By: Revanche

Married money: Combining finances or not

July 25, 2016

In our marriage, our finances are 99% combined. How would you do it?

PiC and I have taken years to properly combine and organize our money since the wedding.

The end goal has always been that I shall take and keep complete Dominion over All Things Money! Given our wildly differing levels of interest, it’s for the best.

We started out with completely separate finances. It was all too complicated to merge, I thought. But as we started to combine our lives, the separation and siloed information started to drive me bonkers. It turns out that I need to have almost complete control over the whole picture to be able to make effective, informed decisions. It’s simply how I work best.

There are still some loose ends. Some of them may stay loose-endy due to their nature of being specifically one person’s thing to deal with. I recently wrapped one of my own, dealing with a retirement account that was weirdly designated and dumping those funds into my primary retirement account. I have another one that I’ve started writing about and am not ready to put out there yet.

Things like inheritance gets tricky. I don’t feel like I have a right to touch money inherited from his side, nor do I want to touch it. On my side, there’s been nothing but grief when it comes to money so I especially hate the feeling that doing anything to protect his inheritance feels like I’m a moneygrubbing so-and-so. Except I don’t want any of it for myself! I just hate seeing money managed less effectively than it could be. But because of the feeling that I didn’t come to this union with my own family money (except I did, it was all money that I earned with my own hands), I’m more comfortable ignoring the nagging feelings that it could be better managed and leaving it alone.

Viewing the landscape, I see friends of varying economic levels from poor to very high net worth with all kinds of financial arrangements.

I also keep seeing strong opinions on how, if you’re married, you need to combine finances. I agree that you have to have a system but I don’t agree that it has to be any specific kind.

:: Have you ever had intertwined finances or finances that were dependent on others (partners or roommates)? How did that work for you? Do you have a personal preference for combined or separate finances?

30 Responses to “Married money: Combining finances or not”

  1. Twelve years in, and we’re still in progress. Our goal is to have things be combined, and our savings and checking accounts are–but our retirement and other investments are still kind of a mishmash, because immediate needs have taken a priority.

    And I don’t see how there could be any one answer on finances for all families, because I don’t think there’s any one answer on much of anything.

    • Revanche says:

      Agreed – there isn’t one answer on most anything so I’m not sure why people insist their way is the Right Way.

      I like to take things one at a time, it’s the best way I can get things done even if I’m impatient to have it done.

  2. I plan to move us towards his-hers-ours style of combined finances once we are engaged, with all the “ours” stuff (i.e. everything except personal spending accounts) tracked under Mint account with password we both share.

    • Leigh says:

      We use Personal Capital for joint spending tracking because it allows you to say connect your Chase login and then delete any of the accounts entirely from the tracker. This is important because our joint checking account is at a credit union where we both have accounts individually and the only way to see it is from our individual logins! It’s a very useful feature!
      Leigh recently posted…Being financially stable doesn’t make you betterMy Profile

  3. EvilBatWitch says:

    Ian and I combined money, but there were THANKFULLY several credit items that were signed in my name only. A long time ago, we figured out Ian is very good with money, whereas i could get paid once a week and bounce checks like mad. So, he took over the bill paying. He wasn’t employed at this early stage of our marriage. technically, he was not authorized to work in this country. but he was very good with math. So, we have a combined savings and checking. we put me on a budget, and he deals with when we can buy stuff.
    Four years ago, I had lost a job that we moved 1200 miles for me to accept. It took all our savings to do this. I then got canned about 4 months into it, so we got “stuck” in Oregon. I still owned a condo in Colorado that we had been renting to a friend. Once I got canned, I stopped making payments on the condo. After being in Oregon for 6 months, I claimed bankruptcy, Chapter 7. Everything in my name went into it. A couple of other loans, my real estate, and the HOA dues (and their sniveling lawyers). None of ian’s credit was affected. If we ever buy a house again, It will have to be in Ian’s name. I haven’t had credit for 4 years.

    • Revanche says:

      Oh that’s complicated. Thank goodness for Ian’s money skills and credit – that’ll help you in future years.

