There’s been a lot of talk on the blogoshpere lately about whether or not married couples should have separate or joint money. Some experts are strongly convincing that joint money means a more unified marriage. Other experts insist that joint money is a recipe for disaster. So who’s right?
Money and Marriage
Money and marriage, when lumped together, is a touchy subject. Depending on the individual personalities and odd habits of each marriage partner, each of the money options could be disastrous.
The Benefits of Joint Money
When all of your money is lumped together as married people, things are pretty transparent. Unless your spouse is taking out boatloads of cash each month, you’ve probably got a pretty good idea about what he or she is buying. This can be nice because if things are out of hand you know pretty quickly.
Even if they’re wracking up huge credit card bills you’ll see the auto-payment from the checking account to “X” credit card company each month.
The other thing about joint money in marriage is it has great potential to force you to work together to manage your money – unless one spouse is super controlling and will let you see the money but not make decisions about it.
The Benefits of Separate Money
More Freedom and Independence
Separate checking accounts mean you don’t have to explain to your spouse what you spent on clothing, makeup or sports games. As long as each person pays their required bills it’s all good, right? I know people who live with separate accounts and it works out fine.
Protection From Financial or Other Disasters
The other benefit that separate monies in marriage can offer is protection from an AWOL spouse or a spouse who is bad with money. I saw this firsthand when my parents got divorced. Although their divorce was a result of mistakes on both of their sides, my dad worked full time and mom stayed home with us kids, which meant that after dad left mom had ZERO money. That sucked. A lot.
Mom and Dad weren’t great savers at the time and she was left to rely on child support and the welfare check.
A Compromising Solution?
Because of my childhood fears (and his – his dad was controlling with money), Rick and I have set things up so that we have joint accounts, but still access to our own money. He takes a specified amount of cash out of the checking account each month, and so do I. He keeps his in his stash in the house, I keep mine in a separate checking/savings account.
This way we both have freedom to spend what we want up to a point. We’re both pretty frugal, so there’s no real money issues, however there can be real dangers with money and marriage that although they may seem like those dangers are the result of what kind of money set up you have, they’re really the symptom.
Money Controllers – Financial Abuse
Ever heard of financial abuse? I didn’t until just about a year ago. We know what physical abuse is, and emotional abuse is finally getting a spot on the radar with psychological experts, but financial abuse is still considered pretty unimportant. However, it can have huge ramifications on people.
Financial abusers handle their money in a way that helps them control what their spouse does. A financial abuser might refuse to pay for groceries or cut a spouse off from checking/savings account access if that spouse isn’t doing things the way the controller/abuser wants them to.
If your spouse doesn’t treat you as a full fledged partner regarding money handling – and there’s not a good reason for that – he or she may be a financial abuser.
You Have to do What Works for Your Situation
Sometimes spouses have to have total control of their family’s money, like if one spouse is a gambling addict or a shopping addict and isn’t willing to work with experts to conquer their addiction.
In other cases, some spouses don’t want anything to do with money management. Rick is like this. He wants absolutely nothing to do with managing our money.
I don’t believe in letting him off the hook entirely, however. He needs to know what is going on in our finances, for a plethora of reasons. So I’ve created a spreadsheet that shows him incoming money, expenses (individualized), and balances on all of our asset and liability accounts. The spreadsheet is updated regularly and is always available for his viewing.
Sometimes I have to force him to look at it, but mostly he’ll take some time to glance at it on his own.
What’s the Answer?
So how should married couples manage money? Since each couple is different there’s no right or wrong answer, however there are some key factors that you can look for to see if they fit in with your money management system, whatever it is.
- Transparency. No “hidden” money or expenses. If you need to hide money from your spouse something is wrong and it needs to be addressed.
- Joint Control. One person should not be lording money management over the other in an abusive manner.
- Individual Spending Money. I believe this is very important. Spouses shouldn’t feel like they’re committing a crime if they buy the occasional latte’ or some new underwear. You are PARTNERS.
- Joint Responsibility. Both marriage partners have an obligation to set and reach financial goals together. And to avoid debt together.
If your money management system in your marriage is working well for BOTH of you, you’re likely doing great. However, if there is some strain, tension or lack of transparency, you may want to have a talk………….
What are your thoughts on money and marriage?