Joint banks accounts or separate? What’s your preference? I recently read this article about how separate bank accounts, long recommended for women who want to retain some healthy independence, have turned out to be a bad thing for some people. I found the article shocking. It talks about one couple in Australia who keep separate accounts and who were both working full time. Then they had a baby and she stopped working, and essentially had no money.
“Janine and her husband do not share money. They have a joint account for bills and household expenses, but they have never shared disposable income. To prepare for having a baby, Janine saved money so she would be able to afford to have coffee and go out with her friends and buy clothes that would fit and go to the gym once her daughter was born.
I don’t mean Janine and her husband saved up. I mean Janine saved up her money, while her husband carried on, and carries on, as normal.”
That example sounded extreme to me, and the comments on the article seem to agree. But the same article was shared by a friend on Facebook, and there were many comments on the post from women who had experienced something similar after they had a baby. So maybe it’s not extreme at all. I can’t really tell. And now I’m wondering how common shared and separate accounts really are.
In the case of me and Ben Blair, we were both in college when we got married and starting our couplehood with a joint account was a no brainer. Neither of us had much of anything in the way of assets and everything we brought in just went into the communal fund. And it’s never changed. We’ve never had his money or her money.
But I realize there are many couples for whom that doesn’t work. And I know that having separate accounts can be a huge empowering factor for women who are trying to leave an abusive relationship.
What’s your take? Do you prefer separate accounts when married? Or joint? Or some of both? And do you think separate accounts can work if one of the spouses is a stay-at-home, non-earning parent? I confess, the idea of a one spouse giving the other one an “allowance” is completely foreign to me. How about you?
64 thoughts on “His & Hers Money: Are Joint Accounts Bad for the Relationship?”
I feel very passionately about this topic, as I have seen the many dysfunctional ways that couples handle money. My husband and I married shortly after I graduated from law school (he had been working for a few years) and to his credit, from the very beginning we were a team. Even before we were officially married we combined accounts, and he used money (over $30k) he had saved up to help pay off my (sizeable) student loans. I know this is pretty unusual but it spoke volumes to me that he really meant for us to be “all in.”
Working off an idea we had seen in a news article, we put all of our income into a joint account, and then put a specified amount into “personal”/allowance accounts (more on the months when we’re under budget).
The joint account is visible to both of us, but the personal account is only visible to the person it belongs to. Food, gas, vacation expenses, and other certain categories are always “joint” expenses; spontaneous/whimsical/frivolous/hobby/gift expenses come out of our personal accounts, but we can always ask the other person for permission to treat as a joint expense. The nature of our spending habits means that my account tends to be lower than his, but I’m ok with that. Every so often we give ourselves “bonuses” which bumps the amount in the personal account. It’s definitely nice to have some money which I don’t need to be accountable for and can spend on anything I want!
We go over our bills every month so that we are both clear on what has been spent that month, what income has come in, etc. and are both fully financially literate about our situation. To give up financial literacy is to give up control over a big part of your life. Ok for some people, but not for me! We are equals in this team — at different times he has earned more or less than me but it has never affected how we treat the money or that we make joint decisions about finances.
Going over the bills and tracking expenses takes time and effort (I literally write it down every time we spend $0.50 on parking), but I think it is well worth it. And having an “allowance” or tying spending money to the amount a spouse/partner personally earns (to me) smacks of inequality. Partners contribute in different ways to a relationship, not all of them financial, and we believe treating our money this way recognizes that. I mean, really, a woman carried THEIR baby and delivered it and she has to save for coffee with friends? Just wow. Maybe she should charge him what a surrogate would to do all that! (Ok I am being facetious, but you get my drift.)
I will get off my soapbox now but we both LOVE our system and I highly recommend it for couples who are searching for a way to maintain some financial independence but want to feel like a team! :)
We have a very similar system and Ic cannot imagine ver doing it differently
This is exactly the system my husband and I have been using for the 14 years we’ve been married. We were both in our late 30’s when we married and used to handling our own money and making our own decisions. I’m now a stay at home mom, but nothing in our system changed when I stopped working. We still get an equal amount of money monthly into our personal accounts. Having the personal accounts, where we don’t have to consult each other, or defend, or justify purchases has kept us from having any arguments over money. Thankfully, we have similar spending habits, so we haven’t had many issues over the years on how money from the joint account is spent.
We do exactly the same thing too! It takes so much stress away.
Yes! This is basically what my husband and I do (and have been doing for 10+ years). We each get a certain amount that we put in our personal accounts – so there’s no judgement about my lunchtime Starbucks :) but must everything – from his school loan, to the kids summer camps, come out of the joint account. When I was laid off, we both cut way back on deductions for personal accounts. When bonuses or tax returns come around, we agree on what goes into savings, what goes into the joint and how much we each get separately. Plus, it’s fun to be able to keep gifts a surprise.
The interesting thing about your surrogate comment Luisa is that it is illegal in Australia to gain income for surrogacy. You can only claim health costs!
