I’ve been married for almost two months now and it’s great!
The Mr. and I are settling in to the exact same life we had before except now we have a piece of paper that says we’re married and our bank account is $15,000 less.
I’ve been thinking a lot about money and relationships lately.
super nosy curious when I hear about other couples who manage their money in a totally different way than we do. It didn’t really occur to us to manage our money in any other way.
The point of this article is to not present one way of managing money as better or worse. It’s to present the various options that couples have when managing their money.
Seriously, every couple is different and has a method that totally works for them. No judgements here.
Should We Combine Our Money After Marriage?
We fit into this category. We combine our money completely into one joint account.
We do technically maintain individual checking accounts but they are a complete joke. Every bit of money we have is shared freely between us. If one of our individual checking accounts gets low, we ask the other to send money over.
We also do not track our spending as individuals, only collectively.
We typically talk to each other before we make big purchases but we don’t keep tabs on who spends what. He’s actually better at double checking with me than I am with him. (I’m working on it).
We track our spending as a couple with the free app, Personal Capital. All of our individual accounts are linked to one Personal Capital account so we have the total view of our finances.
Pros & Cons of Splitting vs. Combining Money
There are pros and cons of splitting vs. combining your money into joint accounts as a couple. As The Balance points out in this article, here are the pros and cons of combining your money as a couple:
1. By combining your money, it’s more convenient for daily use.
2. You can streamline any legal affairs when you combine your money in joint accounts.
3. You have two pairs of eyes on your accounts so you can keep a better eye out for unusual spending or fraud.
1. By combining your money, you lose some independence since your partner can always see what you’re spending money on.
2. The most obvious con is the fact that you will have different amounts of money that you’re each contributing. One of you is likely to have more savings or more debt than the other, which means this could cause some tension or arguments.
3. When you combine your money, this makes for messy legal issues if you ever break up.
Related: If you’re wondering about the ins and outs of opening a joint account, check out this article that serves as a nice introduction guide.
Will We Retire At the Same Time?
All of our retirement accounts are pooled assets as well. Some accounts are individual accounts by nature, such as IRAs, but they count as a shared total.
We would plan to retire at the exact same time (we want to retire before standard retirement age for those who are new to this blog) but my husband actually never wants to stop working because he loves his job. In some ways, I do too.
If you’re confused by this (who doesn’t want to stop working?), I am too but my husband has one of those passion jobs that are rewarding. You know, the type of job I wrote about previously as being completely overrated and a waste of time. Hey, opposites attract I guess?
In all seriousness though, I love that he has a passion job because I feel like we balance each other out.
I also find that I am choosing jobs that better align my skills and interests, which make me more interested in continuing to work in return.
I contribute 95% of our income and I have no problem with that.
Here are some other couples who have blogged about having completely shared finances:
- Emma Lincoln – Why We Share Our Money
- Our Next Life – How Combined Finances Helped Us Get to FIRE Faster
- Club Thrifty – Separate Finances: A Recipe for Marital Disaster *This one is a sassy one! Watch out!
Should We Combine Finances Before Marriage?
We combined our finances when we were dating too.
Paying For Dates
When we first met, my husband paid for the first few dates and then we loosely traded off going forward.
We met when I was 21 and I had only been on a few dates before that (college guys = losers) so I don’t have a great gauge on what is common in that regard. When anyone did pay for my date though, I remember feeling ridiculously uncomfortable.
In fact, I still feel uncomfortable when anyone pays for anything for me. Even if its a $3 coffee – but that’s beside the point.
Paying For Rent & Mortgage Together
For the first year and a half we lived together, we split the rent 50/50, although we never kept tabs on who spent what on groceries and shopping outside of the rent.
He was the breadwinner for the first three months that we lived together. Then I switched to a job in tech and that ended quickly.
I started to pay for more things as my income grew – like vacations that I really wanted to go on but that we probably couldn’t afford if we split 50/50.
We got into this bad habit of inflating our lifestyle based upon what we could afford collectively versus what we could afford split 50/50.
If I wanted something for us, I paid for it.
When we bought our house, which was a big mistake, we needed my higher income to afford the mortgage.
It would have made way more financial sense to buy something we could afford 50/50 and I wish we did that. Think of the crazy savings we would have now!
We’re not alone in combining finances before marriage:
- Smile & Conquer – Combining Finances
- The Resume Gap – I’m Financially Independent, But My Partner is Not
- USA Today – Half of Millennials Merge Finances Before Marriage
Couples Who Keep Their Money Separate (Sort-of)
Even though we combined finances before marriage, there are plenty of couples who keep their finances separate.
Here are a few of my favs:
- Broke Millennial – Balancing Unequal Incomes In a Relationship
- Young and Thrifty – Pros and Cons of Joint Accounts
- Half Banked via Bravely – Is What’s Mine, Yours If We’re Not Married?
All of these bloggers have some sort of way of tracking spending and figuring out shared expenses, whether it’s through google docs or real talk conversations.
Their money is still separate but they tackle the topic together.
It makes sense to keep finances separate before marriage and I’m a bit jealous because I think this approach could have helped us save more money.
Should We Keep Our Money Separate When We’re Married?
