Joint Checking Accounts for Married Couples: The Great Debate Over Joint vs. Separate Bank Accounts

September 6, 2008

Whether you are newly married or you’ve been married for 20 years, the debate over joint versus separate bank accounts is a hot topic among married couples. Some couples swear by separate bank accounts, and other couples think joint accounts are the only way to go. I’ll give you my opinion over the debate, the best checking accounts for married couples, and a strategy for making the joint checking account work.

Joint vs. Separate Accounts

I have a strong opinion about this debate. I think that all married couples, new and old, should hold joint checking and savings accounts. I understand the argument for separate accounts, but when you said “I do” at the altar, you made a commitment to become one cohesive unit. You are a team, and you need to act like one. When you choose not to share your finances, you are choosing not to share one of the most important aspects of your lives. You can give me all of the excuses about how it works better with separate accounts, and it’s too confusing to share money. The reality is that you don’t trust each other, and you won’t put the time into sharing your money. Don’t settle for the compromise of spending whatever you make. Your marriage is not a business partnership, and if you weren’t ready to give up control of your money, then you weren’t ready to get married.

Responses To Advocates Of Separate Bank Accounts

“She/He spends too much money, and he/she won’t listen to me when it comes to saving money” The answer to this problem is communication and/or marriage counseling, not separate bank accounts. If your spouse refuses to change their financial habits and they are reckless with money, then you don’t have a financial problem. You have a marriage problem. You need to find common ground as a married couple, and help each other rather than get mad at each other. If you can’t communicate and resolve the problem on your own, see a marriage counselor. There may be a bigger issue that one of you isn’t talking about.

“It’s too confusing to share money. I’m afraid that we’ll overdraft on our account.” This is the excuse of a lazy couple that doesn’t want to communicate and budget money together. The solution to this problem is getting on a budget, and planning how you will spend your money each month. Set aside two hours each month to go over your budget and finances for the month with your spouse.

“She/He brought more debt into the marriage. She/He should pay it off on his/her own.” I’ve actually heard people say this before, and it makes me cringe every time I hear it. When you get married, you are coming together become one person, one flesh. You work as a team, and you help each other no matter what. If your spouse is bringing in a bunch of debt to the marriage, it’s now your debt. I don’t care who’s name is on the debt. You have an obligation as a marriage partner to share that debt.

Strategies for Sharing Bank Accounts

Our Strategy: I married a girl who is more frugal than me. In fact, she makes fun of me for the gadget cravings that I get and my weakness for spending money when we go out at night on a date. I got lucky. I never worry about her going on a spending spree with our money. She follows our budget religiously. There was no question when we got married that we would share a checking and savings account. We have a Bank of America checking account for convenience, and we have an ING savings account for short-term savings. I have a 401k for retirement, and now that she’s working, we’re going to open up Roth IRA’s with Sharebuilder in the coming months. We’ve shared a checking account for three years, and it’s been a great decision. We sit down every two weeks to go over our finances and map out what we’re going to do with OUR money, even though I was the only income producer for the past three years.

Joint Checking Account with Two Separate Checking Accounts: If you simply can’t grasp the concept of having one joint checking account, then try this method. Keep a joint account that feeds all of your income into it, and pay all of your bills through this account. Keep a separate checking account for yourself and for your spouse. Divide up 5 to 10% of your income into the separate accounts. Make a pact that you can do whatever you want with that money and your spouse can’t question you about it (as long as its legal! haha). My wife and I do something similar with cash. We give each other a certain amount of money each month called “mad money”, but instead of putting it in separate accounts, we keep it as cash. I like having some cash on me at all times, because there are still situations in life where you can’t swipe a piece of plastic, and sometimes cash speaks louder than plastic.

Checking Accounts of Interest for Married Couples

I know that i made some bold statements in this article, but I will stand by them. It was not my intention to offend you, but I hope it gets you thinking about your current financial set-up with your spouse. I am sure there are people out there that have separate checking accounts with a healthy marriage, but it is the minority. Think of this is a challenge to get you to think differently, not an attack on your current opinions. You must be on the same page with your finances, and sharing every aspect of it is part of the foundation of a healthy marriage.

For more money tips for couples you can read about budgeting money for newlyweds, tips for finding an apartment after marriage, and a couples guide to buying an affordable house.

This article on joint bank accounts in marriage is part of the Marriage Money Guide.

Erik

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Erik
Erik Folgate is a husband and father living in Orlando who's been writing about money online for 6 years. Digging himself out of $20k of debt after college and his former experience in the insurance industry give him some useful insights into personal finance issues.

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63 Responses to Joint Checking Accounts for Married Couples: The Great Debate Over Joint vs. Separate Bank Accounts

  • Larisa

    I don’t think having a joint account is a necessity for being a successful married couple. My husband and I have always had separate accounts and it works for us. It doesn’t mean we don’t trust each other or are lazy – it just happens to work out out best. We divide the finances in a way that makes sense for us and pay the bills accordingly. We don’t bug each other about it and we never fight about money. Easy.