I feel for the lady in the article because I think her situation is extreme. Saving to have clothes that fit post baby. Gah!
We use the same system. It’s worked great. I love what you said abou the value of what you contribute to a relationship isn’t always measured in financial terms. As a couple, we completely agree with that notion and even before we married, we were always very generous with each other and treating our individual increase communally.
We have joint accounts. When I became a stay-at-home mother it took a couple of years for my ego to recover. I felt bad for spending money on me although my husband never viewed our money that way. I have come around over time.
We do have friends that have always had their money separate due to their pre-nup. But I think it is a bit unique. Each quarter they look at their earnings and adjust their contributions to shared expenses (housing, childcare, food, utilities, child costs, etc.) based on the percentage of their total earnings. For example, if they both made the same amount for the quarter then they would split all costs equally. But if someone made significantly more then they pay a higher percentage that quarter. They also have a clause in their pre-nup that states if someone is full time childcare then they are ‘paid’ for that work fairly by the other. It’s a bit complicated, but it seems very fair, especially since one of the couple works on several businesses that change revenues/compensations depending on the year and season.
We have done both, but have settled on a system that’s “in between”. We have shared accounts and separate accounts. I have a separate credit card so my credit score doesn’t take a hit. We regularly talk about our expenses, financial goals, etc. This system has evolved over time to meet our needs, and I find that it has strengthened our relationship. I find it interesting that some of our friends/family have been a little “judge-y” about this, that maybe we’re not team players, but I take solace knowing it works for us and certainly has not kept us from working toward our dreams. As an aside, we were 30 and 32 when we married, so we both had years of independence where we developed our own money styles.
We have a joint savings account, to which things like taxes, gifts, monthly deduction to savings account, bonuses etc. go, and whatever we save. We have and always had separate checking accounts, and we have settled into paying certain things: I pay the mortgage, groceries, vacations, clothes and shoes (I earn way more than my husband), and he takes care of the kid-related expenses (music lessons, sports) and household expenses such as utilities. It works for us, and we trust each other. We make family decisions on big expenses, like a new car. It might not work for everyone, but it does work for us and has worked for 20 years.
This is our method as well. We started out with a true joint account and it was a disaster. We kept overdrawing because we never knew what was in there. We both work so we keep separate accounts. I pay some bills, he pays other bills. All big expenses are discussed and agreed to and paid from whatever account makes the most sense. We are happy with it for 20 years as well!
Old School marriage here, well, because we’re old I guess, but we had combined accounts even before we were married! When we decided to get married we committed to each other. For life. No quitting.
He worked, I stayed home. We have a budget that we both agree on, no one has more input than the other, we’ve worked together for 42 years. We’ve invested in each other so long, if one of us loses the other does as well.
He does consider the money he makes as “our money” and any money I make as “your (my) money” because that what guys in our age bracket did and do. He feels it’s his responsibility to provide for us, and my responsibility to manage what he makes. We have to work together or we will fail together.
What about “my money”? Well, I earn from time to time and I save, skim, embezzle the left over from the weekly budget in a separate account. He knows about it, but doesn’t want to know what the sum total is, which is fine. It does allow me a bit of freedom to treat him or myself without having to take from the general fund, so that’s a way for me to surprise him completely at times. That fund has also helped out when unexpected things happen or opportunities arise unexpectedly, and where we wouldn’t have budgeted or saved for those things, the ‘slush fund’-‘mad money’ or whatever you want to call it helps out — and *I* am the one who knows whether or not we can handle it, however *together* we make a final decision.
As far as prenups go, the only clause we had was that “whoever filed for divorce *first* got complete and sole custody of any and all children”. You might say we’ve stayed together for the sake of the kids. : ) 42 years and going, we’re good at this.
I am a big proponent of joint accounts. My husband and I eventually put all our accounts together and got rid of any unnecessary ones. He also paid off the remainder of my school & car debt as soon as we got married. I have not worked more than a few years of our marriage but I have never felt that he had more control of the money. I do most of the shopping and have access to all of the accounts. This is key: each person should have equal access at all times. I think when your money is combined, you are more focused on the financial health of your family, rather than you as an individual, and your goals become on, rather than separate.
I have witnessed someone being cut off from their money when a marriage was falling a part (money they themselves had earned). So I also feel like it is best to make these decisions on an individual basis. If ever a husband starts becoming controlling or overly interested in the bank account (especially if your marriage is falling apart), I’d be weary and stash away money.
Oh, my husband and I once tried to have an allowance for fun money that we could spend on whatever, whenever. It didn’t last long because he was always spending his and I was saving mine, which just annoyed him. I tend to be a money hoarder so it essentially just became some sort of savings account for me.
We’ve always had joint accounts until about 5 years ago (married almost 25 years). My husband (who is the sole earner) wanted to be able to give more money to his parents and siblings than I wanted, and didn’t want to justify it to me, and so some of his paycheck is diverted every month into his personal account that I don’t see (to be clear, we already help them out quite a bit with reunions and medical bills, and some of that continues to happen from our joint accounts too). Honestly, it’s been a big wedge between us. I feel like now there are secrets, and issues with the in-laws I never had before. Since he’s the employed one, however, and rather fragile emotionally with depression issues, I’ve decided to not pursue it for the sake of marital harmony, but it’s definitely been a sore subject for me.
