Separate Finances: A Recipe for Marital Disaster (2024)

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Do you know what completely baffles me? Married couples who keep their finances separate.

The crazy thing is that I’ve been hearing a lot about it lately.I just don’t understand the logic. Call me old-fashioned, but I think marriageshould be a partnership.Cray cray, I know. But, I think separating your finances is a really bad idea. Here’s why.

The Benefits of Marriage

I’m a total romantic at heart, which is why I was absolutely stoked to get married and combine our cash. Putting all of that dirty, sexy, money into one gigantic shared pile was a dream come true! I’d marry my wife all over again just to get the feeling of our pocketbooks (and our hearts, of course) becoming one.

All kidding aside, of the best biggest advantages to getting married iscombining incomes. Yeah, it’s not all that hot, but it is practical.

Related: Who Wears the Financial Pants in Your Family?

Look, I love my wife and she loves me…most of the time. But when you get down to it,one of the best byproducts of that love is that our income instantly increased. After living on ourown for years, we finally had two paychecks to pay the bills! Neither one of uswas solelyresponsible for paying all of the grocery bills, utilities, rent payments, etc. We had two incomes, and wefelt freakin’ rich!

Before we got married the thought of keeping our finances separatedidn’t even cross my mind. It didn’t make sense to me, and it still doesn’t. Everything we make is ours, just like everything we have is ours.It’s not like I’m the only person in the house that uses the lights. I’m definitely not the only one who uses the shower or the heat. We are a couple, a family, a team. It seems ludicrous to divide those expensesfrom our separatepaychecks.

Reasons Married Couples KeepTheirFinances Separate

Keeping finances separate maybe a trendy, but I think it can be a dangerous practice. Just because Stan and Mary do it doesn’t mean we all should.

Of course, there are exceptions. I can understand why retired widowers who get remarriedmay decide to keep things separate. After all, these people are bringing an entire lifetime’s worth of savings to the marriage– a savings that they accumulated with another person. In these situations, there are often adult children involved as well. I can totally see how it may besimpler to keep their finances separate so that those children receive their “proper” inheritance.

You got me.I’ll buy that. But, there are plenty of reasons that I won’t buy.

1) Myspouse/fiancehas a lot ofpremarital debt.

So, your futurespouse rackedup a lot of debt before you got married? Maybe they went on wild spending sprees with their credit cards. Perhaps they financed a brand new $60,000 car that they can’t afford.Whatever the case, they’re bringing a lot of financial baggage to the marriage.

But guess what…you should know all of this ahead of time. For realsies, I don’t blame you for finding this type of behavior troublesome. I really don’t. But if it’s so bad that you’d prefer to keep separatefinances, you should probably be reconsidering marriage in the first place.

Some people like to play the “It’s their debt” game. That’s bullhonkey. You’rea team now. Plus, it is very possible that you have both benefited from some of this debt, especially when it comes to student loans. When one of you wins, the team wins. When one of you loses, the team suffers. Stop being a baby and clean up the debt together.

Nevermind the fact that you are a married team in spirit.When you getmarried, you are now considered alegal partnership in almost every state. Your debts are her debts and vice versa. Just because you keep your finances separatedoesn’t mean that creditors won’t come after your money as well. You are now a legal partnership as well as an emotional one, so you may as well act like one. Instead of separating your finances, why not team up and knock that debt out together? You now have double the ammo to mow down your biggest of financial enemy, so take advantage of it before it becomes a problem for you both.

2) What happens if the marriage fails?

Several – if not most – of the married couples I know who keep separatefinances have at least one member of the partnership who is divorced. Look, Iunderstand that they may have gone through sometraumatic times. Butnothing says “We’rein this for the long haul” less than having a backup plan just in case things don’t work out. Essentially, you’resaying “I mostly trust you, but not with my money.” With this sort of attitude, how could you possibly fail??? *sarcasmdrip, drip*

If you are this gun-shy about combining your finances, you’re probably not ready to get married again. Seriously folks, it’s 2015. Why not live together and skip the vows? You’ll be better off in the long run.

3) We don’t want to fight about money.