  4. I honestly don’t know what I’ll do when and if I’m in a long-term relationship or marriage. Right now I kind of think of things as mine, yours, and ours. The only joint accounts would be rent/mortgage, utilities, future trips together, etc. But who knows, that all might change depending on how I feel at the time!
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    • Revanche says:

      That seems sensible! But you’re right, you’ll know better what you need when you’re in the situation.

  5. NZ Muse says:

    Work in progress, really. Have shifted in and out of joint to varying degrees. Right now it’s about finding a balance where he has accountability, and enough autonomy for there to be motivation and an appreciation of how much life costs and his part in that, and where I can trust without dying of stress.

  6. We have one joint account, and each maintain a small personal account. Because Hubs has no interest, I am the holder of the keys to the castle! MUAHAHAHA DOMINION IS MINE.

    JK (mostly…) But yeah, this system works well for us. All of our big bills get paid out of the joint account, and our fun money goes into our individual accounts. That way I don’t have to justify $15 worth of sushi one day, and he doesn’t have to justify eating $5 fast food three times a week to me. It’s all even in the end, and it gives us both a little breathing room.
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  7. We’re completely separate. And we like it that way. Haha. Despite the strong feelings in the rest of the community… Gotta do what’s right for you.
    FF @ Femme Frugality recently posted…How to Shop for College Textbooks and Save MoneyMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Definitely! Would you tell me a little more about how the mechanics work? I’m interested because I was no good at making it work completely separately but I’m positive it works well for other people and would love to see how!

      • Femme says:

        Sure thing! It’s been quite the evolution. When we first had children (not yet married,) I decided to return to school. The bulk of my income was through scholarships, and I’d use that to pay car insurance premiums and installment payments (paid off early! whoo!) while he handled the rest of the day-to-day. When a bill needed to be paid and the money HAD to come out of my account, rather than saying, “I need $100 to pay xyz,” I’d say, “Xyz needs to be paid. It’s $100.” Because they were all our bills, and him putting money in my bank account wasn’t a gift to me; it was taking care of our household. When I wanted to buy him a Christmas present or something, I’d hustle, but for everything else the money was “ours” despite being in separate accounts.
        There wasn’t a whole lot of savings going on back then because, frankly, we didn’t have extra to put aside to save.
        Now he’s in school and I make a larger portion of our income just because he spends more hours at his studies than at work—a much better investment for the long-term for our family. We’re married, but still don’t have things combined. He prefers a physical branch and isn’t 100% comfortable with digital money. I’m the exact opposite. It’s still all “our” money, but we don’t mess with how the other manages it.
        When money needs to be in my account, he writes me a check and I digitally deposit it. When money needs to be in his account, I either write him a check or give him some cash to deposit at his physical branch. It doesn’t happen all that often, though. He has two bills he regularly takes care of, and I handle the rest. Because most of “our” money is in my account anyways.
        Admittedly, I’m more inclined to savings than he is. So I build my own savings account. And retirement accounts. Last year we set up a retirement account for him, too, though I helped because the process was digital. If he wants to put more money in, he can, and he could even put it in from “our” reserves in my bank account. But that’s his decision and he has to act if that’s what he wants to do. Just like I used to tell him bill xyz was due, he can tell me the retirement account needs funded.
        I have more savings, and the way I view it, that’s my decision. If we’re together in 30 years, it’s going to benefit both of us. His savings will in turn benefit me, too. But if we’re not, we’ll each have made our own independent decisions. I think we’re going to be together. But I prefer not to play the odds.
        A lot of our set up is built on trust. Trust that we’ll be together long-term. Trust that the other is managing their money properly. We don’t need to manage each other, but we trust that we can turn to the other person when the math isn’t adding up from our own, individual accounts. And that neither one of us will exert abuse over the other over something as petty as money.
        I think that if one person wants to manage everything and the other is cool with it—that’s not abuse. That’s not what I’m trying to say. That’s a joint decision. But just because you have things separate doesn’t mean there’s abuse or a lack of trust going on, as common opinion would have you believe. Just like buying car insurance doesn’t mean you think you’re going to get into an accident today—-just playing the odds, and doing it constructively as long as our relationship retains its trust. Which, knock on wood, will be forever.
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  8. PW says:

    Got married later in life. We have a his/her/ours account. When we get inheritances (no many and not much) each keeps in their respective individual accounts to use as they see fit. When we do a remodel or purchase a larger item, I buy my own car, he his. We each contribute to big items 50/50 like a new fridge, large plumbing bill etc. I usually pay all the household bills from my account as I have it all online, hubby won’t do online banking and we both work long hours. Somehow it works out for us, for 25 years of marriage. It is tricky sometimes.