Joint accounts from day 1. For the first twenty of our thirty years of marriage, he earned the money and I managed it. Now, I also earn money, but I still manage it. He would have a hard time even finding the check book. He trusts me. As far as he is concerned, it is a luxury not to have to think too much about money.
Given that stay-at-home-moms do most of the spending it makes sense for them to be the bill payers and money managers. I never felt like my husband was putting limitations on me. It was simply my job to be smart and creative and disciplined about how we spent and saved.
I think the stories of men controlling their wives through money are horrifying. I would not last long in a relationship that was not a partnership.
Joint account. It’s weirdly never been a problem even though we have our share of bickering and fighting. But never about money. Weird. We are artists and have each had turns pulling more money in. This is a vast over generalization, but the one couple I know who always kept their money separate (and their car, it was ” hers”) are now divorced.
Interesting question. In my first marriage we were young and basically came in with the same amount of assets, and we split everything. We actually had 2 joint accounts, to make it easier to track everything- he kept up with his and I kept up with mine, but if one of us was running low, we would transfer money to that account – we both considered it all “our” money.
However, after I got divorced and remarried, I came to my second marriage earning more than my husband but with two kids to his none. So what’s working for us right now is that we each have our own accounts plus a joint account that we fund 50/50 to pay household bills. We share food, mortgage, utilities, etc. – family expenses – 50/50. But I have a separate credit card where I charge my clothes and makeup and most items specifically for the kids – their clothes, toys, etc. Occasionally one of us will treat the other to a nice dinner or a splurge item out of our own money. I fully intend to be with my husband for the rest of our lives, and I think there will come a time when the kids are grown that we can just merge everything together, but this is what works for now.
Leslie, my situation is very similar to yours. In my first marriage, we were both young and had nothing to our name. We had joint bank accounts from day 1 and everything we acquired in the course of the marriage was ours. In my second marriage, we were both older and brought children and separate assets to the marriage. However, my children were young while his were older and out of the home. We’ve settled on a routine where he pays for certain items each month and I pay for others. For instance, he pays for the mortgage, utilities, insurance while I cover groceries, my children’s expenses, clothing, family outings, extra items… We kept our separate accounts and created one joint account for shared expenses (home remodels, couple vacations, etc). So, I’ve experienced both ways and they both work as long as there is respect and discipline.
Joint account since we were married. We both work, and any out-of-the-ordinary purchases always get run by the other person first. After fourteen years, we’ve acquired five college degrees and four cars and the only thing we owe money on is our house, so it’s working well for us!
Like Luisa above, I am super opinionated about this after hearing many stories of frankly, very bizarre separate account behavior: things like women hiding clothing purchases from their husbands (including not wearing it around him), parents giving an adult daughter money because the male partner didn’t give her any money as a SAHM, a couple going so far as to buy groceries separately and keep them in separate cabinets, etc.
I definitely believe it is possible to do separate accounts in a healthy way, and I see some stories in the comments that sound positive. Generally, though, what I have found is that even when things aren’t bizarre, what is happening is that one or both people in the relationship have something they spend too much money on–clothes and electronics are common offenders–or there is a fundamental lack of trust.
Friends of mine have made the argument that a joint account wouldn’t work because their husbands spend too much on [Fill in the blank], and it causes too many arguments. I get it, but I feel like if you are constantly arguing about something, it needs to be worked out, not avoided. At the end of the day, it is still your money (legally), so your husband spending too much on the latest gadget from “his” account is really no different than spending too much from a shared account.
It is difficult for me to even imagine how my marriage/life would go with separate accounts. Sharing our money and working toward our life goals (which often have huge financial implications) has been a fundamental part of our marriage. We worked together to pay off $50,000 in debt after college, though my husband had more of the share than me; we saved for my husband to go to graduate school and for me to take time off to study for my licensing exams; now my husband supports us as I stay at home with our kids. I imagine there will be many more ups and downs and periods of one person making more money than the other.
My husband and I kept separate accounts for the first three years of our marriage out of sheer laziness. I took forever to decide on a name change, and I didn’t want to mess with changing anything until I got that done. Then we just never felt like going to the bank on the weekends. Finally we did it, but only because my husband switched jobs and we figured we should do it before getting his new auto-pay set up. This system really did work fine for us and we always knew where we stood financially, but I’m not sure how sustainable it would have been for us after having kids without having to constantly transfer money to one another.
On the flip side, I had a coworker who kept separate accounts from her husband, and they went to apply for a home loan and she found out that he literally had $7 in his bank account. They hadn’t been communicating about their financial situation at all, just assuming everything was fine. The communication seems to be key.
We have a joint account where we pay bills and use for everyday spending. Each of us also has a separate account which can act as short term savings, if we’re saving for something dung the month, or acts as a “cash envelope” since for some reason using actual cash hasn’t worked out for us. It helps us stay on budget and both feel like its “our” money.