Personally, I think people who use this excuse are fooling themselves. They think that by keeping their finances separate and notcommunicating about money, they won’t everfight about it. HA! Seriously peeps,what happens when one partner needs to borrow cash from the other in order to pay the cable bill? Is there an IOU system? Do you have to grant special favors to the spouse/creditor? This typeof arrangement is bound to cause resentment, which usually means a big ‘ol fight.

In my experience, the exact opposite of this excusehas been true. A marriage is a team like any other. As I’ve said before, when the team is put before the self, the team prospers. When the team communicates with one another, the team wins. So too does the marriage team. When bothpartners arecommunicating about their shared finances, then the team becomes stronger – both financially and emotionally. When the team fails to communicate, the team becomes weaker. Whether you like it or not, when you are married, your money is the team’s money. The faster you get on board with your teammate, the better off you’ll be.

The Real Reason Married Couples Don’t Combine Finances

Let me jump even higher onto my soapbox to spell the rest of this out for you. For most married couples, the real reason that they separate their moneyis because they don’t want to grow up. They don’t want to tell themselves “no”…to anything. And, they definitely don’t want anybody else to tell them no either. Theyhave zerointention of beingaccountable to anybody for their bad spending habits, especiallytheir spouse.

With separatefinances, it is easy for these folksto buy anything and everything they want without any consequences. Why? Because they can simply say, “It’s my money. I can do what I want.” If they had to be accountable to one another, they may actually have to change their habits to *gasp* benefit the team. They may have to stop selfishly spending on new shoes, purses, and clothing so that the family (team) could reach their common goal. They may not be able to buy the newest gadget, go to the big game, or go on that hunting trip because it wasn’t inthe family budget. For this very reason, most of the married couples I know who keep separatefinances are also some of the biggest overspenders I know.

Related: Combining Finances: Holly’s Perspective

Of course, I’m not suggesting that married people should never be able buy what they want. Neither am I suggesting that having a small “slush” fund is detrimental. I am speaking explicitly about those who keep completely separatebank accounts.My point is that marriage is a partnership in every way. Why should finances be any different?

MakingYour Money and Your Marriage Work

Although many people may think that separating their financial lives is the answer to solving all the money problems in their marriage, that is definitely not the case. However, there are a number of things that you can do in order to make both your money and your marriage work.

  • Talk. – Just like with everything else in your marriage, you need to communicate clearly about money if you’re going to make it work. Sit down with your partner and discuss your money issues, even if you are still dating. Talk about your spending habits. Create a budget together. Be clear about your wants and needs, and be respectful of how your partnerhandles money. Getting on the same page is key to financial happiness in a marriage.
  • Be honest. – Talking is great, but you also have to be honest. If you feel strongly about something, let them know. Of course, it should go without saying, but lying and hiding your spending/debt is an absolute “no-no.”
  • Don’t use money as a weapon. – Some people have a tendency to use money as a weapon in their relationship. Whether they are spending money in retaliation or withholding money to have control, they use money to hurt their partner. If this is happening in your relationship, you need to talk about it. It is a symptom of bigger problems. Talk about it. Be honest. Discuss it and make a change.
  • Have a plan.– When it comes to money, you need to have a plan. Your plan needs to include both your immediate expenses and a financial plan for your future. Sit down each month and create a budget together. That way, you both have a say in how your money is spent each month. It is also a great time to raise any money concerns you may have with your partner.
  • Clean up debt. – Getting rid of your debt is the quickest way to financial freedom. You can’t even imagine how comforting it is to not owe money to creditors each month. Besides the feelings of contentment you’ll achieve, you’ll also find that you’re able to spend your money on the things you love – like travel or entertainment. If you have the chance, clean up as much debt as you can prior to getting married. If you’re already hitched, remember that you are a team now. Tackle each debt as a team and you’ll be able to achieve financial fulfillment quicker than you ever imagined.

Become a Team

Look, I’mcertainly not a marriagecounselor, but I believe that being on the same page about money is absolutely crucial to a healthy marriage.If you are living separate financial lives, I believe you are headed down a dangerous slope.

We all know that money problemsareone of the topcauses of divorce in America. Why not get ahead of it and communicate? Force yourselves to talk about money by makingyour money decisions together. All that can come of it is that you’ll grow closer, financially as well as emotionally. Start talking to your fiance or spouse about how you are handling your money today. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did. I wish you luck!

