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Recently, my wife and I joined a marriage ministry at our church. Having only been married for five years, we were both flattered and somewhat surprised that we were asked to participate. Part of being on this ministry team is providing counsel to newly engaged couples.
While we believe that we have a solid marriage, we hardly think that we have it all figured out. Heck, my wife still confuses me most days.
For instance, sometimes my wife wakes up with a sour attitude. I’ll ask her what’s wrong and she’ll tell me that I was mean to her in her dream. How are you supposed to respond to that? I usually just laugh.
I was sharing the crazy dreams that my wife has from time to time with one of my friends. He laughed and said his wife does the same thing to him. At least I’m not alone!
While I don’t have all the marriage answers, I do feel fairly comfortable with sharing our experience with finances.
My wife and I were incredibly fortunate. Outside of my home’s mortgage, neither of us brought any debt into our marriage. In contrast, I had multiple friends who dragged their feet before getting married, largely because of their partner’s debt.
While most of my friends were willing to accept and help pay off their future spouse’s debt, others decided to keep finances separate. That concept was very foreign to me. My parents always had joint bank accounts, so I assumed every married couple operated that way.
Separate Bank Accounts
Interestingly enough, 25% of people polled by the TD Bank Love and Money Survey 2017, stated that they have separate bank accounts.
When I first started coaching couples, I assumed everybody would embrace shared bank accounts in marriage. That was not the case.
Most people, who would like to maintain separate finances, decide on which bills will be shared, and they simply split those bills as roommates would. Then they decide which person will pay for other separate costs, maybe such as groceries.
Fights & Arguments about Money
One reason that people elect to have separate bank accounts is that they think that it will result in less fighting about money.
According to Sonya Britt, program director of personal financial planning at Kansas State, “Arguments about money is by far the top predictor of divorce. It’s not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It’s money — for both men and women.”
In addition, she said, “Results revealed it didn’t matter how much you made or how much you were worth. Arguments about money are the top predictor for divorce because it happens at all levels.”
Our Personal Experience
When my wife and I first got married, there were definitely some disagreements about spending. My wife didn’t think I was spending wisely buy purchasing lunch outside when I could pack dinner leftovers. Meanwhile, I couldn’t understand why she insisted on getting manicures when she had dozens of nail polish bottles at home.
In order to stop bickering with each other, my wife and I created a small slush funds so that we could spend however we like. Each month, we each set aside $100 in our budget to fund these slush funds. This has really allowed us to stay even-keeled.
While I’m sure separate bank accounts work for some people, I wonder how these couples can plan for the future adequately. If one spouse is a saver while the other is a spender, will there be any issues when it comes to retirement down the line? Did the spender save anything for retirement?
Oftentimes, couples will say that they will figure out future stuff later. I can’t help but think about what would happen if one spouse was ready for retirement while the other still had to work many years until they could retire. Would one spouse be a hindrance to the other’s retirement plans?
When it comes to retirement, I am glad that my wife and I have a joint bank account. We are working towards our goals at the same pace, rather than moving on parallel paths at different speeds. While separate bank accounts are beneficial for some, I typically recommend joint accounts for those entering into a marriage.