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Joint Accounts or Separate Accounts?

By Erik Folgate

A huge debate arises when it comes to marriage and money about whether or not spouses should have a joint checking account or separate checking accounts.  One popular thing that people do nowadays is they keep one joint account to pay the bills from and then they keep a separate account for each of them to spend money on “personal” things.  This is a total cop-out when it comes to managing money with your spouse.  A marriage is not a joint venture.  You cannot pick and choose which things that you want to share as a couple and which things not to share.  You must be handling money as a team. 

My opinion is that there is only one way to handle your bank accounts.  You keep one joint checking account and one joint savings account.  You write a budget together, stick to that budget together, and talk to each about making purchases over $50 dollars, unless you are going to make 10 different $50 purchases in one day, then you talk it over with your spouse! 

Common Arguments:

“My spouse is worse at handling money than I am”.  This is why you got married, to help each other, not avoid each others weaknesses.  It is okay for one of you to be more financially savvy and nerdy, but you both need to create a budget together, and not sharing your incomes will only bring more division.  If your spouse had a problem with drinking, would you totally abandom them or try to help them?  In the same way, why would you totally abandon your spouse if they had a problem with handling money? 

“It is easier to keep track of the money”.  No it’s not harder, it should be simpler because you are dealing with less bank accounts.  What account do you use when you go out to dinner?  I can hear it now “No, you pay this time, I have to pay for the dentist tomorrow”.  If you are communicating about your purchases, and balancing your check book together each week, it should be easier to keep one joint account.

“I make more money than her, and I don’t want her spending all of it”.  You make more money than her?  Well, does she cook for you?  Does she wash your dirty underwear?  Yeah, exactly.  You cannot put tabs on your salaries, or else resentment, jealousy, and division will destroy your marriage. 

Handling money is extremely important in a marriage.  And just like everything else important in a marriage, communication is key to keeping your money handling healthy.  If one of you wants to spend all the time and the other wants to save all the time, come to an agreement.  Set aside some “Blow” money to use for having fun and blowing it without any worries about what it gets spent on.  Set aside money that will be saved for long term and short term.  Also, remember to set aside money to pay off debts.  Never settle for just paying the minimum payments on credit cards or paying off a car or house in 20 years. 

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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  • http://bloggingawaydebt.blogspot.com Tricia

    For me, my husband and I combined our bank accounts two years before we were married after only about a year of dating. Now, that was a risky move – and I am thankful things turned out fine. I do make most of the financial decisions because I keep track of things, but he is involved in the process most of the time.

    I’ve only known of one couple that had separate bank accounts and they would take turns paying for things. It seems like it is defeating the point of marriage – but it was working for them.

    I wonder if any studies have been done on whether there is a correlation between joint accounts and the success of a marriage?

  • http://ourmoneymatters.blogspot.com/ John OMM

    It must feel great to be so certain that you are correct and that everyone who thinks there’s other equally valid ways is wrong.

  • http://www.moneycrashers.com erik

    I know this is a controversial subject, and I expect there to be people that do not agree with me on this issue, and I respect differing opinions.

    But, what is the point of speaking about this issue if I just said “Well, whatever works for you is cool”. If we all told each other that, we would get nowhere in life.

    I stand by my convictions about this subject, because I have heard and seen marriages destroyed by money, and not necessarily because they have separate accounts, but in my opinion, not sharing your financial goals and values is a strong indication of a marriage that will have problems somewhere down the road.

    There are always some exceptions to the rule, but I know that many people will agree with me that a true marriage is one where two people become ONE cohesive unit, and this includes bringing together your finances, bearing each others burdens (debts), and working out your finances together as a team.

  • Josh

    So true, Erik.

  • J.J.

    Seperate everything is the way to go….that way he can’t blow all my money on all his stupid crap, and when he decides to bolt, as most men do, then he can’t clean out my account and leave me broke with 3 kids…..Cover. Your. Asses.

  • Greatgan

    does there is no-one doing both i mean, both putting 70% of their money into joint account, and the rest 30% into each individual account..

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