Money Monday: Should Married Couples Have Joint or Separate Bank Accounts?

BY: - 9 Aug '10 | Money

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by Dr. Charles Alonzo Peters

“I have my money. He has his money”

I’m surprised at how commonplace this attitude has become. While united in marriage, some people handle their finances as if they were single. I think this undermines the concept of marriage – the joining of two lives into one. Shouldn’t that include the joining of financial lives as well?

My views concerning marital money matters were formed watching my parents in their 41+ years of marriage.   Neither parent made much money. My father worked on the factory floor and held a second job as a janitor. My mother was an administrative assistant. Yet whatever money was brought into the house was “their” money.   Separate “his” and “hers” bank accounts would have been out of the question.

It was because of this they were able to do so much with so little. A joint bank account placed the focus on common goals – owning a home, providing us kids with a great education, and being able to take an occasional vacation, all became paramount to my mother’s individual desire for clothes and jewelry or my father’s desire for electronic and fishing gear.

The other advantage that I noticed with combined finances is that it forced each of my parents to make better financial decisions. You tend to make better choices when you understand you’ll have to explain it to your spouse later. In essence your spouse becomes your accountability partner. Some may view this as a loss of freedom, but isn’t true freedom being free of making bad financial decisions?

Now I’m not so naive or dogmatic to believe just because combined finances worked well for my parents that’s the way everyone should act.

Perhaps for some there is merit in having separate finances in marriage. People like Tiger Woods constantly remind us of the prevalence of male infidelity. Could we seriously blame a married women who might want to consider “his” and “hers” finances just in case? How about a spouse who can’t get their mate to save, invest, or act responsibly. Could separate accounts create a means for the financially responsible party to build a solid financial foundation for the family, despite the other spouse’s reckless behavior?

So BMWK family, I ask you. Should couples have joint or separate bank accounts?   Is it necessary to combine all your finances when you say “I do”. Should you discuss all your purchases with your spouse?   Is there merit in having “his” and “hers” finances?

Over the next few weeks you’ll get great weekly insight and tips on managing your greenbacks by Dr. Charles Alonzo Peters of MochaMoney.com so be sure to check back.

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2199 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.

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20 WordPress comments on “Money Monday: Should Married Couples Have Joint or Separate Bank Accounts?

  1. TheMrs

    There are some instances where I find it important to have seperate accounts, i.e. if either spouse has an outside financial obligation(child support, student loans, etc.) where they can freeze your accounts. In my situation, we both opened our first bank accounts while teenagers and we continue to maintain them as well as our joint accounts. I know of other couples where they tried the joint account but because of their spending habits it didn't work for them. I also know of people who hold their own accounts just in case. I was working in retail during my college years and the computer randomly asked for id with credit card purchases, the woman's id had her married name and her credit card had her maiden name and she had absolutely nothing that proved it was the same person so her purchase was declined she goes on to tell me that she has been married for atleast 5 yrs(it's been awhile but I know it was atleast that) and that she wasn't changing her credit cards because if she were to get divorced and go back to her maiden name she would have to go around and change everything back….why are you planning on divorce?
    In most cases your “single” goals are different then your married goals(hot rod in comparison to family vacation) and your lifestyle should reflect that. But maybe that's just me….

    Reply
    1. Alonzo

      TheMrs.

      I definitely can see your point about having separate joint accounts in case they should be seized by creditors – especially with many people having huge student loans nowadays.

      Reply
  2. cngummy

    Keeping joint or separate accounts is a personal matter, to be decided upon by a couple based on their own needs and goals. The smaller the incomes, the more important it may be to pool resources and maintain joint accountability. However, for those with more freedom in their finances, this may not be necessary. My husband and I maintain a joint account from which we pay bills, but the remainder of our incomes is left to us as individuals. We work very hard in our respective careers and believe we also have the right to enjoy the fruits of our labor as we choose once our joint obligations have been met.

