Marriage and money: Should you keep them separate?


One of the most important decisions you'll have to make if you are planning to marry is how to handle finances. There are three basic choices, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages.


The first choice is to put all the money from both spouses into one joint account and have joint credit cards. Couples who have compatible spending habits are the most likely to succeed with this type of arrangement. The main advantage of doing this is that it makes bookkeeping easier: everything is in one account, and it's easy to keep track of, particularly with online banking.

The downside of throwing in your lot together comes if the two of you have different ways of handling money. If one of you is a spender and the other a saver, then a joint bank account can be the source of a great deal of stress in your relationship. Some couples are able to cope with specific agreements. For example, a couple may agree that if one wants to spend more than some pre-determined amount, say, £100, they must consult the other first.

The second approach is to keep it all separate, accounts, credit cards and all. You have an account and your spouse has an account, and never the twain shall meet. This is more complicated in that each of you will have a bank account to keep up with. And you will have to spell out specifically which one of you pays for which expenses based on what each of you earns in order to be fair.

The big advantage of keeping finances separate is that you don't have to stress over what your spouse is doing with his or her account. But that's part of the downside: Are you really "in it together" without mingling finances? Only you and your spouse can answer that question, and it is important that both of you are honest.

The third option is three accounts: one for each spouse and one joint account. The joint account would be funded according to each of your incomes, and all bills and necessities would be paid for from this account. But each of you would also have a separate account that you could manage however you wanted. That way the spender can spend without feeling guilty, and the saver can save without feeling miserly and mean. In some ways it is the best of both worlds. The big disadvantage of this is the fact that there are three accounts to keep track of.

Honesty is the key to successfully managing finances in marriage. You must both be honest about your views, and you must come to a decision that suits the two of you, regardless of what others may think. Finances can be a huge source of stress in relationships. Don't tempt problems by choosing a money management approach that doesn't suit you.

Updated: 2 August 2011