  9. Like PW, we were older when we got married and both kind of set in our ways. Similar values but different styles. We’ve slowly combined over the years and now have joint bank accounts, but still separate investment accounts. We have both joint and individual credit cards, and the mortgages, properties and business are joint.
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    • Revanche says:

      Another evolutionary 🙂 Was it an easy evolution or did you find it challenging?

      • Mostly it’s just happened very naturally.

        Most of what started out separate has either stayed separate or been closed. I did put Jon on “my bank account” but he never used it. He had one of his own. We ended up closing them and starting new accounts at our local credit union, and everything opened in the last 10 years is joint except for the account I inherited from my Mom. So the single credit cards are individual through laziness more than intent.
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  10. Leigh says:

    Things have been slowly evolving. For now, we each have an AU card on one of the other’s credit cards. He spends on one set of categories and I spend on other sets of categories. (I pay for condo expenses other than utilities and he pays for most everything else shared.) The AU card I have of his is an American Express Blue Cash Preferred which is great for how much we spend on groceries (more than $250/month but under the $6,000/year cap at which you earn 6%). We put things into a joint Personal Capital account and I also put them into a spreadsheet since not everything is represented in the PC account. Everything else is separate, though we do talk about things. We’ll probably keep things the way they are now until we either own a piece of property together or we get married and then they’ll evolve further.
    Leigh recently posted…Being financially stable doesn’t make you betterMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      I had just been thinking about adding each other as AU on certain cards for spending on categories! You’re a step ahead of me there – love the reminder.

      Sounds like it’s evolving positively – thumbs up!

  11. My dearest DF and I have separate finances because we’re older and it seems messy to intermingle the moolah. He pays the bills and I give him a chunk of cash each month for my share.

    It works for us.

    • Revanche says:

      It does get messier as we get more established! At some point it really isn’t worth the hassle of combining, I’m sure.

  12. Katie C says:

    Heh, I still don’t understand the amount of judgment some people in the PF community (and coworkers too!) reserve for married folks with separate finances. (I think I’ve even read a blog post from a very popular blogger who strongly implied – and may have even outright stated – that if your finances are not combined when you marry you’re not really married.) David and I still keep everything separate after 6 years of marriage. He sends me his half of our joint bills (utilities, Netflix, Internet, cell phones), and I pay the bills online.

    I would say we do this because we’re both independent, and he was older when we met/married. But the other part of it is that I’m a control freak, and I don’t think we’d get along all that well if I could see every one of his purchases. We may open a joint checking account someday, but for now our attitude is, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

    • Revanche says:

      I know I’m being nosy here asking but it still astounds me how people think that’s an invitation to pass judgment.

      I’m with you there on being a control freak. Since PiC is willing to work with me and compromise on the nature of his purchases, I’m doing better knowing what he buys and I only ask what such and such was to make sure that no credit card was compromised. I could NOT have said that 5 years ago.

  13. Nancy says:

    After 35 years of marriage, and dating for almost 10 years prior to marriage, we have our own personal checking and credit card accounts, and a joint checking. He has responsibility for some household bills, and I have the responsibility for others. Most of the time it works. Since I have just retired (early), and have yet to receive the pension or the early social security, we will see how it works out, as he is accustomed to borrowing money from me to meet his expenses. I will no longer have that slush fund. We have accounts in physical banks and credit unions, and I also have online accounts (Cap. One 360 – because I can set up sub-accounts and break up large bills into biweekly payments, so that the money is there when the bill comes in).

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