  • Jon

    This article is clearly written by someone who is very naive. Joint accounts can work if both people have similar money habits. But if they don’t, joint accounts are the DUMBEST THING IN THE WORLD! Yes, counseling is perhaps in order to see if a couple can get on the same page from a money standpoint. But, guess what? Counseling doesn’t always (often!)work. So your choice for the half of the couple who prefers to save more is either 1) get a divorce now while your love and credit are still intact or 2)get a divorce later after your credit is ruined and your love is gone. Don’t you think separate accounts could be an alternative? Think about it.

  • Mbarber14

    I tried a joint account. I finally got tired of having nothing at all because my husband does not think that we need to save $$. He spends everything we have and I just can’t do it anymore. It has made me completely miserable. I love him but this will be better. I don’t plan on having seperate accounts forever. I just need him to grow up. We have been married for 9 years.

  • kristina

    Need help! Married for U years and tonight my husband says he wants separate accounts. We have always had issue with money as we are always low on funds after paying bills.
    I have always paid bills bc he would forgetand we would have late fees.
    I am a teacher and that is stable income. He is a car salesman and that can be 800 to 4500.
    He purchased a balckberry w out communicating with me and eight months later I get one and tonight hetells me to cancel my phone internet bc I don’t need it but he does for work.
    What do I do? I don’t see an easy way to split bc of the varying income. I am open to suggestions

  • mike

    my wife went behind my back and opened a retirement/insurance account that is taking 300.00 auto out of her separate bank account,which she opened without talking about it. she did the insurance thing , right when we decided to look for a house,and for me to quit my 60k yr to start school for a new career. we were just at the end game for a house when i found out she did the insurance thing. plus asked for 15 % to be taking out of her pay for 401k. each time i ask to discuss budgeting and finances she gets irritated and holtile . then she decided to take her pay from the joint account and put it into her bank. i had online banking thru the joint acc. and have all the bills set up out of it. now i can’t feel compfy that she has any mature responsiblity . she hates money so she spends it, sounds like an oxymoron ? sounds like a divorce looming.. she does all this after buying a house and convincing me start a new career.. ugg

  • Alicia

    Looks like I am a lucky one. My husband and I do have a joint checking account where we deposit our money. We used to try and keep everything separate and split everything down the middle but it was just such a pain to do every week. We worked out a budget between the two of us and just stick to that. We don’t make a lot of money so really the budget goes to bills and food and we don’t have an opportunity to fight over some of the stuff that I read on the comments. After reading some of the stories about husbands and wife gambling away houses and such, it just makes me thankful for my husband and our life. Clearly joint doesn’t work for everyone, but I think it is something you should figure out before you get married. You also need to be aware of the other persons financial situation before hand.

  • Eddy

    My wife and I have been married 18 years. Early in our marriage she would spend, spend, spend. We were in so much debt it almost destroyed us. I explained to her that I can’t live like that and that if she does not change her spending habits we’ll never last as a couple. She straightened up for a few years and we got out of debt, salvaged our credit, and saved over $7,000.00 (which was great for us). I was moved to another postion at my company which was very demanding. My wife works at a bank and was doing very good managing the bank account. I THOUGHT. So, I gave the checkbook over to her to take care of the bills. One day I received a bill from a credit card with a $1,700.00 charge on it! I immediately got on the phone calling the cc company (thinking someone had lifted my cc number). Then I noticed my wifes facial expression. We had received the blank checks in the mail from my credit card company which was only in my name. She secretly deposited them into our account and spent all of it. And come to find out she had been secretly shopping, getting other high interest loans to support her habit and then went to 4 different cash advance businesses and got 4 $500.00 payroll check advances. I started looking into our finances to see how bad the damage was and found that we were 3 months behind on our mortgage, two months behind on both vehicles and she opened a Victorias Secrets account, Sears, Old Navy, Belk, and maxed them out! I told her I am taking the finances over again but she has opened another checking account which her check is automatically deposited and she refuses to give ANY toward the bills and help me help our situation. I am ready to let the marriage go. She refuses to be a team.

    • Jessica

      I think its probably time, I can’t believe anyone would even think to do that to their husband!

      • Anonymous

        I am so sorry to hear this. Perhaps y’all should see a counselor. The root of the spending problem is probably deeper than it seems. Best of luck to you!

        • Sadie

          It breaks my heart to hear this, for both of you. You are married to an addict. If it were drugs or gambling it would be the same problem. I wish for both of you that you could get her into counseling to recover from this addiction. There is something empty inside of her that she is trying to fill with things. She will never fill it though, no matter how much shopping she does. I know most people would divorce her, and that makes sense, but an intervention and getting her the help she needs should be tried first? I feel really bad for you, you sound like a good person who works hard and had faith in her the first time.The problem is, when someone does that behind your back it is hard to ever trust them again, but remember, this is an emotional problem and severe addiction on her part, she needs serious help.

