a matter of trust, and having no secrets. I said a lot more in a post on The Lady in the Black.

    I don’t think I would have gotten married if we hadn’t planned on living as one unit. We could have maintained the status quo, keeping our own apartments, etc. as we’ve seen many long-term couples do. It wouldn’t have been worth taking the leap if it wasn’t “all in”. I think there are very few instances where couples can build a strong marriage with separate finances. But, that’s my opinion and I may be wrong.

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  6. I’m part of the combine finances club, for all the reasons you mention. Good post!

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  7. Interesting post and I like that you come from it from a very pure sentiment. I think that for those who started out and married young (e.g. similar assets or lack of assets starting out) it makes more sense sense to combine everything because you really are starting your lives together. For those who have later marriages (e.g. have established careers, lots of assets already) or who have are married for the second (or maybe third!) time and have children from other marriages, it might not make as much sense. I do joint accounts and we have separate accounts, as we have different investing styles and got married and met later in life (I’m in my 30’s and he is in his 40’s).

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  8. Couldn’t agree more. It’s actually not about the money, that’s just the medium. It’s about trust, transparency, and a willingness to work together as one unit. Separate money keeps a married couple from becoming one because it creates a lack of financial intimacy.

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  9. I’m all for equality in marriage, but I firmly believe that although partners for life, we are still individuals.

    With that, we’ve been married almost 37 years (Married at 21) and have separate bank accounts almost from the beginning.

    We’re retired now (retired at 54,now 57). But when both were working we shared the debt. My wife covered the groceries and health insurance. I paid all the other bills. We had a joint account and things did not go well.

    Being individuals, we had different interests and different spending habits. This upset the “Apple Cart” of the joint account.

    Once we set up separate accounts, we managed our own money, each paying our own “Bill” for monthly expenses. Money matters got easier to deal with.

    Now, we have a “Working Account” which all the bills get paid from and she has her account which gets money deposited each month, and I have my own accounts. I make money on the side (as I have all our married years), my wife doesn’t. Our separate accounts have actually made money management easier.

    Half of our retirement income comes from my pension. The other half comes from our investments.

    My wife does have a 401K which we’ll draw on in the future.

    I don’t believe that married couples MUST combine their incomes. Not doing so works for many folks, but not all.

    As for getting closer with my wife? It’s not going to happen because of our finances. We’ve been through a number of issues, most recently the loss of my Wife’s Mom, the last of our 4 parents. We’re now the “Oldest” in our families.

    We dealt with the loss of our parents, the loss of a child, loss of jobs, numerous health issues, as well as other things that bring couples closer together, or drive them apart. For us, all that we’ve been through has brought us closer together.

    I know a younger couple who have combined all their money, but the wife has no access to it other than a debit card. Her husband won’t let her access the accounts to see what’s in them. Combined money, but still unequal.

    Combined money is not going to ensure a happy and healthy marriage.

    Just my two cents.

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  10. Yes, yes, yes!! Couldn’t agree more.
    P.S. We went to Jamaica for our honeymoon too and our first Anniversary. Isn’t it wonderful?! Can’t wait to go back someday 🙂

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