Why Joint Finances Are The Best Choice For Most Couples

A recent article stated that having separate bank accounts can save your marriage.

In some cases, I believe this.  For instance, if one person has previously filed bankruptcy and the other has a good credit record and score, separate accounts are probably a necessity, not only for the marriage, but for their financial well-being.  That couple may not be able to buy a house unless the spouse with the good credit alone applies for a mortgage.

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Likewise, if one person has an issue such as a gambling addiction or substance abuse issue, keeping accounts separate makes sense.  At least you can limit the amount of financial damage the other person can do.

However, the vast majority of the time, keeping finances joint, even if doing so is a struggle to get used to, is best for the marriage.

Joint finances provide the following benefits: joint-finances

1.  A system of checks and balances

When you share an account, you are each accountable to one another.  One of you can’t sneak off and buy something expensive, and you can’t keep lifestyle choices hidden from one another.

I had a friend, Natalie, whose mother and father kept separate accounts.  That’s how her father was able to have an affair that resulted in an illegitimate child.  Natalie’s father made child support payments every month, and her mom was none the wiser because she didn’t know how much Natalie’s father made (he owned his own business) or how he spent his money.

Granted, this is an extreme example, but separate accounts do make it easier to hide financial expenses from your spouse.

2.  Seeing The Same Financial Picture

While one person may be the financial geek as Dave Ramsey puts it, and the other person may not want to know much about the finances, when finances are joint, you see the same financial picture.

You both know how much is in the savings account and how much is in the checking account.  You see the same financial picture and know how much money you have.

3.  Talking About Money With One Another

If you have joint accounts, you may think it’s better because you avoid fighting about money.

True, you may fight more about money if you have to share the same account, but you’ll also talk more about money.  You’ll discuss what you can and cannot afford to buy.  You may agree on a set limit for purchases ($20 or $50 or perhaps $100) that you can’t go above without discussing it with your spouse first.

Sharon O’Neill, author of ” A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage” states that joint finances are “‘less complicated and force you to discuss how you want to spend money.  You don’t have to agree on everything.’  But with a joint account, there’s no way to sweep financial disagreements under the rug” (Business Insider).

4.  Evenly Distributing The Wealth

Too often, when couples make disparate incomes and have separate accounts, they split the expenses 50/50.  John may make $100,000 while his wife, Kelly, makes $40,000.  Still, John pays $2,500 worth of monthly expense as does Kelly.  Of course, Kelly is carrying an unfair burden by paying more of the household expenses relative to her income.  Yet this happens time and time again.

When finances are separate, you can feel like you have to battle your spouse to each pay your fair share.  By contrast, when your finances are joint, you can work together to achieve the same financial goals.  What each of you makes is put in the same communal account, so there is less of a sense of resentment.

What’s your take?  Is have joint finances or separate ones better for a marriage?

Last Edited: 16th June 2014

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  1. Angela says

    Growing up in my background, most women were SAHM and so seperate checkings weren’t an option. My husband and I have been married 10 years and have always had a joint checking. I think it shows a commitment to each other that seperate checkings can’t. I don’t understand couples that take the route of seperate, as there is some part of them that doesn’t trust their spouse. At least that’s how I see it.

    • says

      I think that’s a legitimate viewpoint, and I certainly believe that in many cases there is a lack of trust in the relationship that causes people to want to keep things separate. Maybe they have a family history of abuse and/or divorce where one spouse broke trust, or because our culture has such an individualistic viewpoint many may see giving up separate accounts as giving up part of themselves or becoming less important in the relationship. For me, however, I think having joint accounts can create greater unity, greater information sharing and more empowerment for both spouses.

      At the same time I think there may be some instances in which separate may be called for, like in cases where there has been drug or gambling addictions, or other situations where one spouse has broken the trust. Hopefully though the end goal is to work back towards a place where trust can be given again.

      • says

        I think there are a bunch more shades than “joint” and “separate.” My wife and I have separate checking accounts linked to a joint savings account. We each also have our own accounts from before we got married.

        Why? Some of it is “laziness”. It’s not worth the effort to go get our accounts sorted out and put together. We both have access to one another’s account credentials, and access the accounts whenever we need to. However, the big reason that we’re keeping all these accounts is because it makes it easier to budget and save for things long term. We simply designate one account as “summer vacation fund” or “kitchen renovation account” and use that to completely segregate the money from our daily funds.

        As far as completely separate finances, I struggle to see the benefit (beyond the already mentioned exceptions).

  2. says

    I would agree that joint finances tend to be best, save maybe for those few outs that you argued for in the beginning. My wife and I combined our finances right before getting married as we view ourselves as being a team and it just makes sense to have everything together. We both get our own allowances each month to spend as we please, but other than that it’s all one pot. That said, I think having joint finances doesn’t guarantee or ensure having the same financial picture. I’ve seen numerous couples who have had joint finances have major issues because they don’t communicate about money matters, which I think is the key to all of it.

  3. says

    I agree that keeping joint finances is better when incomes are at different levels. It also helps foster the notion of working together for a common good!

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