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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 marriage should 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 is combining incomes. Yeah, it’s not all that hot, but it is practical.
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 our own for years, we finally had two paychecks to pay the bills! Neither one of us was solely responsible for paying all of the grocery bills, utilities, rent payments, etc. We had two incomes, and we felt freakin’ rich!
Before we got married the thought of keeping our finances separate didn’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 expenses from our separate paychecks.
Reasons Married Couples Keep Their Finances Separate
Keeping finances separate may be 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 remarried may 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 be simpler 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) My spouse/fiance has a lot of premarital debt.
So, your future spouse racked up 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 separate finances, 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’re a 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 get married, you are now considered a legal partnership in almost every state. Your debts are her debts and vice versa. Just because you keep your finances separate doesn’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 separate finances have at least one member of the partnership who is divorced. Look, I understand that they may have gone through some traumatic times. But nothing says “We’re in this for the long haul” less than having a backup plan just in case things don’t work out. Essentially, you’re saying “I mostly trust you, but not with my money.” With this sort of attitude, how could you possibly fail??? *sarcasm drip, 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 not communicating about money, they won’t ever fight 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 type of arrangement is bound to cause resentment, which usually means a big ‘ol fight.
In my experience, the exact opposite of this excuse has 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 both partners are communicating 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 money is 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. They have zero intention of being accountable to anybody for their bad spending habits, especially their spouse.
With separate finances, it is easy for these folks to 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 in the family budget. For this very reason, most of the married couples I know who keep separate finances are also some of the biggest overspenders I know.
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 separate bank accounts. My point is that marriage is a partnership in every way. Why should finances be any different?
Making Your 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 partner handles 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’m certainly not a marriage counselor, 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 problems are one of the top causes of divorce in America. Why not get ahead of it and communicate? Force yourselves to talk about money by making your 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!