Wow! I have really enjoyed reading this post/comments. I feel pretty ridiculous as I’ve never really discussed this topic with other married couples and assumed most people carried on in a manner similar to ours. When we got married, we created joint accounts for everything. For a very short time, I was the main earner while the hubby was finished up grad school. We both had student debt…although I had more. My husband had substantial more savings and an ira than I from his time in the service prior to grad school. I was pretty much largely in the negative. We both worked full time for five years; then, after our second child I decided to stay home because my travel and his long work days were not compatible and ultimately my not-for-profit salary was not cutting it for child care. We have three kiddos now and I have not worked in five years and there’s very little discussion in our home on who’s spending what. We consult each other on big purchases and both try to make smart choices on the rest.
I don’t ever feel guilty because I feel like my unpaid contribution to our family is not quantifiable and we both view it as a privilege. I mostly lament the loss of time growing a career that will seem light years away when I ever get back to it. I also feel a loss of brain power and occasionally resent the monotony of domestic duties…ha!
For me, I think that marriage is a union and should be one of finance as well. There’s something about being fully committed to the thing you know. I guess I wonder if the split finances doesn’t make it easier to cut and run when the going gets tough? Or, the opposite, feeling like you can’t bc you stay home and have no actual income. Such an interesting topic! Actually, Gabby, all the topics lately have been super interesting! Thanks!
This is so interesting! My husband and I kept our bank accounts from before our marriage and have a nominal allowance deposited each month into them to use for fun money. We then opened a joint account which we use for all household expenses and where 90% of our income is deposited. I am the main earner and am SUPER cheap and was raised with very different attitudes towards money then he was. This allows me not to get annoyed that he eats out every day etc while I tend to save mine up for big ticket items that I would feel guilty buying out of our family’s account. When he runs low he spends from our joint account and I often forget to transfer money over so it is a really loose system but it has worked out great for us.
We also got married in undergrad and started having kids (and me staying home) while husband was in grad school so we started together on the ground floor money wise.
We have always done all joint money and almost all joint accounts. We each have credit cards in our own name with the other as an authorized user and any bank accounts not joint are because someone was too lazy to get to the bank.
I handle the bank accounts and spending and he handles the investing. We both know the amounts involved roughly and make the bigger deductions and set the course thefts, we just don’t both do all the work. It does mean our main money argument is between extra liquid savings and extra money into investments. Which is a pretty good problem to have.
My husband and I have been married for 18 years and have always had a joint account. We have gone back and forth over the years in terms of who earns more money. We contribute equally to our relationship, our parenting and our household chores, and we give each other the benefit of the doubt that our financial behavior will be in support of our shared goals for our family. This arrangement feels important to me, because my mother stayed at home and had very little financial independence from my father. I feel like we are showing our kids that they can & should expect to do anything and everything that comes along with raising a family, from cooking to paying bills!
My issue with separate accounts hinges on the wage disparity. Men make more than women for doing a similar job, all over the world, and so a woman in a heterosexual relationship will nearly always make less than her male partner. And, actually, even in homosexual relationships, one person will undoubtedly make more than the other.
So, yes, you could theoretically give each person a separate-but-equal “allowance” in a personal account. That’s fine if it’s what they both want to do. But then you must set firm guidelines for what comes out of that account. My husband and I tried this, and we found that he was constantly paying for our date activities out of his account and I was paying for extra household items out of mine. If we needed to cover an emergency expense, sometimes we couldn’t pull the cost evenly from both accounts and one person ended up “shorted” for the month. It wasn’t working.
Total transparency is what works for us. And, yes, in some ways it sucks. We spend more time than we’d like explaining purchases to each other. But we consider that part of our financial planning process, and it’s allowed us to hold each other accountable. We’ve bought everything but our house and my graduate education outright. Our only credit card (for my husband’s work expenses) gets paid in full every month. We know exactly what we’ve spent on each other for every holiday, so we spend roughly the same amount. We literally cannot hide any spending from one another, which means we can’t hide much of anything. We don’t even try.
We’re on the same financial team. We set joint goals and we work together to achieve them. Nobody is expected to pay for a hobby or fun item or excursion out of “their own money.” That idea totally freaks me out. We share everything we own (with the exception of our own bodies, of course), and we have equal ownership. I highly recommend it.
When my daughter’s father asked me to marry him, I said no–for lots of reasons, but one being that he was an independent contractor who hadn’t paid taxes in three years. I wasn’t going to hop into that mess. We kept separate bank accounts and I managed a spreadsheet that had us contribute to household expenses based on percentages of income. He gave me a check that covered his half of the bills and I paid them. It was totally transparent.
It made the break-up super clean five years later. Financially clean, anyway.
We had separate accounts until we got married. Our lives were intertwined so our money is too. This helped when I became a SAHM – my mother values the work I do in the home and recognises that I’ve sacrificed my career for our family’s needs. I’ve seen the opposite where one partner earns more and uses money as a means to control the lower-earning partner.