Whenever I come across this unicorn of a couple I’m shocked.
I’m kind of in awe and I want to ask them a million questions but not be rude at the same time.
- Do you put money into one big joint pot for housing and utilities?
- What do you do when you don’t pay for things out of that pot?
- Do you do a big reconciliation at the end of the month and bill each other for what is owed?
- Do you go from snuggling to saying, “Hey, you owe me $50?”
I am fascinated.
Those who choose this approach say that keeping separate finances helps them avoid disagreements about money.
Here are some bloggers who are married who keep their finances separate, and it works for them!
- Mad Fientist – My Wife’s Thoughts on Financial Independence
- Do you have separate finances and you’re married? Let me add your post here!
Would We Like Having Separate Finances?
I already spend enough time balancing spreadsheets at work, I don’t think I would want to keep tabs on who spends what and I definitely don’t want to follow up on it.
At the same time, I can totally see how this approach would work – especially if you have different ideas about how you want to spend or save your money.
Even though we do have joint assets, sometimes the money monster in me comes out and I get this natural urge to protect my money. It’s almost like a dog protecting his food bowl in the morning.
I also get a little resentment from time to time which is only natural. I am definitely the money-hustler in the relationship.
Whenever I start feeling resentment about my hustle, I remember that my husband is just as disciplined when it comes to physical health. For example, he is at the gym right now and I just ate a 400-calorie cheese danish and haven’t worked out in two weeks. LOL, but not. #2017goals
Together, we totally balance each other out and help each other improve.
I can see how having separate finances in marriage could help avoid some of these natural feelings.
I’d Consider Separating Our Finances Again To Decrease Spending
I’ve considered separating our finances recently because I think it will help us get to our goals faster.
For example, if we can only afford a closet under the stairs a la Harry Potter when we split things 50/50, we would be forced into downsizing and would overall spend less money.
It would be kind of like those people who pay for things with cash so they avoid temptation with a credit card. We’d avoid the temptation to scale up our lives based on our collective income.
Like us on Facebook to follow us.
I don’t think we’re ready to do that where we live now though. We’d probably have to live in a van.
Another benefit of separating our finances is that I could push my husband to build out his online personal training business.
But in all fairness, this is how he motivates me to be healthier:
Now that we’ve talked about the different ways to split your finances, let’s dive into some common relationship and money questions.
Should I Pay Off My Spouse’s Debt?
Once we were engaged, I paid off my husband’s student loan debt which tallied up to $36,000. Many people don’t even believe in paying off their spouse’s student loans when they’re married so I guess it was kind of weird that I did that before we were married.
I can’t imagine a future without my awesome husband though and I wouldn’t want the money back even if we broke up (dead serious).
I’m confident I can find a way to make money in the future.
(In fact, I’m reminding myself of this every day through daily affirmation. If you’re like, “what are daily affirmations?” – check out this post which explores the latest daily affirmation craze).
Plus, I didn’t want to end up like most couples who have to start their marriage with a crazy amount of debt.
Should I Buy A House With Someone I’m Dating?
We also bought a house together before we were married which is another typical money & relationship no-no. Oops.
Turns out I’m not alone:
- She Picks Up Pennies – A Home-Buying Secret: I Bought Our House
- Emma Lincoln – How to Buy A House With Your Boyfriend
- Money Metagame – Tax Benefits for Unmarried Home-Owners
It turned out alright for us but I can see how things could get awkward real quick.
This is how we broke down the expenses:
Since I paid the downpayment and paid the majority of the mortgage each month, I deducted the interest on my taxes for the years we owned the house and were not married.
When we had roommates living with us, my husband collected the rent check. Some months, he only paid $300 towards the mortgage when I paid over $2,000.
Our incomes were very different so it was fair.
Although, I have to admit, there were times before we were engaged that I freaked out about that disparity. Especially, the longer it took him to propose (being honest here).
If we broke up, I would be at risk to lose most of the money I put into the house. Plus, what was he doing taking so long? 😉
Any time I freaked out though, I had to remind myself that I created this situation by choosing a house we couldn’t afford 50/50.
We’ve since downsized and went through a major financial wake up period where we paid off tons of debt, sold one of our cars, and increased our income.
And, we’re married now.
Should I Get a Prenup Before Marriage?
Despite all of the financial advice out there saying to get a prenup – we didn’t sign a prenup when we got married. Wow, we’re really on a roll for all of the couples money mess ups here.
To all the financial bloggers writing about prenups lately (I’ll link to you below), I’m sorry. I just didn’t see the need for a prenup – at first.
Although, I never considered the point that you might want a prenup to be able to control what happens in the event of your or your spouse’s disability, mental incapacity, lawsuit, etc..
Glad a post-nup is a thing that people can do nowadays. Time to research.
- I, Vigilante – Prenups and FI: Fairness Ain’t a Factor
- I, Vigilante via Physician On FIRE – She Said, He Fled. Divorce In A Fire Focused Family
- I, Vigilante – Marriage is Your Biggest Investment: Protect It!
Well that was a bit of a novel but marriage and money is a complicated topic. My feelings on it range more than a Mariah Carey song.
Readers, how do you manage your money with your partner?
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