Should people combine their money after marriage?

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There’s one way a married couple is supposed to manage money: jointly. Well, that was how it used to be – after all, women needed a male co-signer to access credit until 1974.

Married couples today have more options when it comes to managing their money.

The classic of being completely mixed remains. It’s simplified, it’s simple, it’s what you may have grown up with. The second option is some level of separation. This was sometimes advised in secret: mothers warned their daughters to put money aside in case they needed to escape a bad marriage.

Nowadays, having separate accounts is more often related to the practicalities of marriage after both parties have established themselves professionally and perhaps need a certain level of independence. For some, this means a hybrid model of joint and individual accounts. For others, it’s a complete separation of finances.

Neither school of thought is wrong, but a recent study found that couples who bank together are more likely to experience relationship satisfaction and are less likely to break up, especially when they’re dating. is about those who have less financial resources.

One theory as to why was that couples “who pooled their bank accounts used more pronouns such as ‘we’ and fewer pronouns such as ‘I'”. marital satisfaction, in part because of mutual dependence on each other. In other words, going from “my money and your money” to “our money” can lay the groundwork for becoming a team.

It’s an interesting study, and there are many ways to question and interpret the results. It is difficult to determine causation, after all. (What if social pressure was what drove couples to combine all their wealth? What if another factor was what kept couples together?)

I would argue that strong communication skills can be developed just as much, if not more, when partners have separate finances. Having at least one separate bank account from your spouse does not preclude the need to be a team around finances. In fact, maintaining some autonomy in a marriage can foster a healthy environment for both partners and promote long-term relationship satisfaction.

My husband and I call 90% of our money (income, savings and investments) “our money”. I even pivoted my language after the wedding to refer to the student loans he carried as “our student loans” as we worked to repay them together. (We had many conversations before the engagement and then before the wedding about how we would handle the money after saying “yes”. At first my husband was reluctant to accept the idea of ​​me helping him pay off her student loans after marriage. But in my mind, no matter how much income went to pay them off, those loans would have an impact on our overall financial situation as a couple, making them our problem to solve.)

The 10% of our money that goes into separate accounts doesn’t negate all the work we’ve done to build a life together. It actually helps to reduce inane fussiness. We always want to spend money in a way that the other might not fully get, so it helps that everyone has discretionary spending money deposited into our individual checking accounts each month.

Having only one separate account per person can create dangerous territory for some couples depending on how those accounts are funded. Regardless of who earns what, monthly discretionary spending should be the same per person. Income prorating can create a sense of entitlement and separation. For example, I currently earn more than my husband, but we both have the same amount of money to spend each month, and that’s based on what makes sense for our overall household budget and other goals. financial.

It is essential that you put the financial needs of your partnership ahead of funding individual accounts in order to foster unity. Otherwise, it is easy to become territorial and entitled.

On the other hand, being 100% separated is a challenge. This works for some couples, especially those who may have been previously married or have children from other relationships. But overall, having separate financial households under one roof requires another form of trust, lots of communication, and good management. If spending is completely compartmentalised, it can be a breeding ground for conflict if one person starts earning and spending a lot more.

There is another simple reason why I would say keep some money separate: finances are one of the ways abusers can try to control their victims and stop them from leaving. Financial dependence, with or without abuse, is a common reason why many people – but more often women – remain in marriages they would rather end. While secret accounts are often considered financial infidelity, your safety comes first. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to leave, it’s perfectly acceptable to have an account that you don’t disclose.

In a healthy, non-abusive relationship, you should openly discuss your desire to have an account in your name only. Explain any family history or personal experiences that make you feel the need to separate. It is not a reflection on your current partner, but rather on what is best for your well-being.

It’s easier to talk about money if everything is completely streamlined into joint accounts that both parties can easily access. Having any level of separation requires more communication, especially if each person is responsible for different bills. Tracking what has been paid or what investments have been funded can, of course, be tedious. So if you find yourself constantly bickering about finances, maybe Joint Banking is the method for you.

Ultimately, you need to communicate to find a strategy that works for you. And once you’ve done it, stick to it.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Erin Lowry is the author of “Broke Millennial”, “Broke Millennial Takes On Investing” and “Broke Millennial Talks Money: Stories, Scripts and Advice to Navigate Awkward Financial Conversations”.

More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion

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