  • Nicki

    I am a firm believer in spearate accounts. My husband is not. I could see sharing accounts if you ARE able to sit down together, pay bills, etc… but my husband and I operate very differently (I’m more organized, he is not) and our schedules are opposite (he works nights and weekends). I don’t think we’d be able to find the time to sit down every two weeks and go through everything, and since we both want our hands “in it” so to speak, separate is the only way to go for us.

  • Adriana

    My husband and I have kept our assets solely under his name. I am sadly attached to an equity line of credit for $130k from a prevoius marriage. Even though we reached an agreement out of court and signed what is now our Marital Settlement Agreement, he has failed to refinance to remove me from that liability. My now husband refuses to involve me in any of his finances, I am not on the house loan or title, we do not share credit cards or joint checking account/ savings accounts. I can understand that my credit which has been hurt by my ex’s inability to sometimes pay on time the equity line of credit, I could not be on the loan because it could result in a high interest rate, I could also understand not having joint credit cards, rather, I have an extension of his. However, I would like to know how my poor credit could affect having a checking account and savings account.

    • Ben

      Adriana, if you have poor credit then being on the home loan could have resulted in a higher interest rate, however you could have been on the title without being on the loan. As far as I know, your credit shouldn’t have any impact on you being able to open a check or savings account. It sounds like you need to get your ex completely out of your life, it might be worth it to talk to an attorney and see what your options are in terms of the equity line of credit.

  • carol

    My husband has a problem gambling so I wont have a joint bank account with him, I´m always thinking he´ll gamble the savings for our house..

  • ME

    I have come to a conclusion. People who say ” you should absolutely have a joint checking account” are the spenders. Those who think you should have a separate account for each person, are the ones who save money. Why do I say this? Well, my husband and I have been married for four years. He has no interest in money, except for spending it. He always has a very good reason behind his motives, yet, they are things he wants, not necessarily that he needs. But, he makes it sound like he needs them. So he buys them. Interesting enough, I very often realize that I avoid doing and buying so many things that I want, and even need, so that we can save, or at least wait for the price to be better, before I buy it. Whenever I become upset about our account and suggest splitting accounts, he throws me the fancy line “all right, let’s split accounts and live like roommates instead of a married couple!” , so that I can feel really guilty and sorry about having such a horrible idea. Of course now, mind you, he’s the one with the school loan, with the lessons every month, with the treatments for his personally diagnosed health condition, etc, etc. I am the one getting paid more than the two of us, and don’t even get money to get my nails done! Now, that I wrote this out… man, I’m really stupid! What the hell was I thinking by having a joint account???????

    • Deb M

      Glad you talked yourself out of the joint account. I have the same exact situation—excpet married for 16 years, he had all the debt, school loans, prior bancruptcy, etc. I’ve always been the bread winner and thankfully he began to earn a good keep after all the education and support I might add…he crafted the idea of the joint account, we each had an allowance…his was bigger even though I earned more bc he had the commute into the city (give me a break)—it was beer, starbucks, cigarrettes and lunch. I often said, thrown an apple in your bag, throw a granola, pack a lunch now and then….oh no…….heaven’s forbid. Now, after 15 years of marriage and 2 kids later (8 and 10), he’s like….I’m outta here. I don’t want to be married. I suppose having 2 beautiful children, a beautiful home and a wife who earned a great living and kept a home was just too much pressure. But the beauty of it all is now that he wants out, he expects me to still maintain a joint account until we “sort things out” meanwhile he lives outside of the home now. Who is this Erik guy with all this horrible advise. Yes, we sat, we planned, we looked, we agreed, I sucked up a lot of crap for the sake of the marriage and kids. Ladies and perhaps even men……PROTECT YOURSELVES ALWAYS. Come up with what works for you. Yes, you have to trust and have some joint stake in the game, but let’s be real. People change, things happen, lets live in the real world please. I’m not cynical. I played by all those rules and look what I got. A man who is financially dependent, wants out, wants his own life, but can’t grasp that means to now pay for his own stuff, plus kids and deal with this big mortgage…and his condo rent..which by the way, THE BIG HOUSE, was his idea. People…….TAKE HEED.

    • Me, Myself, & I

      Dear Me:

      I read your post. OMGosh!! You and your husband are exactly the same story as my husband and I. It’s refreshing to know that I’m not the only wife out there. We decided just last night that we are going to try separate checking accounts. Enough is enough, I say! :)

    • amy

      You could not be further from the truth. My husband THE SPENDER insists on his own SEPERATE acct, and I’m the SAVER and Budgeter…but of course he wants to do as he pleases,& spends til its gone.A man that makes 150k a year and we had to take out a loan to pay 10k for our daughters college???WHAT AN ASS!!!!! Can’t wait to cut Peter Pan loose!!