See also:

  • How to Live Cheap: Tools of a Tightwad
Separate Finances: A Recipe for Marital Disaster (2024)


Is it normal for married couples to keep finances separate? ›

Open communication about money is essential to a healthy relationship. Many strive to achieve it by combining at least some of their finances and keeping joint accounts. Others, however, prefer to keep all of their accounts separate — and that's especially true for younger generations.

How to be married but financially separate? ›

The easiest setup is to have a joint account that both fund to pay shared expenses. Then each partner can have separate accounts to pay for individual assets. Both partners share the financial burden of day-to-day expenses while maintaining financial independence.

How do you split finances when divorcing? ›

The best solution to avoid issues with dividing debt during a divorce is to dissolve joint accounts before going to court. If possible, refinance the house, car and other loans in one person's name. Cancel shared credit cards and pursue credit card balance transfers to have the debt on cards in each person's name.

What to do if your spouse is bad with money? ›

What to Do if Your Partner Is Bad or Struggling with Money
  1. Focus on triggers.
  2. Lead by example.
  3. Accept their money problem and have open communication.
  4. Sit down and create a budget together.
  5. Say something before it's too late.
  6. Be a supportive partner and focus on improvement.
Dec 21, 2023

What percentage of marriages end because of finances? ›

Money is widely known as one of the leading causes of divorce in America. It's estimated that financial problems contribute to 20-40% of all divorces. That means that for every 10 marriages that end in divorce, four of them are because of money.

What percentage of couples keep their finances separate? ›

Almost half, or 46%, of people who are in relationships keep their finances separate to avoid losing their financial independence, according to a recent survey from the financial services company. It polled 1,659 U.S. adults in early January.

What is the 50 30 20 rule? ›

Those will become part of your budget. The 50-30-20 rule recommends putting 50% of your money toward needs, 30% toward wants, and 20% toward savings.

Can I empty my bank account before divorce? ›

That means you cannot empty your joint account unless your spouse consents or you get a court order first. If you are considering divorce, it's important to prepare financially. Our attorneys can advise you regarding what information you need to gather and how to address your fears of having no funds.

Are joint bank accounts the secret to a happy marriage? ›

However, research from MarketWatch Guide shows that joint banking could lead to fewer arguments and increased relationship satisfaction. According to the study, 55% of couples who use solely joint bank accounts claim they never fight about money, compared to only 39% of partners who have personal accounts.

Who pays the bills when going through a divorce? ›

The party responsible for debt after divorce depends on multiple factors, like where you live, any prenuptial agreements and whose name bears the loans or debt. Generally, the person who signs the loan agreement is the responsible party for not only the debt but also any late fees incurred.

Am I responsible for my spouse's debt after separation? ›

Typically, you would not be responsible for your spouse's new debt incurred after legal separation. You and your spouse would each individually pay your own new debt you run up after the date of legal separation.

Is credit card debt split in a divorce? ›

Who Pays Credit Card Debt in a Divorce? When you get divorced, you're still responsible for any debt in your name. If you have shared accounts in both of your names, such as a joint credit card or shared mortgage, you and your ex will likely share responsibility for the debt equally.

What is the walkaway wife syndrome? ›

Walkaway wife syndrome is more than just a phase. It's a complete breakdown of a relationship. She may not have said anything about divorce yet, but your wife has already checked out.

What is the number one killer of marriages? ›

The real, number one killer of any marriage or relationship is often a lack of communication or communication breakdown between husband and wife or partners.

Can money issues ruin relationship? ›

A massive 73% of married or cohabitating Americans say they experience relationship tension due to money decisions, according to the American Institute of CPAs. And nearly half of those couples say tension negatively impacts intimacy with their partner.

How do you help someone who is bad with money? ›

Helping with day-to-day spending
  1. help them to pay their bills on time.
  2. suggest that you make shopping trips together.
  3. offer to read through bills and statements when they arrive.
  4. fill in our free Budget Planner together to work out how to better manage their finances.

Should you date someone who is not financially stable? ›

No, many people find that money issues are a deal breaker.

It's okay if a guy's money problems give you pause. If he's not financially stable and he shows no signs of changing his habits, take that into account when you're deciding whether or not to pursue a serious relationship with him.

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