Should couples be joint or separate in their finances?

 

Every couple wants a happily ever after, but when assets or debts are part of saying “I do,” is marital bliss still possible?


The average age of women and men getting married today is 27 and 29 respectively.  Being older means men and women are bound to have more assets, and more debt, by the time they say “I do.” This can have a significant impact on how couples choose to manage their money.
 

Prenuptial agreements have increased fivefold in the past 20 years.  They are not only for the rich and famous anymore.  It seems that more and more couple are considering the risks vs rewards of blending their money.

 

I believe the rewards of joining your finances as a couple significantly outweigh the risks.  And let’s not forget, you’ve agreed to be in this together.  Shouldn’t that include your finances?

 

4 Reasons Couples Should Be Joined In Their Finances

 

1. Unity

 

Trust is a crucial component of a healthy marriage.  Perhaps no other topic can create conflict and divide a couple more than money.  When there’s a his and hers mentality in managing money, unity is rarely possible.  Working together to manage your finances for the greater good of your family will build trust and provide peace, both in your money and in your relationship.

Two are better than one because they have a good return on their labor.
— Solomon

My wife, Natalie, supported me in our first year of marriage by working full time so I can finish college.  Years later, I supported her, while she earned a teaching degree.  Today, she is again supporting me while I build a business that will allow me to teach personal finance to many people.  Each one of these seasons has strengthened our marriage and improved our finances.

 

From the beginning we've had all our accounts combined.  We made a choice early on to see everything as ours rather than his and hers, and it's made a huge difference in our relationship and in our finances.


Two are definitely better than one,... when they work in unity.

 

Action Steps

  • Decide to join your accounts.
  • Close individual checking, savings and credit card accounts or change them to joint accounts.
  • If you have multiple account between the two of you, it’s time to simplify. 
  • Have one checking, one savings, and one credit card account with both of you as joint owners. 

 

2. Accountability

 

We all want to be known as responsible and trustworthy persons, especially by our spouses.  Without accountability, responsibility tends to diminish.  Having your finances combined creates opportunities to be accountable and therefore more responsible to each other and to your future. 

Two benefits to financial accountability

  1. The financial decisions you make will be more thoughtful and better aligned with your combined goals and dreams. 
  2. Any financial mishaps or abuses can be dealt with rather than remain hidden, which can lead to hardships and broken trust.

 

Action Steps

  • If you don’t already have one, create a budget together.  
  • Doing it together will ensue you create a plan that you’ve both agreed on and bought into, which will increase its success.  
  • It will also be the medium that will help you to stay accountable to each other and to your financial goals.

 

3. Achieve Goals & Dreams

 

Through my experience of coaching couples, I’ve seen a consistent theme.  The couples who were committed and working together, not only had similar goals and dreams, but they were more successful in achieving them.  There are common interests that brings couples together; a compatibility that draws them to each other.  However, having similar goals and dreams aren’t automatic for couples.  

 

Similar goals and dreams develop as couples work together through every financial win and fail.  It provides the platform on which clarifying their goals and making their dreams a reality becomes possible. 

 

Couples who manage their money separately have no such platform.  Even if they agree to pursue a common goal, their contributions and the results will always come secondary to their own personal interests.

 

Action Steps

  • Take a vision retreat or have a meeting to discuss your financial goals and dreams.
  • Be as specific as possible!  Where do you want to be in 5, 10, 15, or 30 years?  
  • Write your goals down and review them daily.
  • Take immediate action on your goals by incorporating them into your budget and your overall financial plan.

 

4. Balance in Spending and Saving

 

It’s often true that opposites attract.  With most couples, there’s a saver and a spender. The saver, who although still likes to spend, is more mindful of the future and desires to make it safe, sometimes at the cost of missing out on the joys of living life in the present. The spender is the opposite; a free-spirit who loves to have fun and enjoy life to the fullest, often at their own peril. 

 

The benefit of marrying someone who's the opposite of you is that they help balance you out.  Each person's individual strengths and unique points of view, when respected and valued, provide the balance necessary for good decision making.  

 

I’m a saver who’s sometimes so concerned about the future that I can totally miss out on the joys of living life in the moment.  Natalie helps me find balance in my approach to saving so I’m more able to enjoy life.  I’m grateful to her for that!  I, in turn, help her to find balance in spending, allowing us to enjoy life today, without jeopardizing our future.

 

Action Steps

  • Look over your budget together and talk through each area of spending. 
  • Are you saving and investing enough to reach your goals?  If not, work together to make the necessary adjustments to ensure you'll reach them.
  • Equally important, are you allowing for fun and enjoyment in your life by intentionally spending on the things you both enjoy?  Set an adequate amount in your budget to get more joy out of life now.

 

In his book, The Power of the Other, Dr. Henry Cloud describes the benefits we get when we draw on the strengths and expertise of others. This truth is most evident in a marriage relationship.  A couple who manages money together by drawing on and combining their individual strengths and abilities will certainly reap the rewards.

 

I'd love to hear your opinion on this topic.  Please comment and share this article if you found it interesting or thought provoking.