    This strategy works very well for us and forces us to be responsible on a personal level, which carries over into our joint finances. We never argue about the pair of shoes or purses I buy or about the electronics he buys because we are free to enjoy the portions of our incomes that are not designated for bills or savings. As we all know, money issues can cause trouble and turbulence in a marriage. Forcing a joint financial arrangement might not be the right thing for your marriage if you are always arguing about who's spending what. Arranging your affairs so that you do not create additional conflict is often the most responsible way to interact. I think that by doing so, you are able to bring out the best in each other and not spend precious time engaged in conflicts that can chip away the moments of peace and joy in your marriage.

    Reply
    1. Alonzo

      Thank you for your comments cngummy,

      I love getting other people's perspectives on issues. I think having other points of views forces allows us to make better decisions. I completely see and respect your point of view.

      My question is what happens if God forbids one of you loses a job, gets pregnant, or what if you or your husband decide to stay home to take care of the kids or take care of the parents? What happens to the spouse who then is not working?

      Reply
  3. Divine and Debt Free

    I am not married but not combining bank accounts is a deal breaker for me. However I also believe its more than just a “Bank account” its about being able to share our financial goals and work toward each of our goals as a couple NOT individually otherwise isn't it just a roommate situation with the exception of sex? Its also about intimacy and I know you are IN TO ME when you are willing to

    1. share, your goals and dreams with me regarding money rather than treat our lives as a business deal

    2. you are not afraid to be accountable to me as we make decisions both big and small.

    3. you realize that when we got married (unless there is a prenup lol) your debt is my debt and vise versa the sooner we work together the faster it gets paid off.

    I have heard many testimonials of how when people came together (Really together) on the money everything else got bigger and better, to me if you can talk about money you can talk about anything. I also believe it doesn't matter if you make 100,000 a year each or 30,000 together, you still need to talk and agree and work together.

    Reply
  4. Divine and Debt Free

    P.S if I am going into a marriage unsure about you paying your taxes, child support student loans ect… we got way bigger issues than a bank account lol. Once I say I do all that stuff (good and bad ) is ours together.

    Reply
  5. Married

    I'm a fan of a mix of the two (joint and individual). I think that having joint accounts helps to create a single vision of financial goals as well as accountability to someone for your spending. It just doesn't sit right with me that 2 people who have pledged to share their lives together decide to stop at money.

    My husband and I do have a joint account for 95% of our money, but we also have individual accounts for our 'play' money – it's essentially an allowance. If my husband wants to stop at a bar and get a drink or I want to buy a cute new top, for example, this allows us a bit of freedom. On a whimsical note, it's difficult to surprise your spouse with a gift if you see the money coming out of the joint account! LOL.

    I'm not a fan of 'just in case something happens' accounts. Just in case what? It bothers my spirit to go into something as spiritual as a marriage with 'just in case' already brewing in your mental space. But – that's the great thing about marriage – to each his/her own. what works for my household might not work with another.

    Reply
    1. Rae

      My husband and I are like this. We have joint accounts for all of the household expenses and savings. We also have separate accounts for play money and paying individual bills like student loans.

      Reply
    2. Divine and Debt Free

      I agree with this 100%. and to solve the ruined bday surprise just agree to carry cash one particular month. Unless you are buying something over $1000 it should be pretty simple. If I decide to spend over a certain amount that cash won't work for then im just gonna simply tell my husband and it won't be a surprise but if its a good gift im sure it won't matter anyways lol.

      Reply
  6. Dredio05

    Years ago awhen our community still married this would be unspeakable this speaks volumes about the like of trust and respect that black men and women have for each other.

    Reply
  7. FirstladyShonda

    When we became one, our income did too. lol We have not separate accounts. Anything he needs to buy for me, he can just say, I got money out for your birthday gift. It is that simple. Finances is a serious issue in alot of marriage and can be the end all. So, I do believe it is whatever works for those individuals.