Our account is joint, but we opened 2 more checking accounts, 1 for each of us. Pay goes into the main checking account and bills come out of there too. Each payday an amount is transferred into our personal accounts so we can both spend personally, independently. The amount may differ month to month, depending on if were saving for a vacation or whatever, but we always have something to spend worry-free.
spelling correction…depending on if we’re saving…sorry I have issues.
Joint accounts here… Can’t really imagine it any other way. There isn’t any “allowance” giving, more just we both know what’s in the budget for the month in terms of eating out and coffee/treats, and we don’t spend more than that.
I’m a stay-at-home mom, and my husband actually tends to go without small treats (I mean, like, a Dr Pepper from the gas station) so that I have more budget money for Starbucks and treats for the kids. (He’s sweet)
I recently earned a little bit of cash that will go into the join account but will be sorta ear-marked for treats, baby-sitting, and that sort of thing.
I must say, although everything is in joint accounts, here and there we know there’s a certain amount that’s up to the discretion of one person or the other (gift money, etc.). You can definitely have a joint account but budget for some independence I guess is what I’m saying.
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My husband and I have had joint accounts since we got married. The first 6 or so years, I always felt like I was saving and scrimping, while he spent money on whatever he wanted. We finally figured out a way to make it feel balanced – we both have ‘allowance’ accounts that we have control over, and each get the same amount of money each month in that account – even though he earns a little more than me. It’s helped both of us feel that things are fair in who is spending what money. And we can both buy whatever we’d like without getting criticized by the other.
I’m loving reading all the comments, even though I’m not and have never been married. My parents have both a joint account and separate accounts. I believe most of their earnings go into their separate accounts, but their credit cards are on the joint account. It’s not really “his” money versus “her” money, but the accounts are separate. I think it has something to do with my dad’s “personal” account really being the bank account he uses for his self-owned business. Whoever is making more money at the time puts more towards monthly expenses. My maternal grandparents, on the other hand, who have been married for 60 years and are in their 80s, have completely separate accounts. I’ve seen them argue about money far more than my own parents, so I’m not convinced that’s the way to go.
My husband and I combined our finances about a week after we got married. Going into our marriage as two fairly fresh-out-of-college kids, we had a few grand to our name and that was it! So we have built our financial life together, having all things in common. We were extra careful right out the gate to live well within our means (student loan debt is debilitating, so we were very mindful), and we have very similar shopping habits, so it hasn’t been terribly difficult to share our finances evenly and fairly. I think if we had both entered the marriage with a lot of financial threads on both sides, it would have been more complicated-but since we began with nothing, all of our “something” has been a shared earning. We both make about the same amount of money, and there is a sense that we are both equally invested in our financial future.
I have very strong feelings about this topic, like many other readers. I grew up in a household where my parents had joint accounts, and my husband did too. To me, a man asking me to have separate accounts would have been a deal-breaker for a marriage. Perhaps it’s the example my parents set, but to me, transparency and a team approach is everything. I have a few girlfriends who have separate accounts with their husbands and I often find myself wondering why. We share a home, we share the duties of parenting children and we have committed our lives to one another. Why wouldn’t we share our money?
Thought-provoking read! And an issue I think my husband and I need to revisit. We have had mostly separate accounts since we started living together 4 years ago (married almost a year), but always make joint payments and decisions transparently (and have a cash stash we share without keeping track). At one point I was unemployed for several months and he was covering most expenses. Although I was super grateful for his support, it was also frustrating to feel like I lost some “authority” in financial decisions (understandably… it was “his” money and we weren’t married, yet he was basically supporting me). He is much more anxious about money and every decision is tied to guilt/anxiety – or an impulse purchase… whereas I like to calculate what I can spend and then do so without guilt. Let’s just say it was quite a relief to start making money again and be able to spend independently without going through the anxious process ;) Over time, I think we’ve found it works best when I manage our joint-expenses, savings, etc.. We recently moved abroad and are opening new accounts. I like the idea of opening a joint account for shared expenses and then keeping personal accounts for guilt-free individual spending ;)
We have joint bank accounts and have had them since before we got married. We have enough trouble negotiating finances without having to worry about who pays for what! ;) Also, while we both work, we have VERY different income levels, so I don’t know how we could reasonably make it work. That said, I do know people who have kept separate accounts and it works for them, so even though it seems crazy to me, to each their own!
We have always maintained separate accounts and I think more than anything it’s because changing direct deposit and automatic payments felt like too much work! I earn more than my husband so I pay most of our fixed bills and living expenses. He contributes towards the mortgage and pays 2 specific bills each month. He knows that I direct deposit money into our “household emergency fund” which we mutually agree on when/why to access money from that account (like the IRS … grrr) … and I deposit into a second savings account that is our vacation, holidays, birthdays and other “splurges” account. It works for us though at some point I would like to reduce the number of accounts we manage.