  • Heather

    I have excellent credit and married my husband, a German Citizen about 2 years ago. We have been living out of country and are finally returning back to the states. We would like to open a joint bank account but would also like to buy a home in the next few years and are wondering if his “lack of credit” will affect my credit adversely or will it just better his? What is the best way to raise his credit quickly while not affecting my negatively? Any help is appreciated!

    • jason

      when banks offer a certificate deposit for high interest rates you need to tell him to use whatever the minimum is put it in and let it gain money and the open up a credit card account and use that card and wait till the cd matures and take that money and put it aside and use that credit card and when you start out a new credit card usually the company will only allow about 1,000 credit to use and manage that card and charge things per month and use that cd money and pay the “whole” bill off every time and that will increase your credit score tremendously. It is fast and that should help you

    • Erik

      A joint bank account won’t hurt your credit unless he overdrafts and goes into default somehow – pretty hard to do. A joint credit card is an entirely different story. To raise his credit quickly, don’t listen to anyone that tells you he should “piggyback” onto your account. There’s only a chance he could hurt your credit (only if he screws up) but cc companies caught onto this long ago, and it won’t help his score like it owuld have pre-2007. Get him a card for people building credit, possibly with you as an underwriter (NOT the first name on the account) if you trust him to always pay bills on time. He may have to get a securitized credit card, but that’s no big deal as long as you get one with no or VERY low annual fee (since he’ll have to keep it open for a very long time, as the age of your oldest account plays into your credit score). I recommend Orchard Bank, but YMMV.

      Basically, as long as he keeps spending under 30% of his credit limit (I just put one small purchase on and call a day) and pays it off in full each month, within a year he’ll start getting offers in the mail for good cards with good rewards programs and no annual fees. Ignore the ones that come before this (say 6 months in) with annual fees and no rewards programs. Remember, once you get a card, you have it for life (or you should anyway) because canceling an old card hurts your credit score by lowering the average age of your accounts, or in his case, by lowering the age of the OLDEST acccount – both of which harm your score.

  • Caty

    I became engaged the day I graduated in May and soon after moved in with my fiancee to consolidate rent/bills for the both of us. Recently we discussed future financial plans, yet we both have very different ideas on how we will manage our accounts. Since graduating from college I immediately started a job as an insurance agent and he works as a small retail store manager in a store that will be closing mid-January. My fiancee suggested we get a prenup, but I feel that he is only using his parent’s failed marriage as foreshadowing for his own. After researching the costs and agony of pursuing a prenup, I forwarded the information over- allowing him to realize what a ridiculous idea this is for us. We have no debt (greatful to our parents), but we are also young professionals with hardly any assetts other than our vehicles. Is this a trust issue? I’m also confused becuase how are we supposed to pay bills fairly with separate accounts? On a monthly basis do you guys figure out the percentage difference between incomes, then pay? It makes so much more sense for us to have joint accounts especially since he does not have a clue on budgeting. I recently enrolled us in 6 sessions of premarital counseling , so hopefully we can find some answers there. Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    • Moira

      What my mom taught me to do with my fiancee was have a small joint household account which the bills get paid from and split the bills in half and each pay half. Its a lot easier than spliting the bill evenly by the amount you earn. It helped me and my fiancee not argue about our finances and we decided to keep the same method when we get married.

  • Marie

    Guys I’m sorry if this is a silly question, but how often should a married couple balance their check books.Like do they have to do it daily to make sure they’re not clashing? Who should balance it?
    Engaged and Confused

  • Michael

    Well let me start by saying prenuptial agreement that is the key. Any human can mess up one day get drunk and spend $700.00 for a t-shirt on a joint account. Yes there are too many reasons to have joint checking accounts. Trust, sex, openness, not hiding anything from each other, being frugal with spending money, and communication is also key. I have had a joint checking account in her name for 3 months and all of the utilities were shut off ,but she had nice shoes. Point is each human individual has pros and cons but when it comes to money which grows your lively hood, there is no mistaking in marriage that a decision must be made which person is more frugal with the money and then they are responsible for the finances. I say that because the family will always have money in hard times and necessities met. In conclusion if you are poor or a millionaire both people need to talk about buying big ticket items and luxury.

  • Dwight

    Ben, I’ve go to say I disagree a bit on this one. Although couples can act a cohesive unit in joining accounts, me and my wife are separatists from a bank account point of view. We totally work together for the common goals of the household but always have had separate, independent accounts. I think both types of couples can thrive financially as long as they act as one cohesive unit financially even if they are separatist minded when it comes to their bank account.

