– Exposing the false beliefs of the financial world
Myth: Keeping separate bank accounts is a smart way to protect yourself and avoid money fights with your spouse.
Truth: Keeping separate bank accounts breeds distrust and helps separate spouses by encouraging money fights.
Here’s why: When you have one joint account, it forces you to talk about the money and where it is going. There is an element of accountability when you know your spouse will find out if you bought something. When you know that accountability is there, you won’t buy something that you know you shouldn’t buy.
But with separate accounts there is no way of telling where the money is going. When you know there’s no accountability for your spending, there’s no reason to use moderation. Plus, there’s no real way to know that the other spouse is sticking to the budget. You trust that your spouse is paying their bills but how do you know they actually are? Without sneaking around and checking your spouse’s account balances (which I don’t recommend doing), you track your expenses efficiently or with the full sense of confidence you need.
I’ve seen numerous relationships where the couple kept separate bank accounts and divided the financial responsibilities into “his bills and her bills.” That instantly goes against the institution of marriage, in which two become one. So now you are trying to split costs evenly but the categories never seem to come out even. Some couples try to pay their share based on the amount of income they each bring home. This method can leave one spouse feeling guilty for not carrying enough of the burden. Sometimes it even goes the other way, with the higher income earner feeling resentment toward their spouse for not contributing enough.
When you view your finances as “his and hers” it’s very difficult to stay united in your efforts and stick to the plan. How can you have trust in a relationship when you have separate accounts? Just by not having a joint account, you are admitting you don’t trust each other. Some financial “experts” recommend separate accounts so you can each have independence and avoid fighting over expenditures. The problem with this is that fighting over money is often a symptom of a deeper relationship problem. If you can’t learn to communicate about your goals, wants and needs, you need help with your marriage. Keeping a joint account helps you both set goals, track your spending, and keep on the same page. It’s an absolute must in building trust and open communication, which are the building blocks of a good marriage.
The best way to build a strong marriage without money fights is to develop a written spending plan together before each month begins and make sure you both agree on the plan before implementing it. View the income as “our” household income and keep your money together in the same account so you both know where every dollar is going (and whether you’re following the plan).
Matt Wegner is a personal finance, small business and leadership coach focused on teaching his clients the tools for L.I.F.E. (Living In Financial Excellence). Learn how to communicate with your spouse about money by requesting a free planning session today or visit financialexcellence.net.