Are Separate Finances the Solution?

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Are Separate Finances the Solution?

by | Jan 9, 2019

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune[1] provides a glimpse of the troubles money can cause in marriage. According to the article, about one-third of couples, even the happiest ones, argue about finances at least once a month. In fact, 70% of married couples fight about money more than other issues typical to marriage.

It begs the question – how are we supposed to handle money after tying the knot? What can couples do to make finances something that brings us together rather than tear us apart?

Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to this question.

Keeping Your Finances Separate Isn’t the Solution. 
The notion that you’re likely to find peace in marriage when each partner has the freedom to spend their money as they wish is completely unfounded and right out reckless. Proponents of this kind of arrangement argue that it creates less guilt or anxiety about splurges. I think it’s a recipe for disaster.

While keeping separate bank accounts gives you the “freedom” to spend your money as you wish, it also opens the floodgates for blame and finger pointing – two things that can shake the foundation of even the soundest marriage.  

Family is a shared responsibility. From the moment you say Yes I Do, you’re leaving behind your individual interests and choosing to share a new dream with your partner. Choosing to keep separate bank accounts contradicts this sacred agreement. When you decide to keep separate bank accounts, you’re choosing to pursue your futures individually rather than jointly; you’re choosing not to live the dream together anymore.

This is where family rifts begin. Before you know it, you may begin to question each other’s spending habits. It doesn’t take much to get from there to a full-blown squabble.

An Open, Structured, Joint Approach Promises Much Better Results
Take note of the keywords Open and Structured. Keeping a joint bank account alone won’t help much. To make finances something that brings you together rather than tear you apart, there must be openness as well as structure. 

Openness comes from communication. Each partly must freely express themselves on the matter. This way, no one feels left out and each partly feels that they’re getting what they want and what the family needs.

Structure, meanwhile, is about the details. For instance, each partner can be allocated a monthly allowance that they can spend as they wish. You can also discuss what percentage of the savings goes to the kid’s account and plan when and how to finance large purchases such as a car or house. The end result is that you’ll be pushing towards your goals together. You swim or sink as one; no finger pointing.

Again, there’s no perfect solution when it comes to finances in marriage. Even couples with joint bank accounts encounter turbulence from time to time. However, compared to keeping your finances separate, it’s a whole lot better. The communication is guaranteed to bring you closer and structure keeps everyone in line. It’s the approach we follow and it has served us really well.

[1] Chicago Tribune March 28, 2018   What does having joint vs separate bank accounts say about your relationship?

Any opinions are those of Thomas Fleishel and not necessarily those of Raymond James. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct.


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