    Dwight Anthony
    Financially Elite Blog dot com

    • jason

      that is a great comment on that because in managing a account you need to talk things over together but definatley have joint accounts especially in banking, because when bills come in and dealing with her job she gets laid off what are you going to do with a joint account? I’ve been married about a year and we got a joint account with $100 in ir and we get a statement every month and it has not been used because only 1 month after we were married her company laid her off and if I didn’t have my checking account we would have lost everything..

  • Kristen Gomez

    I agree, however you listed Wachovia as a website that is good for married couples that want to have a joint banking account. This is not true. My husband and I bank with them and they always treat us like we are trying to get over on each other when we are doing each other’s banking(cashing checks for one another). They would not even release my husbands bank card to me when I left it there and presented both my ID and his when picking it up. I want to find a bank that actually is marriage friendly and beleives that a joint bank account belongs to both of us and believes in the vows of marriage

    • Marisa

      Bank of america or navy federal if he’s in the service with power of attorney alll I need is ,y if and name on his account I’m never asked questions after the first initial time and they are very understanding that my husband is out of the country some times
      Goodluck

  • Derek

    I am all for separate banking accounts. My wife and I both make very good money, and our salary is about equal. Having our own bank accounts immediately draws a line in the sand between the two parties. It helps foster a sense of boundaries and respect within a marriage. Sure, there’s an argument that married couples should get a joint account, but I disagree. I think this automatically gives both mates a sense of entitlement that might rub the other the wrong way. My wife and I both share each other’s pin numbers and account info, and regularly transfer funds from one another’s accounts to pay bills, etc. But when we do it, we do so with a sense of respect . We know that when we log into each other’s accounts, it’s out of respect. We wouldn’t fool around and just mindlessly do whatever.

    With a joint account, there’s too much temptation to say “What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is mine.” Keep separate accounts. Legal red tape aside, it’s healthy for ANY marriage to undergo continuous exercises of personal boundaries and respect.

  • Yon

    This is the most accurate discussion of the debate in our household. The situation I agree with is ‘To each his own,’ but I am leaning towards the side of seperate accounts. However, my wife and I do not share the same sentiments about that. It’s been almost five years of marriage and I have not been the bread winner throughout that time (which I am reminded of during oportune moments). I was in school, thinking once I graduated, the income would come flowing in on my part. Alas, it has not! The whole time my wife has had control of the reigns, except for a brief moment of one month where I was about to take the responsibilities for the finances. That month did not fair well, because we had gotten into a deep financial hole, anyway. I am reminded of that one month every time I attempt to take responsibility for our finances.

    Mind you, I agree that you become one once you become married, despite all of the problems that are introduced, but COME ON!! Every time we discuss our finances it’s all about her..her..her. It’s as if I’m not even attempting to help alleviate the situation. I understand communication is the key, but the communication is shut down once I begin brainstorming for good ideas with her. She assumes my attempt at offering suggestions is an afront to her.

    So, I think I’m leaning towards having seperate bank accounts where bills are deligated responsibly, and that as far as access to the accounts go in case of emergencies, the information should be placed somewhere where it is clearly defined as to who and when the other person can gain access.

  • Cuatro Jones

    So riddle me this. My husband and I have a joint checking account. Originally it started as mine and when we married I added him to my original account. I was recently making some changes to the account. I do all of the online banking, bill paying, tracking etc. He has no interest or head for it and while that scares me to think if something should happen how will he cope, is just how we have handled it. Recently I needed to fix something on the account and I needed to call the bank to fix it over the phone. After asking several questions I was asked if my husband was available to verify some account information. He wasn’t as he had just left to go help a neighbor. I said no. I then asked if he (my husband) was calling in would he need to get me to verify account information? I was told “No.” At which point I completely lost it.

    So ……. why is this not illegal? In this situation I happen to be the one handling all the money and in fact make more money but instead as the wife I am a second class citizen?

    Bank of America is the culprit and I am going to find EVERY way I can to expose this discriminatory and in my opinon ILLEGAL activity.

    But help me out ….what is the rationale?

    Thank you
    Cuatro Jones

  • joyce

    My husband and I have one child together and he has 3 from a previous marriage. We are considering splitting the bills as he is wanting to spend above and beyond the child support amount, buy 3 cars for his children, and pay for all the college. He is not requiring his ex to help. He makes triple of what my income is, but yet, he says we are to split the bills 50/50. My argument is, if he brings in 75% of the income, he gets 75% of the bills, and I bring in 25% of the income, I pay 25% of the bills……..How do you split the bills up, when I can’t afford to pay 50%?

  • joyce

    My husband and I have one child together and he has 3 from a previous marriage. We are considering splitting the bills as he is wanting to spend above and beyond the child support amount, buy 3 cars for his children, and pay for all the college. He is not requiring his ex to help. I don’t make triple of what my income is, but yet, he says we will split the bills 50/50. My argument is, if you bring in 75% of the income, you get 75% of the bills, and I bring in 25% of the income, I pay 25% of the bills……..

