Marriage represents a coming together of two people and their lives, and for many, that joining is expected to encompass everything— including finances. Most people automatically assume that a committed couple must share finances, but is doing so necessarily the best course of action? While some may argue that combining accounts is practical and vital, signaling a healthy and happy relationship, others say that it may not be the greatest option, and having separate accounts could downplay marital conflict and contribute to a lasting marriage.
A Case Against
Many people believe that not joining finances is a recipe for disaster: it’s a harbinger of future issues, an indication of lack of trust and communication, or simply inconvenient and without benefit.
On the other hand, numerous experts agree that for people who enjoy financial independence, keeping separate accounts can be a lifesaver. With the average marriage age in the United States rising to 27 years old, more people are enjoying more years of financial independence and find that swapping completely to joint accounts upon tying the knot is more stressful than it’s worth. Especially when there are differences in financial goals, opting for a household account and two individual accounts lets each partner choose their own spending and saving style according to their individual objectives, free of judgment or oversight.
The natural crux of this is open communication and trust. When opting for no joint account whatsoever, a couple must have clear and firm guidelines for how much each person will contribute to things like water and electricity bills, any insurance coverage plan, food and other necessities, etc. Setting boundaries enables each partner to hold the other accountable, while the freedom of discretionary spending can drastically cut tension in dynamics where different financial focuses may create tension.
Another great benefit in a time when controlling finances is more automated than ever: both people maintain financial literacy. This means both partners are capable in case something should happen to their spouse, a vital skill. Emily Sanders, a managing director with United Norcross, said she saw “time and time again women dedicate their control of finances,” throwing her support behind separate accounts so that couples can “remain financially literate in case of death or divorce.”
In a similar vein, joint checking accounts mean that both individuals can access money whenever necessary. In situations where only one partner’s name may be on an account, it may be hard for the other to get into an account if that person becomes sick or is injured. Guaranteeing availability to both people allows for a dynamic relationship with finances where either partner can take over household management as necessary.
In Defense of Consolidation
All of those benefits considered, there are still arguments for switching to one joint account. Though some say it leads to unnecessary friction for little benefit, others argue that there are innumerable positive aspects to being completely open with finances.
For one, a joint account eases trust issues. There can be no deception, because both people can get a glimpse at the budget any time. Couples must communicate effectively to set common financial goals or otherwise risk a conflict of interest.
There’s also the benefit of transparency in a different sense. Consolidating all accounts to one joint account ensures that the entire economic picture is available in one quick snapshot, rather than juggling multiple accounts’ balances. There is significantly less strain when everything is clearly laid out and there’s no stress of splitting bills. Jessica Grose wrote that “the longer couples stay together, the less likely they are to be [financially independent].”
Compromise is the Cornerstone
Much like in a marriage, compromising seems to be one of the best plans of attack. Financial advisor Kathleen Nemetz recommends a strategic mix of separate and joint investments. Some partners may want to keep personal debts separate, for example, to protect the other person.
All in all, there are gains and losses associated with all methods. Deciding what is best for your marriage is key, and it may involve trial and error. Success lies in being open and coming to an agreement that suits both partners.