Money was a huge source of stress during the first five years of my marriage. My husband is Dutch and I do think there are some cultural differences around money that we had to work through plus I had a lot of money baggage from my failed first marriage. Over time, my husband and I have been able to clarify our financial goals which has been a huge help and I am proud of how far we have come in this regard. We have an ambitious financial dream that has been a very empowering. I also think it is powerful when couples at different times earn more than the other which has been the case for us.
Our system is that everything we earn is joint–we have one checking account and all of our investments are shared. We each have credit cards, but only for convenience and to keep our credit scores high. They are always paid off every month. He manages the online payments and I pay the checks. We try to live frugally so there really isn’t a worry about money being spent on extras that would make the other annoyed. We do indeed have a “slush” fund in our monthly budget that can be spend for going out with friends or other kind of treats. Frankly it’s usually me who spends most of this money, but he seems OK with that because we a set budget line for it.
There is so much psychological stuff wrapped up in money. I know many couples who are struggling with money/power issues and it’s heartbreaking to see. Working through these issues can really help a marriage, I promise!
I make significantly more than my husband and it has always been very important to me to make sure he doesn’t feel that disparity. He is a teacher and it is truly his calling and I would not want him to give that up because he felt like he needed to contribute more evenly to the family income. He is also the spender in our relationship and I am definitely the saver! I think in a way separate “fun money” accounts could help us as they would limit his spending while allowing me to spend money on myself guilt-free, but I can also see it getting complex (and me over-thinking) trying to determine what expenses fall into what category. Like in many aspects of our marriage we balance each other out: I help him make good financial decisions and less impulse purchases and he helps and encourages me to spend for things that I want or need.
Several years ago my husband’s cousin surprised his wife with a new car! I was shocked. Aside from deciding the car preferences of another person, I couldn’t believe someone would make that huge of a financial commitment and not discuss it ahead of time! It was my first eye-opener that maybe not everyone handles money as evenly as we do.
I would have a heart attack if my husband bought me a new car. And not in a good way!
We have a joint account. We were married young – I was just finishing college, he was still in it, so we didn’t have much money, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We do both get an “allowance” every month, where we can buy fun stuff, like eat out with friends (not together, that would come out of our regular budget, but for a lunch, or something), or buy books or such. Neither of us are big spenders, and we have the same goals, and so we have had basically zero money fights in our 12 year marriage. For the first ten years of our marriage my husband was in school (undegrad, masters, Ph.d.), and I was a SAHM who did some small work on the side, and so we never had much money. We have had to work together with our budget because without an exact vision and discipline we wouldn’t have been able to live on his small stipends. Now that we make more though, we still have the same approach, and I love it. I feel such freedom in our finances.
Thank you for acknowledging that combined finances heavily contributes to an individual in an abusive marriage having a more difficult time leaving. As nice as it is for a lot of women who commented that “they committed to a marriage so that means all in”, that is also the same justification that an abusive person gives as why their partner cannot have any autonomy.
Yes, I feel like there’s more judginess coming from the “all in, joint account” perspective. Many of those people also tend to be people who married young and didn’t come into marriage with many assets.
I understand why you guys feel like that. I will freely admit that I can be judgy about it, at least in the anonymous online space (I would never say a thing to someone in person). I do believe that couples can have healthy relationships and good money management with separate accounts. I think the judginess is coming from many of us seeing bad money behavior play out in separate accounts. You can’t exactly hide bad spending habits from one another in a joint account set-up, so it makes sense that people who are bad with money may also tend toward the separate accounts.
My parents (who are now divorced) are/were terrible with money–probably worse together than they are now apart. I’m talking an eviction, multiple bankruptcies, borrowing scholarship money from me when I was in college, taking money from my baby-sitting-funded savings account when I was a kid, etc. They did the separate accounts + one joint account set-up. My experience with them made me pretty passionate about having joint accounts when I got married.
All this to say, I don’t think that my parents’s bad money management was caused by their account set-up. Obviously how they set up their accounts was not the core problem. Rather, I think their accounts were a reflection or symptom of their more overarching relationship to money and one another.
Financial abuse almost always comes with any other abuse in a marriage, if not always. I don’t think people mean to judge, they perhaps just see things from their own lens without realizing that that pushing the narrative of, “if you really are committed and love someone you will share everything” actually reinforces controlling, which in turns makes the person who is being controlled question their own desire for autonomy. It is unfortunate that these sorts of comments really do reinforce unhealthy boundaries in unsafe situations. People should handle their money in a relationship however they think they should, without it being a reflection of their commitment.
I’m on team “joint account.” I have a lot of anxiety surrounding money, and the idea of having “his” “hers” and “ours” makes me hyperventilate. I’m a stay-at-home-mom with a lucrative load of piano students, but I find the idea of being paid (or given an allowance) by my husband to be an unpleasant one. The feeling that we both have an equal right to the money, regardless of whose name is one the paycheck, is an important one to me.
I think as long as the couple is honest with each other and are generally financially literate they should do what works for them – whether that’s one joint account or two separate ones or a combo. It’ll never be the same answer for every couple. I’ve seen some dysfunctional situations, but that’s more to do with the people in the relationship than whether their accounts are joint or not.