    How do you split the bills up, when I can’t afford to pay 50%?????

  • Ralphie

    Joint is the way to go. Marriage is a team and should be treated as such. Also, there will be transparency which means both spouses can monitor each other on the account. Overdrafting should not be an issue. Set up your checking account to draft from savings in case it happens. Also, have only 1 credit card with both your names on it, along with a limit that will not be exceeded and is managable for your financial situation. Finally, agree on an amount of “mad money ” each of you can piss away just for yourselves each month. I think about $200-$300 will suffice for each person, unless you are extremely rich and are materialistic.

    I’m 32 btw, and that is a good foundation.

  • Liz

    While I think joint accounts are great for a lot of people I do think it is a very bold statement to say it should be for everyone. They just aren’t. Family has come to mean many different things these days. And people are getting married later these days.

    In my case I am in my 30′s and my boyfriend and I are talking about marriage. We both agree on separate accounts and then contributing a percentage to a joint account. Our reason is this. His graduate school education is 60k and he is still in school, and I have been out of college for years now and have nearly paid off my education expenses. Neither of us think its fair for me to have to contribute to his school expenses when I nearly had mine paid off when I met him.

    I don’t think that makes us any less of a perfect couple, we actually agree on this matter and that is what makes us great. So many of my married friends fight over money.

  • Cindy

    I have a different perspective, and I’ve actually thought about emailing Dave about my unique situation. I am the second wife. The first wife spent the first fifteen years of our marriage dragging my husband into court for more money at every opportunity, and yes, he was already paying all of his court ordered child support. Once she wrecked a car that was in her name and dragged him into court to pay the balance that was owed – and won! She can do this because she gets free legal services from her boss who is an attorney, so she doesn’t have to worry about ever paying for any suit no matter how ridiculous. The kids are all grown now, and she has remarried. However, when the kids were younger they told me that she said she wished we had joint assets because then she could convince a judge that my husband had more money than he actually had and then she could get her paws on my money too!

    As long as this woman draws a breath on this earth, my funds will always be separate from my husband’s and our home will always be exclusively in my name.

  • Judy

    What if you didn’t know about your husbands debt and he lied about it??
    He doesn’t contribute anything to the household and I know nothing about his
    earnings??
    I know— I was a fool!!!

  • Benny

    When my wife and I have a joint account it always gets overdrafted. If we don’t have a checking account and pay bills with cash if I have what’s left it lasts us until the first of the month. If she has what’s left it’s gone before the second week of the month. We both only get paid at the First of the month, and since we drive to 20 miles to work we’ll be asking around for gas money.

    But I found in the past that when we had seperate accounts her account would overdraft. Mine wouldn’t so I bailed her out several times. Keep in mind that she’s on my account but she don’t know it so if I pass she still gets the money asap. But this is the only way I know how to save and keep money. She found out that I have $17000 in my 401K account.

    Her solution to our problems is “you need to draw it out to help with the bills.” We don’t have that many bills. Here’s a good example: I use to drive cross country on a big rig. My bring home pay was $1000 a week. I was gone for up to 10 weeks at a time. When I got home our account was $500 over drafted. I don’t think that marriage counseling is the answer. Spouses like this should go to financial counseling.

    My mother in law is constantly in our business. Is this a common practice for in laws? If so how can we tell them to butt out. They got to live their lives, they need to let us live ours!

  • mrs Y

    this article has been very helpful. we recently got married in april and i have had all of my life a seperate checking account. my hubby thinks that it is a good idea that we have joint and my mom and stepdad have a joint checking account. my hubby and i have a joint savings account. i guess i am just chicken because like what the one part of the article says about afraid of overdrafting. that is me right there. but the more that i read this article i am seriously thinking about doing a joint checking account. i mean would this better our credit score if we have joint checking accounts and joint saving accounts or does that not matter? plus we are looking for our first home in the very near future and it would prob look better i guess…..i am more frugal with my money than with what he is. we both watch, but he likes to spend little bit…..maybe it would be better since the bank that i have now isnt going to be available come sept. eighth it was bought out by pnc. so…instead of it being confusing and having to order new checks and stuff maybe i should just combine mine with his checking account since he has a good bank. and i wouldnt have to worry about it being bought out or anything like that. really helpful and insightful article!!

  • bea

    I’ve been married for three years and my husband doesn’t have a bank account.
    The reason he doesn’t is because he owed the bank for overdraft charges before we got married, so he could never open an account. Recently our employer made everyone get direct deposit and of course my hubby doesn’t have any account. For the past three years if manage all the finances and know he wants to have a seperate account. I’m scared because he doesn”t want to include me in his decision. I think that this is going to but a dent in our marriage.
    He like to over spend and know we might even end up without anything. What should I do?

