Bank Accounts: To Merge or Not To Merge

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There’s a fascinating train of thought on whether couples should keep one bank account or separate accounts.

In the old days (around the time I got married) it was common for women (if they brought in an income) to blend all monies coming in into one bucket.

Every time I talk to someone new, I’m mildly surprised to discover my way is in the minority.

It makes sense to keep separate accounts, and safer too, especially if you’re newly married. You don’t want to toss your coin in with your mate and find out he’s a weasel.

I did it all wrong when I got married. We were so sure about each other, we started combining our funds BEFORE we married. I’d never recommend this course of action to anyone. I was just lucky.

He could’ve absconded with my hard earned $2K I had in the bank. I also, could’ve absconded with his kingly treasure of $53.50. πŸ˜€

Seriously, I don’t remember how much he brought into the union, but even back then I was the better saver and I squirreled away every nickel I could. He usually spent his money on me so that might account for his paltry savings.

Since that time, we’ve always had a melting pot of funds. For a very (very) short time I made 25 cents an hour more than him. But once we moved to Texas, his paycheck left mine in the dust.

Still, a dollar is a dollar, and we considered every expense carefully before we took it on. Every so often we make mistakes, but who doesn’t?

Many of my siblings (perhaps all) keep their incomes in separate accounts. Many of my friends too. It makes me wonder if our way is antiquated and provincial.

There’s a very good argument for keeping funds separate and I can’t fault the thinking behind it, but our way is so much easier when it comes to bookkeeping.

So here’s my question if you don’t mind me asking: Do you and your significant other keep separate accounts? Do you ever argue about money, or about who should pay what?

And how dumb were we to merge our money into one account before we married? πŸ™‚ Go ahead, say it. It was dumb. We were lucky neither of us turned out to be rats and gold diggers.

 

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16 Comments

  1. When we got married, we went with a single, joint bank account. Same with credit cards. Since he was a numbers guy, he managed the accounts. This lead to two problems. One was always remembering to tell each other if we wrote a check and.the other was I could never make a purchase he didn’t know about, i.e. no surprises for birthdays, Christmas, etc. So I opened a separate checking account. Years later there was a rash of publicity about the fact that, if a couple had all joint accounts and the woman’s husband died, her credit rating died with him. Widows were discovering they had no credit history. So I took out a credit card in my name using my income only, just to establish credit. The laws have since changed on this but I’ve kept that card. It lets me overspend on the grandkids at Christmas without presenting him with the bill.

    • Linda: I remember hearing the same story about women not having a credit history which is why I opened a credit card account too.

      In the early years I handled all the money. When we lived apart, I handled mine and he handled his. But when Greg moved back after his retirement, he had gotten used to paying bills online. I still don’t like it, so since then he’s handled the bills.

  2. Marianne

    We not only merged our accounts before we were married, but took out a car loan and a home loan. He brought $1500 of debt to our union, I brought the down payment for the house, paid cash when I bought my truck and earned twice what he did at the time. His income kicks mine in the butt now, though, and I suppose we were also silly, trusting folks, but it worked (and still works) for us after more than 20 years. πŸ™‚

    • Marianne: Holy, moley, you went all in! It’s probably not a good practice considering how many marriages fail in this country. Isn’t it about half of all marriages fail? Something like that.

      We were the lucky ones though. Thank goodness.

  3. I don’t understand the separate accounts, but my friend does it and now it seems more people do. We joined our monies (although I had more than he did at the time–he had debt, I didn’t) as soon as we were married. But… we do have separate accounts for stuff. So we have the checking account to pay bills and a savings account for emergencies and a savings account for purchase of stock. But they’re all in both our names. Some just have my name first on the account. πŸ™‚

    I find it kind of sad that couples have to have “my” money accounts. It should all be “our” money. Isn’t that what marriage is all about?

    • Stacy:
      re: I find it kind of sad that couples have to have β€œmy” money accounts. It should all be β€œour” money. Isn’t that what marriage is all about?

      That thinking is part of our generation. Today, everyone wants to be independent of everyone else. I’m all for independence, but marriage to me is about being part of a team. What I spend or save isn’t just for me, but for us.

      Now if you’re living together with no legal claim on the other, I can see keep separate accounts. The courts seem a little gray on how to divide property in some states. In Texas, I believe after 7 years you’re common law wed anyway.

  4. We began immediately with a joint bank account which we’ve kept. Over the years we have developed different savings accounts and obviously different credit card accounts but the joint bank account is the foundation stone of our everyday spending commitments from insurance to toilet paper

  5. In the old days indeed Maria, LOL. Our main bank account has been joint since day one of our married life. Money deposited was used jointly even though I did not work a paying job for the first ten years of our marriage also did not abuse my check writing or cashing privileges because was not raised that way. Bills always came, and still come, first before we spent money on wants not needs.

    When did buy our first home 3 and a half years after we got married used my savings account as the $4000 down payment as it was in my name only. Had never changed it over for just that purpose anyway but waited until we could find a mobile home we could afford and a decent place to park it which did not happen until we moved to Refugio in 1984.

    I feel like others have that commented before me that a joint account was and is our money not just mine or just his once our lives were joined in 1980.

    Never a problem and no hesitation or second thoughts in 36 years, lucky us we are both honest and trustworthy to the bone.

    • Jackie: I think the question I’d like to ask people getting married today is: do they think their marriage will last? And do they see themselves as a team or as individuals.

      We’re molded not just by how we are raised but by our environment. I’m not saying they’re wrong, but most definitely deprived of a perspective slipping away.

      It’s a more complex issue than trust, though that plays a major role.

    • Judy: I can see having several if you want to make sure you don’t dip too heavily into one specific account, like for paying taxes or Christmas.

      We’ve only ever had one–or two if you split savings from checking. It’s a hassle for me to keep track of multiple accounts. Technically though, Greg tracks them now. He’s good about telling me if the account dipped low that month or took an upswing from lack of spending.

  6. We opened a joint account when we first got married and about a year or so later I took over paying bills, etc., which was a real trust issue for hubby because he had been married before and his wife had done the bills, etc., and she cleaned him out before she cheated on him and then they got divorced. He occasionally asks how much money we have in the account and I tell him; usually when he wants to buy something big, but he’s very conservative with what he gets and does his research and we usually have the money for what he wants. I always tell him regardless that he can buy what he wants because he makes 3 times what I make and right now we’re sitting pretty good (though that can change as I realized I made some major mistakes at work that could get me fired).

    His brother and wife have separate accounts. I wonder if it was because they were both married/divorced before. When we would go out to eat, each would pull out their money to pay their 4th of the bill. Each had household bills they were responsible for.

    Son and DIL have separate accounts. She’s been wanting them to co mingle their accounts, but they haven’t so far which may be a good thing. We’ll see.

    betty

    • Betty: You bring up and interesting point about trust when it comes to handling bills. When we married, Greg assumed he’d handle the money because that’s how his father had done it. I felt it should be me because my work was not as taxing and I was the better squirrel.

      We discussed it a bit, and Greg agreed I was the logical choice. We still made big purchase decisions together so it wasn’t as if he was out of the loop.

      One funny episode though was when we were living apart and he had to handle his own money. I would reconcile his checkbook and I couldn’t understand why the numbers wouldn’t balance. I found out later he would round up to the nearest dollar. Drove me crazy. πŸ™‚

      re: eating out
      That’s wild. I’ve never heard of a married couple going Dutch at a restaurant.

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