Money Management in Marriage

This weekend, I had the pleasure to attend a church retreat for soon-to-be married couples. The retreat was hosted by many married couples who came and talked to us about their experiences with married life. Topics ranged from communication, to finance. Unfortunately, the topic of finance was the least informative of all.

My fiancee and I have discussed plenty about how we would handle our finances. Here is a snapshot of how our finances are at this point separately:

  • I’m very much a saver while she tends to lean on the spending side.
  • Both of us work and pay for everything cash (She has a Credit Card that has been recently been paid in full and cancelled).
  • I put away about 20% of my income into retirement accounts and she puts about 8%.
  • Both of us make a monthly budget where we allocate where our money is going to be spent and where we list our financial goals.
  • We both have emergency funds that we plan to combine after marriage.

The biggest question that we have is how we are going to handle our checking and savings accounts? Three of the most common responses we found where these:

  1. Having joint accounts only. The reasoning behind this is that if we are “becoming one”, shouldn’t it also include our finances?
  2. Keeping our finances completely separate. If we keep our money separate. We won’t worry or feel bad every time one of us spends money.
  3. The third option we found was a combination of the first two. We should have a joint account where all our money goes to directly from our employers. That money is then divided to pay our monthly expenses, long term and short term savings goals, and a portion sent to separate checking accounts for the two of us. This is money that we can use to spend it on whatever we want. The only catch is that if it is an item or service that costs more than $100, we have to consult with each other to see if it is alright to spend it.

We are still indecisive of which option to choose. All of them have their pros and cons so we are trying to find the one that fits our personalities. The last thing that we want is money being an issue in our marriage. So I am asking the readers is how you handled money with a significant other? Any tips on how to avoid conflict? What has worked and hasn’t?

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6 comments so far

  1. [...] The 151st edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance is now online at Alpha Consumer, a blog authored by Kimberly Palmer for US News & World Report. Kimberly selected these articles for “Editor’s Choice:” Money Management in Marriage [...]

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  3. Bryce on

    My wife and I started with the “third option” when we got married. That lasted for perhaps a month when we found we used the joint account for everything. We said, “Oh, that’s interesting,” closed the separate accounts and have been using joint accounts for everything (checking, on-line savings, credit card, and brokerage) for the past 10 years. Our names are jointly on the mortgage, and all titles (house and cars) as well.

    Obviously, retirement accounts are separate, but we are happy to show each other what our holdings are in those accounts, and help each other with investments.

    Joint everything is simpler for us. It obviously doesn’t work for everyone, but I am happy it has for us.

  4. youngsaver on

    The more we look at it, the more we want to start out with the “third option” as well. I think that it is important to understand that nothing is written in stone. Like with Bryce, they noticed that they where better off using joint accounts. Thanks for giving me a new perspective on how to handle this particular situation.

  5. SteveDH on

    Take the time to read “The Family CFO” by Mary Claire Allvine and Christine Larson. If you’re both involved and practice the communication and reporting processes described, any of the three choices will work better and evolve into a stronger “partnership”.

  6. Rob O'Daniel on

    My wife & I are definitely “Option #1″ folks. We look at it like this: if you can’t (or already don’t) trust your spouse to be an equal partner in your finances, you may be in for big trouble because you’re laying a lot more on the line than money when you get married. Money is fleeting.

    And as wonderful as it can be, married life is more complicated, so why add to that with having to keep up with separate finances?


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