For us, we started out by keeping our separate accounts, but slowly merged that down to one chequing, one credit card, and a few no-fee savings accounts. Mostly because it made no sense (for us) to pay more bank fees than absolutely necessary. We use one family budgeting system (YNAB) and track every penny. We also have no secrets, which is good and bad!
We have a Wells Fargo account with three of our bank accounts all linked in there. One checking and two savings. All my husbands earnings go into the checking and we use that money to pay bills, and then make deposits into one of the savings account which is truly just a savings account. The third saving account is the one that we use for my direct deposits from blogging and where I transfer all my paypal earnings from. This money is typically money that we use for unexpected things like car repairs, home improvements, and other things like that. If I want to buy something for myself though, I usually do it with the money in that account. If my husband wants to buy something he usually puts it on one of his cards and that’s that. We discuss purchases as they come up but we don’t have an allowance and just get things as we need them, and discuss a way to save for something if it’s a want.
We are newbies to the married life and so far maintaining our separate accounts and opening a joint for rent, food and household expenses has worked for us so far. Right now we contribute equally to the joint and are trying to budget it. We both freelance so it’s hard to budget our individual accounts since money in is fairly random. We both started our businesses from our individual accounts and I feel like we take pride in our individual successes and having financial individuality. We are very open about communicating where we both are with all our finances and have helped each other out willing when the other needed it. We also are always open to knowing it could change as we continue growing in our partnership and/or if we have kiddos :)
When I was a kid my mom found out my parents marriage was over when she went to buy me an inhaler and found my dad had shut her out of all the bank accounts thanks to a bank manager who was happy to close down a joint bank account without both people being present. We had to live off my grandparents generosity for two years while the courts sorted out the mess. I think it’s always a good idea to have some kind of separate funds. Just in case. Having said that the only separate funds in my marriage at this moment are my business checking account and we are super egalitarian in our handling of money and possessions.
We’ve had a joint account since we got married right after college. We struggled a lot the first few years financially. One time after paying the bills we had $20 left over. We definitely had the sense of being on the same team, though. Years later, things financially are much, much easier, and we couldn’t be more grateful. We follow a budget, and I enter all the various receipts so I can track everything. One thing I feel guilty about is that I have spent far too much money on myself for clothes. We have three girls, and I don’t have to buy a whole lot for them since they’re same-gender. I haven’t spent as much as other women might have on myself, but with all the goals and plans we have, it’s too much. My husband hardly spends anything on himself, and I feel like I shouldn’t as much as I have been. We give ourselves an allowance, but I need to lower my clothing budget, that’s for sure. Additionally, I’m so glad my husband doesn’t run out and buy the latest gadget or power tool. That would really, really bother me. It would compromise our savings dreams (for a cabin, etc).
On this I am with Gaby 100% – on both my reaction to the article she linked and in my personal approach to finances (all one big shared bucket starting day 1!).
Especially, I am saddened imagining the extra burden placed on the wife to save up money, while pregnant, knowing that it would be her only source of discretionary funds for after the baby came. It is his child too — why is he not more involved with the responsibility of caring for the child – ie, sharing childcare (so she can work part time) or sharing money (since she is doing him/their family such a huge service by caring for their baby full time)?! What the heck??!! It really feels like he doesn’t value her contribution as the child-bearing/child-caring member of the family. As if he is saying, “this is your body making and caring for this baby, so it’s your problem.” Yuck.
I am getting more and more worked up about this the more that I think about it. I know many stay-at-home moms feel guilt about using the money earned by the husband, but how many work-outside-the-home dads feel guilt about their wife using most of her time and energy for childcare purposes? The double standard is HUGE…and even if progress has been made feminism-wise, articles like this reinforce to me just how far we still have to go.
couldn’t agree more, claire! :)
i’m another proponent of joint accounts and i feel strongly about it! separate accounts sounds like such a hassle. my husband makes quite a bit more than me, so are we splitting everything 50/50 or does he have to contribute more to household expenses because he makes more? i get realllyyyyy annoyed by the argument about needing the secrecy for buying each other gifts or wanting the freedom to spend money on whatever you want. how often are you buying gifts for each other?! and if you’re really trying to pull off a legit surprise, get creative with how you’re paying for it. definitely not a reason for separate accounts. i guess we’re just laid back about it all because there’s such an ebb and flow to our lifestyle and our spending. my husband gets a golf membership every summer for about $600– it’s an important part of his social life and self-care. i spend money on those areas in my life but in different ways. i just think it’s so important to not keep score or feel entitled to keep things even. a joint bank account just feels like one more way in which we are a team in all aspects of our life together. :)
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am surprised it seems more SAHMs read the blog or just more wrote in comments. I am a working mom and always have been and I used to make significantly more than my husband. The gap has narrowed over time but I still make more. I read through a bunch of the comments and while we do something similar, it’s a bit flipped. We have a joint account but our paychecks get deposited into our personal checking accounts. We came up with a monthly budget based on our shared expenses (housing, food, childcare, bills), and based on how much we each make, we each deposit a different amount into our joint account each month. So each month, I deposit slightly more than my husband. The rest of our paycheck stays in our personal accounts but we each have committed to saving as much as we want/can and the rest is our fun/splurge money.