  • Char

    The situation IS entirely different with a couple over 40 getting married when each have grown children. My husband is the best when it comes to finances and firmly believes in a joint account. However, I don’t feel that it is appropriate to to have to ask if I can withdraw funds from our joint account for my children. The financial discussion will always be who did what when for which child. Totally exhausting. After we each contribute to pay assigned bills, I should have discretionary income for whatever I want to do that is within the parameters of a good marriage. I shouldn’t feel like a child answering to a parent on spending money I earned. Especially at my age.

  • John Lee

    “She/He brought more debt into the marriage. She/He should pay it off on his/her own.” I’ve actually heard people say this before, and it makes me cringe every time I hear it. When you get married, you are coming together become one person, one flesh. You work as a team, and you help each other no matter what. If your spouse is bringing in a bunch of debt to the marriage, it’s now your debt. I don’t care who’s name is on the debt. You have an obligation as a marriage partner to share that debt.

    I have been married for 3 years and have gotten into a shit load of debt while married. I understand that you are a marriage counselor and wanted to get your advice. Basically too believe in your statement that when you get married, you become one person and you must share all the happiness and sadness as a cohesive unit. I have a newborn baby and my wife has not been working because she is staying home taking care of our son. Our financial situation is like separate right now because I take care of the mortgage and she takes care of the other bills. I do realize that I accumulated this debt by myself but my wife refuses to help me out because her philosophy is that I did it so I have too take responsibility for it. I don’t have any other options left, am I wrong to feel helpless because my wife is not willing to go through the bad times but only the good times with me?

  • Kathy

    Hi Meg,

    I am so sorry you have to live with someone like this. I’m sure you love him but there is no excuse to yell at you and threaten divorce like that. He is trying to make you live in fear.

    Why didn’t you ask him before spending the thousands of dollars? Does he ask you when he spends large amounts of money? You should have joint accounts and withdrawals or purchases over a set amount must require BOTH signatures.

    Like the guy said in this article.. if you are having money issues like this then this is NOT a sign that you are having trouble with money. It’s a sign there’s trouble with your marriage. I had the same situation with my ex. He was using $ to control me and he sincerely felt I didn’t deserve anything because I had debt and yet he would spend thousands on himself for his hobbies. It left me feeling worthless and like I didn’t deserve anything. I’m sure you feel the same way.

    I KNOW you love this man, but you’re going to have to put your foot down and gain back his respect. The next time he threatens to divorce you over your spending, say something witty back like “yeah, that’s REALLY going to save you money” LOL Ok maybe don’t say that… but just tell him you want a joint account and if he doesn’t agree then seriously just leave him or threaten to because he’s not cooperative and you seem to be the only one who really cares. If he makes double your income, and you have a masters.. $15,000 shouldn’t be that big of a deal if it’s a one time thing. But, you SHOULD have asked him first or discussed it first so you should also apologize for that.

    The way he acts about money it seems like he’s stashing a whole bunch away and is planning on divorcing you in 5 years and buying a corvette and dating some blonde gold digger. Careful..

  • Meg

    My husband has two separate checking accounts, one for paying bills and the other for our rental income. He wants to be able to access my account information but I am not able to access his. We have been married 25 years and sadly we have never really worked together on finances or been able to follow a budget. Recently, he feels that I have overspent on the 3 kids, ages 25, 20, and 15. However, the 25 year old just moved to LA, the 20 year old and 15 year old just had a birthday, and we had back to school expenses, along with a school dance. I probably spent about $2000 total and he was furious, screaming, and threatening to see an attorney about divorcing me. I think the joint account for both of our incomes would help us with total transparency. Otherwise, I feel he is turning into a control freak. I told the kids to call him whenever they need something, I am retreating from making decisions on all expenses of theirs. Their needs and wants are exhausting to me anyway. 2 other times in our 25 years I overspent on credit. Once for 10,000 for combined college expenses for myself and oldest daughter, and once for 5,000 to help start a part time business. I am a teacher with a Masters and he makes more than double my income. I am not sure there is hope for our marriage because of the money control issues we seem to have. I think I have simply become to unhappy, feeling controlled, and monitored all the time. I also do not buy that much for myself, it is more for the kids. I am pretty depressed. Please share with me if you will.

  • Michelle

    Please do share with me some more “realities” about my marriage. But first, remind me: have we met?

    Pompous ass.

  • Ben

    Wow, this one got some passionate responses! Erik states at the beginning that it’s just his opinion so of course you are all entitled to yours as well. I’m not surprised there are such strong feelings on both sides of the topic.

    I’m sure there are couples that make it work both ways, personally my wife and I have joint accounts. I think the most important thing is that there’s an open dialogue about money between you and your spouse and a shared understanding of how it will be spent.

