By: Revanche

Married Life: Proposing a Merger

April 3, 2012

Once upon a time, I dreamed big for the future. Out of those dreams, I formulated a life plan wherein I’d be taking a professional health degree of some kind and a PhD, entering a white collar profession, and buying a home for myself and my parents (separate homes, mind) before the age of 30.  After 30 was a little hazy, but I figured plotting the next 23 years was good enough. Also, two degrees and affording two homes was a tough enough nut to crack – I wasn’t ready to plot any more years.

This was before I knew the words “net worth” because, you know, seven years old, but you had better believe that the balance sheets did not include debt. I’d already been writing out the checks for the bills for my parents and knew how I wanted to set up my own budget when the time came.

You may notice, as my mother had, that I had made no provisions in those plans, for marriage or kids.  As far as I was concerned, it might happen, it might not, I wasn’t planning on it or depending on it and figured it wasn’t terribly relevant to the trajectory of my career and money. That was a pretty unsophisticated understanding of how life and marriage works.

Clearly, I was bound and determined to have my own mind and at the time, that also meant keeping my own finances, separate and free. As the years passed, I saw too many bad choices made by one or another couple where there was a divide in the spender/saver continuum, even in my own family, or business decisions gone awry, especially in my own family, and I just couldn’t fathom living in that life.

“If you live in a community property state, not combining finances is just lying to yourself about legalities.” @practicalwed

So once upon a time, I might have disagreed with Meg. Despite my primary marriage example being the relatively healthy and supportive partnership my parents shared in which they had combined finances, I was still certain that I could keep separate finances in any prospective marriage and cope just fine.

Except I’d never coped with two separate systems for myself and my parents so I had no blueprint for a working system. I’d assumed it was only a lack of income on their part and need to control on my part that that didn’t work.

After several months of juggling our separate systems, the time has come to wish good bye to that once-loved independent money philosophy: PiC and I need to combine our finances. Between my OCD control tendencies and his laissez-faire attitude to saving versus spending, I now doubt that we’d get to our final destination in one piece. And we live in a community property state so, frankly, we are combined in the eyes of the law, whether we have combined or not. Entangled, like it or not. (Romantic, hm?)

It’s been as stressful being hands-off while we paid bills separately and waited for incomes to reach stasis as it was maintaining two separate sets of accounts for myself and my parents more than ten years ago.

We just don’t function very well managing our “own” money when we have such different views of it. Part of it is the actual management and lack of transparency. The system isn’t set up well at the moment between our paychecks and direct deposits.

And philosophically, he still viewed his money as his money and spent freely, resenting that an uneven amount of expenses were coming out of his pocket, while I viewed all the money as our money and saved to offset his spending, and resented his depletion of our budget.

It turns out that we need to literally be on the same page to think from the same page. Never thought that’d be the case but there it is.

Starting at the beginning, I evaluated all our expenses and income and set up the target amounts that we’d want in specific pots for our savings and spendings goals. Now, we just have to figure out which banks and which accounts to keep and which to cut out, then actually do it.

Married Life Posts:
Married Life: Benefits
Married Life: Mortgage Prepayment for Refinancing
Married Life: Blending spending styles and learning the art of compromise

8 Responses to “Married Life: Proposing a Merger”

  1. Luckily, my DH and I are both frugal–so we never had to make those adjustments. You are so smart and analytical about finances that I am SURE you can work out a system.

  2. Good luck!

    There are lots of systems that married people with different spending personalities use, and I’m sure you’ll find one that works for you.

    We do the “DH has an allowance” method, but my parents seem happy with the 3 bucket method (his, hers, joint). The most important thing I think is that the spender is allowed controlled freedom to spend on whatever he or she wants without actually impacting the joint bottom line. His allowance is the same every month (for my planning purposes) and he can do whatever he wants with it. My parents have more leeway controlling their own retirement savings vs. spending etc.

  3. mOOm says:

    We merged our finances as soon as we lived together. I really didn’t want to argue about who was contributing to which bill etc. However, we have only one joint account, a checking account, and one joint credit card account. The taxation system in Australia means we need to be taxed separately anyway. We have separate investment accounts etc. Also I manage the money. We don’t have any set allowances. Our income now is high enough, our tendencies relatively frugal enough, and our attitudes enough laid back that that is not a problem.

  4. SP says:

    I kept things more separate than not until it didn’t make sense any more (inertia/laziness wins). We combined all of our savings accounts, and I now track both of our income and spending as a unit. We still have separate cash flow (ie checking) accounts. Again, laziness rather than what we’d do if we started over. But T is of similar mindset on spending, and I think the joint savings accounts are what is important. Someday we’ll get rid of extraneous accounts… maybe..

  5. My Husband and I merged the day we knew we would be together for always (a year in I believe). I run basically 90% of it and it works for us. I have tried splitting the work 50/50 but my over controlling nerve just won’t let it happen.

  6. I’m a data geek. I look forward to the day M. proposes and I can finally create a spreadsheet of his net worth / debts / assets to go under mine and track. 🙂

  7. oilandgarlic says:

    I never understood why people kept separate finances. I had a married friend who said her husband had to come up with “his half” for a trip and she didn’t care if he came up with the money via family help, credit cards as long as it wasn’t her half. I always wondered what would happen in their old age if he continued being bad at money? Her savings would surely have to go toward his medical care, food etc.. In other words, it always comes out of one pot in the end.

    My husband is less interested in money than I am but he has become more frugal for my sake. It’s not perfect but I do think it’s really important to get on the same page financially as much as possible.

  8. Shelley says:

    In marriage number 1, we calculated half of our joint living expenses, each contributed to half and got to spend whatever they wanted over what was left. We had no shared vision of financial goals. I was by nature a saver, but he was a spender…and a gambler.

    In number 2, we did much the same for a while. He talked me into a joint checking account at one point, but after having to scurry around with some savings to cover the basic bills after his spending spree, we went back to separate accounts. I was just trying to survive all the expenses at the time.

    Bill and I have separate accounts. I bought this house and he gives me housekeeping money to run it. Travel is much higher on his agenda than mine, so if he wants to travel, he had to fund most of it. If I manage to save anything out of housekeeping, I give it back to him towards the travel. He’s content with what his retirement income is, though he does have a sizeable savings account, his part of what his mom left. I don’t have a great deal of income of my own, but have saved enough to live on until I draw down the first and largest of my retirement benefits. I tend to spend little, save a bit more and invest a bit. We’re at a time in our lives when we have done what we are likely to be able to do to ensure our futures financially. If the retirement funds collapse – all government sources – we’ll have to think again, but I suspect that we’ll always have enough to get buy. If not, a lot of other people will be in exactly the same boat.

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