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Shared Finances or Keep 'Em Separated?There are a couple of trains of thought on whether or not spouses should keep their finances separated out or whether they should be combined.  Some people are very adamant that, once you’re married, you are as one and all your finances should be joined together as such.  On the other side of the fence are those who feel that merging your money spells financial doom.  That, of course, leads to the question…

Shared Finances or Keep ‘Em Separated?

My wife and I keep a lot of our accounts separate – checking accounts, credit cards, Roth IRAs, etc.  But, I think that this is mostly because it’s how we’ve always done it since we’ve been together.  We also handle our finances differently from each other – I’m very meticulous about hanging onto every receipt and getting them entered into Quicken immediately.  I’m sure some of this is just because of my former debt problems, but it’s something I’m pretty set on.  My wife, on the other hand, is a little more care-free about things.  That isn’t to say she’s a big spender – far from it – it’s just that if we had the same checking account, I would have a hard time with not knowing exactly how much money was in it… yeah, I have problems!

Separate checking accounts has just always worked for us.  We have the same credit union and we do have a joint savings that we both throw money into (which then goes over to Ally to get a little bit of actual return on our savings).  I pay some of our bills from my checking and she pays some of our bills through hers and it really just seems to work.

There isn’t any distrust between us and we both have access to each other’s accounts if we need them.  In fact, all of our accounts are under our estate planning umbrella with some under our trust and some (like our bank accounts) setup as Payable-on-Death (POD) accounts.  By keeping our bank accounts separate though, I’m able to keep my sanity by being able to balance my accounts to the penny.  And more importantly, my wife doesn’t want to strangle me for asking for receipts or inquiring about what this transaction or that transaction was about.

The only thing we ever run into is that we need to do a periodic “rebalancing” of our accounts.  If one of our checking accounts gets too low or too high, sometimes we need to move some funds around between accounts.  However, it’s pretty rare and I think a good majority of people do some moving around of funds regardless of whether their accounts are separated or not.

A big advantage of shared accounts might just be the simplicity of it.  The KISS method prevails in a lot of situations and can just make life a lot less complicated.  And since a lot of people spend through credit cards nowadays (hopefully paying them off each month!) more than debit cards or cash, the majority of the transactions passing through checking acounts are probably bills being paid, which are generally shared anyway.

Another advantage of not having separate accounts would be that you both have equal access to the accounts.  However, I had friends of mine (husband and wife) that have bumped into each other, so to speak, by both taking money out of the ATM on the same day at different locations and ended up overdrawing their account… oops!

I personally like the independence of keeping things separated (though everything funnels together for us in Quicken anyway), but that’s just me.

There are pros and cons to each strategy and, in my opinion, there is no right answer for everyone.  I am curious though – what are your thoughts?  If you’re married, how do you and your significant other handle your finances?

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

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Shared Finances or Keep ‘Em Separated?
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10 thoughts on “Shared Finances or Keep ‘Em Separated?

  • January 20, 2016 at 4:38 pm
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    We have separate retirement accounts, but that’s about it. Everything else is shared. It is just simpler. We never thought about it when we got married 17 years ago. I’m glad it worked out, but if I have to do it over again I would consider having separate finance. Now that I have a more substantial net worth.

    Reply
    • January 20, 2016 at 9:38 pm
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      Hi Joe – I guess we were on the lazy side and just never bothered to merge our accounts! 😉

      That’s interesting that you might consider doing it differently if you did it over again… I’m curious if other people have thought about this as well.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • January 21, 2016 at 1:56 am
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    We got married before either one of us had a significant amount of wealth so we just decided to combine all our finances. We are also very similar when it comes to spending money so we don’t have major disagreements about how our money should be spent. For us sharing finances simplifies life, we both have access to all our accounts and financial information. I’m not really sure if we would have done it any differently if one of us had more wealth but I can definitely understand why some couples choose that!

    Reply
    • January 21, 2016 at 11:09 am
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      Sounds like you and Joe at retireby40.org went about things the same way! I’m not sure if merging our accounts would actually make things much simpler for us since it all comes together in Quicken. I’m guessing it would to some degree since we’re paying separate credit card bills (instead of just shared accounts).

      Love hearing the feedback – thanks, Mrs Dollar Notes!!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 11, 2016 at 3:44 am
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    Hey Jim,

    I just discovered your blog. I am happy to find another father who plans to be FI just a little too late… When the kids are teenagers. Better late than never. A mitigation is to live the FI life already a little now and focus a lot on quality time.

    As for the accounts with my wife, we are in the same case. Since we were together, we kept everything separate. we each have our own account for salary and fun money. We recently started to pool all or investable money together in one account. I am the one responsible for managing and investing it. I explain every now and the to my wife.

    Greetz

    AT

    Reply
    • February 11, 2016 at 10:12 am
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      Hi AT – glad to have you aboard! It’s definitely a balance when you have kids but still want to reach financial independence.

      I’ve considered pooling our Roth IRA accounts together like you mentioned. The big reason I haven’t done that though is because I’m like you in that I handle pretty much all of our finances. Because my wife has her own Roth IRA, she’s forced to be a little more involved to understand things a little better so she can decide what investments she wants.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • July 31, 2016 at 4:11 pm
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    Gotta keep em separated, great song from the 90’s! The wife and I have both, shared savings/checking as well as individual. It’s worked well for us so far when we choose to spend on ourselves. For example I just dropped $250 skydiving last month, if this had been our joint money I probably would have felt a little guilty about it

    Reply
    • July 31, 2016 at 5:08 pm
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      Skydiving, eh? That’s really cool! I have that one on my bucket list… I’m sure I’ll be nervous as all get-out if and when I actually do it.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • November 4, 2016 at 2:28 am
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    We have various different accounts between us. I can’t be bothered to move all the different direct debits and things from each account to one main account.
    It’s so easy moving your own money between accounts automatically that there seems no reason to have a joint account.

    Reply
    • November 4, 2016 at 8:17 am
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      That’s a good point – the ease of moving money between accounts does take away a reason not to just have separate accounts.

      We moved from a bank to a credit union a number of years ago and it was definitely a real pain to get all the direct deposits and bill pays moved over. I kept the bank account open for a number of months just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

      — Jim

      Reply

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