If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my work with couples, it’s that each couple is incredibly unique. What works for one couple may not work for others. Furthermore, what works for a couple at one time, may have an expiration date. This is often the case when it comes to deciding between joint or separate bank accounts in marriage.
When it comes to money in a relationship, there are so many decisions to make.
- Who will take responsibility for the finances?
- Who will pay the bills?
- Where will that money come from?
- Will there be a savings account?
- Will there be a retirement fund?
- Will there be “fun money” to play with?
And then there is the much-debated question: Will we keep a joint account, or will we each have our own separate bank accounts in marriage?
That last question is often debated because it carries a lot of psychological weight. But, in my opinion, it doesn’t have to. Let’s dive into this common question about money and marriage.
Should You Have Separate Bank Accounts?
Many people equate sharing money with trust or closeness in a relationship. But when you really look at the question of having joint or separate bank accounts when married, you’ll see that it’s not that simple.
If you decide to keep a joint account, does that mean that you trust each other more than those that don’t? Does it mean you are closer than those that don’t? Does it mean you are willing to go “all in” and merge everything down to your last penny?
If that’s the case, what does it say about a couple who is married with separate bank accounts? Do they trust each other less? Are they preparing for divorce by not marrying their money?
It’s perfectly acceptable to take the judgment out of this decision and simply look at the logistics of joint vs separate bank accounts without it having to mean something about the quality of your relationship.
Instead of questioning the deeper meaning of bank accounts and your marriage, consider both the downsides and benefits of having separate bank accounts.
Which method is easier for you as a couple? Which way makes the most sense financially? Let’s examine some specifics by talking about a couple of hypothetical situations.
What Separate Bank Accounts In Marriage Might Look Like
Couple A is made up of Bill and Jill. Bill works from home as a computer programmer. He is an independent contractor, not an employee, so he’s able to write off many of his home expenses. Jill is a realtor, so she’s also an independent contractor. However, the expenses she can write off are often different from the ones Bill can write off. Can you see how Bill and Jill might benefit from having separate accounts to make things simpler and maximize their tax deductions when reporting to the IRS?
Couple B contains Jack and Julie. Jack is a government employee and Julie works at a bank. Both are employees with steady paychecks that don’t change much from month to month. Julie is also really good at managing money whereas Jack could use some help in this department. Could you see the benefit of these two sharing an account?
You see, in these two examples, whether or not to share accounts has nothing to do with trust or love. Instead, it’s simply about what works for each couple.
You, too, can focus on the logistics of your finances when deciding between joint vs separate bank accounts – and not let your money define your marriage.
Why You Might Choose to Have Separate Bank Accounts
So, should you have separate bank accounts in your marriage? There are many reasons to consider joint vs separate bank accounts. Here are just a few possible reasons to consider having separate bank accounts when married:
- You’re used to financial independence: You’ve lived most of your life paying your own bills, making your own money decisions, and making purchases independently. That doesn’t necessarily have to stop when you get married. Just make sure to discuss spending boundaries with your partner if you decide to go this route.
- You have very different spending habits: While it’s important to get on the same page as your partner when it comes to money management, it doesn’t mean you’ll magically take on each other’s spending habits. As long as you have clear boundaries in place and open communication about your finances, it could reduce conflict and overspending to have separate accounts.
- You have a tough history with money: Money is a touchy subject for so many of us. Perhaps you didn’t grow up with enough money to live comfortably. Maybe you were in an abusive relationship and lacked the resources to feel as though you could leave. If you have trauma, insecurity, or anxiety around money, having a separate account may be critical to your mental health. And that’s perfectly ok.
- One of you earns significantly more: How you handle finances when one person makes significantly more money is as unique as your relationship. Some couples may still split bills 50-50 and use the rest to save, invest or play. Others may decide the higher earner pays a higher portion of the bills. And still, others may decide that keeping their money separate is simply easier, and perhaps each contributes to a third, joint account to pay their bills. There’s no one right answer!
How to Have Separate Bank Accounts When Married – And Do It Well
Whether or not you decide to keep separate bank accounts, the key to a healthy relationship is good communication – especially when it comes to money!
If you are keeping your own account so that you don’t have to discuss finances with your spouse, your problems are bigger than your bank account!
On the other hand, if you’d like to keep some money on the side to surprise your love with shiny things from time to time, that’s probably something your spouse can get behind.
Are you and your spouse struggling to agree on finances? Are you fighting about money and how to manage or spend it? Couples therapy could help! Contact Couples Learn today for a free consultation to discover if couples therapy could help your marriage money problems.