  • J.D. Roth

    Ben, I respect you and your blog, but this, to put it frankly, is bullshit:

    You can give me all of the excuses about how it works better with separate accounts, and it’s too confusing to share money. The reality is that you don’t trust each other, and you won’t put the time into sharing your money.

    I trust my wife more than I trust myself. She trusts me with money, too. But neither one of us has any desire to combine our finances. We’re happy with the system we have. Just because you cannot fathom separate accounts doesn’t mean that others in loving marriages can’t do it.

    This statement, too, deserves to be flogged:

    I am sure there are people out there that have separate checking accounts with a healthy marriage, but it is the minority.

    What is this based upon? Opinion? The word of Dave Ramsey? I’ve never seen anything to indicate that one group — jointers or separatists — was any better at managing money or marriage.

    I’ve never understood why “joint finance” folks are so dogmatic. It’s baffling. Both systems can work just fine. Both systems can lead to disasters. The system is irrelevant. It’s the people behind the system that are important.

    Rant over! Go about your otherwise fine work. :)

  • Slinky

    I firmly believe that it doesn’t really matter how you do it. Most people have some separate cash or account for each person. What’s the difference if you transfer money from separate accounts to a joint account or the other way around? That said, many couples who use separate finances do it that way to compensate for other issues (trust, gambling, shopping). Of course, joint finances can have problems too (competitive spending, control issues). I don’t think it’s fair to say that a method for managing your finances says anything about your relationship.

    I also take offense to your trust statement. Separate finances means you trust the other person to do their part, to not hide things, to be honest, to help you, to support you, to pick up the slack if you need it. It’s trust in a different way.

    We keep separate, but joint finances. I think this is the healthiest of all combinations. We each have our own budgets, but we also have a spreadsheet for handling joint expenses, and a budget for reaching joint goals. He supported me through college, I’m helping pay off his credit card from his previous marriage, all the while keeping our finances ‘separate’. We regularly discuss the state of our finances and the progress for our goals.

    In conclusion, who cares how you do it, as long as you do it together?

  • louise

    my husband believes in having it in joint accounts, I believe in having both joint and separate. So I have individual accounts as well as the joint account and he doesn’t. what matters is to do what works for each couple, there is no right or wrong way to do it
    . We’ve been together 31 years and we still like each other, so it works for us.

  • Brad Ford

    If one party has significant bankruptcy risk coming into the marraige, it may be a good idea to keep at least some accounts separate. Where one (or both) parties brings a significant liability (mortgage, medical, other) that the other party is not legally liable for, segregating legal liability is a good idea.

  • Zeke

    With the second wife we managed the joint account as if there were two accounts. She updated her checkbook with her deposits, and I updated with mine. We would transfer money between us if necessary. Our checks had different number ranges, so we could easily recognize them on the statements.

    With the third wife I intended not to go joint. She is an immigrant, however, and the INS said (or implied . . .) that we should have a joint account as part of convincing them that she should get a green card. So we did it. After about a decade now there are no problems.

  • marci

    You hit the nail on the head when you said that if you aren’t ready to give up control of your money then you aren’t ready to get married. Both money and marriage are matters of trust.
    I agree that joint accounts are the way to go, with (if finances allow) ‘mad money’ for each party that they are NOT accountable for to the other. The emergency savings, saving for a house, and retirement funds should all be joint as much as possible.

    I also agree with Nicholas that the death factor needs to be provisioned for – so each party should either have savings or checkings of their own to get them thru til the estate is settled. As well as a joint credit card, each party should have their own personal credit card, in case death (or divorce) occurs. This should all be balanced so that each person is building up a good credit score, as well as the marriage building up a good credit score. A marriage is afterall, 3 parties… Him, Her, and the marriage… and all need to be healthy (taken care of) for all to be happy :)

    I do make one exception to all the above – and that is in the case of older couples getting married with children and/or grandchildren. In that case, I believe in prenuptials, a joint account and credit card for the daily living expenses, plus separate non accountable accounts for each of them……and in a best case scenario, the couple will both die together a the moment they spend their last pennies…. However, as that is rarely the case, I believe that what each partner brought into the marriage that is not being used to support the marriage finances, should be held sacred for the children/grandchildren of each party separately. However, that is just my own personal opinion and from my personal situation and that of my mom and step-dad, each with several grown children, and this is the way that they have worked it out, and it seems to be working well. And of course, all the kids and stepkids hope that that best case scenario works out for them and that they spend all their money before they die. We would rather they enjoy life than worry about leaving something for us.

    And David – fortune has smiled on you by uniteing you with that rarest of women – a frugal woman! May she temper your habits! haha! Good luck to the both of you!

  • Nicolas

    You also need to consider that if one of the spouse passes away, the joint account may be frozen until the estate is taken care of. This implies the other spouse does not have access to some (or all) of the funds for a while. Even when there is a clear will and nobody opposing.

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