Combining Finances When Getting Married.

Just the other day, Green Panda Treehouse wrote up a great post discussing joint accounts, budgeting and married couples. And while I gave her my thoughts on it for her post, it reminded me that I wrote a post in May of 2007 about what we did after we got married. In light of being reminded of this post, here is what it said:

I have seen lots of different advice on whether or not couples should combine their finances when they get married. Some say you should combine everything right away, and other say you should keep things separate, if only so you each have spending money. So after seeing all these, I wanted to share what we did when we got married in 2005.

We combined everything within a month of getting married.

Yep, everything. Checking, savings, put both of our names on any retirement/investing accounts we had, everything. See, my wife and I are not big spenders; there really has not been anything we have bought that would constitute a “you bought a what??” remark. Some personal finance books will tell you to be sure that you each have your own money to play with, but we decided we did not need that because we set up a system for big expenses. Anything under $100 does not need to be approved by the other person. This is not to say that we could go out and buy $100 items every day, but if my wife is out and sees something she wants, or I am doing some shopping myself, as long as it is under $100 we can buy it. Anything over $100 requires a conversation of some kind, even if it is just to let the other person know that you are spending the money.

Each of our paychecks gets deposited in the same checking account, and from there money goes to investments, savings, bills, etc. We do not figure out how much of a percentage we should each put into these accounts; any money that goes into the checking account is “our” money…there is no division. I make a lot more than my wife does (which she is not happy about because she watches me get up for work, walk across the hall in my pj’s, and turn the computer on), but that does not matter. What is mine is hers and what is hers is mine.

It has been three years now and we have not fought over this system yet. It’s actually kind of nice to know that our money is really OUR money, not some secret account hidden somewhere that neither of us knows about. We are truly a team in this regard. She has no interest in doing our finances…so I do all it. She knows the basics, such as where accounts are and what investments we are in, but for the most part she lets me handle it. And that is fine by me.

I guess the bottom line is do what feels comfortable for you. For us, this was combining everything so we both have access and use of it. There are no secrets in our house, everything is out in the open. Neither of us track the other’s expenses to find things to complain about; it just works.

So this leads me to you – what do you guys think of this system? How do you handle your coupled finances? Let me know and let’s discuss!

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Comments (16)

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  1. I think your comment ‘Do what feels comfortable’ sums up the best way forward for any couple. Both partners need to be in agreement. Not necessarily the easiest thing to do and I think that you and your wife are very luck that you have such an honest and trusting relationship.

    I know of situations where one partner is a shopaholic and the other is quite frugal. Needless to say this makes for very interesting financial conversations and yes – arguments.

  2. claire says:

    It wouldn’t hurt for both partners to be equally knowledgable about managing finances, regardless of the designated handler. Unfortunately, women tend to fall short on financial literacy, which puts them at a clear disadvantage if something were to happen to their spouses/partners. I think younger people are wising up, and much sooner, than previous generations. But I think there is a difference between knowing about existing accounts/investments and knowing how to manage the money contained therein, even if both people aren’t big spenders.

  3. Although money wasn’t a source of contention in my first marriage simply because there was so little, I realized as soon as it was over how much I missed having control over my earnings (our finances were 100% combined). Should I ever take a trip down the aisle again, I want full disclosure of existing finances beforehand and 3 sets of accounts – his, mine, ours. Joint expenses will be shared proportionately, i.e. we both put the same percentage (not amount) of our income into the joint account to cover shared expenses, but there would be no secrecy with our individual finances. That way all gifts really *are* gifts, not half-gifts. And if I want to lend $500 to my mother, it doesn’t affect his or our finances – just (or mostly) mine.

    My sister is getting married next year, and she can’t get her head around my concept of money management for couples. Maybe she’ll like your idea better…I’ll put it out there.

  4. Laura says:

    Great post! I think it’s a wonderful conversation topic between spouses and couples.

  5. Sarah F. says:

    My husband and I have a similar way of handling our finances. We have gotten into, the habit of asking each other about all purchases, no matter how much it costs to decide if it’s in line with our financial goals. My husband is the only one working right now, and when he gets paid, I’m the one who handles bills and budgets. I like to have biweekly meetings with him to get on the same page, and to discuss together our goals for that pay period/month.

  6. See My Money says:

    I think it is crazy to not combine finances if you are married. If one spouse or the other has an issue with allowing access to “their” money, I think there are bigger problems to address.

  7. david says:

    “If one spouse or the other has an issue with allowing access to “their” money, I think there are bigger problems to address.” – I agree 100%. If you cannot trust your spouse, you probably should not have gotten married, no?

  8. Shell says:

    My husband and I got married 6 months ago. As soon as we could we combined our finances. We are so glad that we did. I have learned to stop being so free with money and at the same time he feels a little more free to. It’s been a good learning experience and has inadvertently brought us closer.

  9. Double says:

    When we first got married we were out of sync on pooling of finances but after many discussions we got on track and have maintained a budget and financial goals over the years that has been very beneficial to us.

    We found it was best to have separate account and pay the bills pro-rated to our income levels.

  10. […] Combining Finances When Getting Married. […]

  11. WillowDee says:

    I’ve been married for a very long time, and we’ve only had “our” money…everything combined, each of us with equal access. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. If you can’t trust your spouse with your money, how in the world can you trust him/her with your heart?

  12. david says:

    I agree 100% – I am not sure people should be married if they cannot trust each other with money.

  13. I’m not married, but my boyfriend and I live together. And we have combined money. We started off with my 0 savings and his 2000€ savings (that he put to buy our furniture). We created a joint acount and that’s where our paychecks go and from where we pay all our bills. We both have a debit card, and although we normally ask before a purchase, we don’t worry too much if it’s something we truly believe the other one will agree. I’m the one doing the managing, and recently set up an ING savings account, for both of us. I’m a freelancer, so no regular paycheck for me, but at the end of the month I know what I’ll have for the next one, so I budget all our expenses, some “pocket money” for both of us and, leaving a “safety cushion” of 20% of our monthly budget in the account, the rest goes to the ING account.
    Right now we’re doing a 3 no-spend months experiment, so we’re not following this 100%, but hey, it’s a system that works. And I know that I wouldn’t be saving any money if we hadn’t have combined. I’m such a shopper.

    **I didn’t see the security code so I clicked “back” in my browser and now it won’t let me post because it’s duplicate content… let’s hope this clarification lets me post, and if it’s indeed duplicated, I apologize.

  14. david says:

    No worries Gracia, it worked fine!

  15. LTJP says:

    Actually my wife and I kept seperate accounts after we got married. It was just easier. We decided who was going to pay “what” i.e. she pays the whole mortgage and I take care of all the household bills (elect, utilities,food,phone etc) – which pretty much come out equal to what we both pay each month. I have child support that I am obligated for – she also has a son that she takes care of. Once all the bills and responsibilities are paid for – whatever is left over in our respective accounts (which is not much haha) is ours. This system works out for us very nicely. What she buys with her money is her bizz – and what I buy with mine is mine. I put any extra into my savings and she puts what she wants into hers. Then if we take a vacation or want to do something we both have some put aside for whatever we need. We are both not huge spenders and do talk over large purchaces with each other before making the decision. But bottom line is we dont have “secret” accounts but they are seperate (not joint). We are just comfortable with things set up this way. Just my 2 cents…… Have a great day – JP