We’ve always had joint accounts. But I’m seriously considering other approaches so this is a timely post. I am our only earner (my husband is a fantastic SAHD). No issue there. But the kids are at school all day and he is somewhat lonely. He pays for everything in cash so its really hard to track but he spends significantly more than I earn each month – I have to hide some of my bonus every year to pay off credit cards when they come due. It creates enormous stress for me and he refuses to discuss it. Since all the accounts are already joint I can’t figure out how to limit his access. If I transfer money out of an account he just lets it go into OD or writes a check from the other account. Or runs up enormous bills on credit cards with insane cash advances. He is somewhat fragile emotionally at the moment for various reasons and I’m reluctant to push too hard. But we are talking thousands and thousands of dollars. I’m somewhat at my wits end!!
This has been a topic of conversation for us as well lately!
I do understand the needing to leave a hard situation stand point. When I had to leave my abusive marriage, my first stop was opening my own bank account and directing my paychecks there.
Now I’m remarried to an amazing man and we are joint all the way. I think spending problems will exist in either situation and getting to the core of something like that is the key. As a SAHM now, I’ve pretty much overspent for several years, and my kind husband didn’t really know what to do. I had to take ownership of the situation and “fill my bucket” in other ways. But it’s been so empowering for us and our marriage to be working together.
I also have a good friend who has separate accounts from her husband, and even though her income is way lower than his, is responsible for several of the bills every month. This has been a huge stress to her as she has been trying to drum up work here and there to make her ends meet. Admittedly, I’m on the outside of their situation, but it is hard to see that disparity.
This fascinates me, and even still, I’ve spent a lot more time reading these comments than I expected I would.
I find it striking that a lot of people feel pretty strongly that the way they handle money in their relationship is a statement about their commitment to their marriage and their views on equal partnership. That, to me, is conflating the issues. I acknowledge that the ways we manage money are symbolic of our values, but they’re not *only* symbolic of our values. My parents, for example, have been married for 37 years and have a deep and loving connection that is visible to all who meet them. But the way they handled money when my siblings and I were children, while responsible and good for our family in the long run, was not fair to my mother and didn’t treat her as an equal partner. Now, I can say that and also say that their marriage is strong and that they value each other as equals. I guess my point is: sometimes families just do what works and it doesn’t have to be a statement about commitment or equality or strength of the marriage. Conversely: if the way you’re managing your family’s money right now is NOT working, it might be a mistake to take that as a statement about commitment or equality in your relationship, or the strength of your marriage. I think that’s what I would say to others (and what I try to say to myself as I navigate it in my own life): just find what works for you.
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We had separate accounts when we met, but once we moved in together and we’re engaged, we opened a few joint accounts. One for household bills and one for joint savings (trips, emergency expenses for our car, etc).
We still have our pay go into our own accounts and we move money to the joint for bills. We each have our own savings account to for whatever we want to save for as well. But as I make less than hubby does, if there is an expense or a need there are times he fits the bill.or sends money to the joint to help out.
I think we still have separate accounts because at the time we’d both been in some stressful situations in the past and felt safer having our money separate except for bills. I could see us just switching to one account in the future.
This is so interesting. We’ve been together for 8 years and still have separate accounts. The joint account + 2 extra individual spending accounts many people have mentioned just seem like an extra, unnecessary step. We both contribute to household expenses, but since his salary is double mine, we pay proportionately to our incomes. We trade off who pays for random couple purchases.. groceries, movies, dinners, household items, vacation bits etc… but each pay our own credit cards, cell phone bills (well, his work pays for his phone) clothes, toiletries and things like that. That being said we do have joint savings and investments and again, contribute proportionately. We’ve never been possessive or too nit picky about money, so we rarely argue about purchases. We also are both totally aware of how much money is in each of our accounts, and are working towards our financial goals as a couple. Perhaps momentum and lack of any real problems here has kept us with separate accounts, but also it seems many of those commenting here seem to be SAHM’s? I suppose if I didn’t have my own income, or added children to the mix, a joint account would make more sense to me.
A friend of mine lost her teaching job. She lamented one day that she felt like a welfare recipient living off her husband. I was completely shocked. And with 20 years of zeros on my social security statement, I was tempted to be offended. I have never felt like I was on my husband’s dole.
We’ve always viewed all the money as “our” money. I contribute to our quality of life in a different way than my husband, but we are a team.
However, we do have multiple accounts for the sake of money organization. I do not track spending in the excruciating detail as my (engineer) husband. Early on this was a source of conflict. The solution has been a separate account that we call the “household” account. Money goes in each month and I have autonomy to budget, spend and save for all the categories we’ve defined as my domain.
It’s a good balance for us.