    Reply
  8. Luciennej

    Wow, I love this article because I have heard it from many people I know that separate accounts are the way to go just in case some cheating or trials take place. As a believer I have always stood my ground and to those people that when one marries another finances is not one that stands alone. I pray that many people will change their mindset on this matter, and if one likes to spend more than the other set up an allowance of some kind so there is still a way of managing their spending. And if the allowance is spent before the next allowance is given, then that individual have to change their ways of spending and it will push that individual to start analyzing self before spending. Once again, great article!

    Reply
  9. busybodyk

    We have separate accounts and a joint account but I think we'd do better with a main account and separate accounts for allowance. I think we could do more together. I'm working on talking my hubby into it….

    Reply
  10. Alonzo

    @busybodyk
    @Luciennej

    I love you idea of having a joint account but setting up an allowance system for personal expenses and wants. It addresses the issue of having joint financial goals while at the same time allowing some flexibility for each of the spouses.

    Reply
  11. mochazina

    we've never had seperate accts. briefly tried the *seperate accts for gifts & lunch* thing, but ended up using em for house stuff too, so…
    we said i do till death, so why not let ur whole life be married?

    also…
    re: ” I work hard so why can't I enjoy it?” yup – but does that preclude it going into a joint account? aren't you working hard for the family, not just for yourself? shouldn't the lesser earning spouse also reap the benefits of your hard work, just as equally as you since you are now one?
    re: “money for surprises” eh, surprises are somewhat overrated. :D lol scrape off the cash over time (plan ahead) or just tell em to not look at the account for a while. hehehehehehe
    re: “allowance accounts” also overrated. again, either use cash or set an amount per time-frame and let both parties build trust and respect for one another by honoring that.

    Reply
  12. Kandyce007

    My husband and I have A LOT of accounts going on lol. We have a joint checking and savings account along with our own separate checking and savings accounts. In addition to that, our 4 year old daughter has a savings account as well. We've been together for 11 years and married for 1 of them (we're 26). Before being married, we kept our money separate, only depositing into our joint account when bills needed to be paid. Just as recent as this year, we've decided to start direct depositing our paychecks into the joint account, no longer keeping the money separate. I must admit, I was a little leery about this b/c my thinking was, “Why should I let him spend all of MY money?” (I make more money right now) not to mention we both have drastically different spending habits. He will see something he likes and if he has the money it's as good as bought. Meanwhile, I will have a buggy full of stuff and by the time I've left the buggy will be empty b/c I've rationalized each purchase in my mind as nothing of necessity. Anyway, we decided to take a leap of faith and do our best to communicate any spending. I've always handled the money, so each time we're paid I'll transfer each of us an “allowance” to our individual accounts and we've agreed that any money left in our joint account would not be touched unless it was for family purchases, such as little outings, restaurants, etc. It has been working for thus far – it doesn't hurt that I have an alert set up for when any money over a certain amount is spent lol ;)

    Reply
  13. Psychstudent71

    My Husband and I have joint and separate accounts. We also have a budget. Every month we put our money in the joint account leaving an “allowance” for both of us in our separate accounts. I think it works because we are open about our spending habits. We agree what has to goes in savings. It just works

    Reply
  14. TheMrs

    I love all the responses to this one. For us, the joint account was a giant leap of faith. I am a shopaholic and have been known to spend til overdraft protection maxed out(yeah it was really bad) but I have learned to curb this(or atleast train myself on better ways to still get my shopping-high). My husband on the other hand had outside debts that made me super cautious abouts possible seizures and freezes that could sink our ship(the daycare doesn't want to hear that we can't pay our fees because of an old debt). To accomodate both of our needs as well as our family's, we opted to keep our direct deposits going to our personal accounts and then we transferred all but $200 ea per month into our joint accounts to pay bills/put into savings/put into our childrens' accounts/etc. So far this has worked well for us over the past decade, our family goals are met and we have enough “play money” to meet some of our personal goals without rocking the boat. I tend to save July's “allowance” to add to August's so that I can shop more or grab a great gift for my hubby.

    Reply
  15. Pingback: We Have Separate Bank Accounts; Don't You? | Black and Married With Kids.com - A Positive Image of Marriage and Family

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