Money and Relationships: When Separate Finances Can Be a Perfect Solution

My husband and I were together for a long time before we got married. We dated, got engaged, moved in together, got married, moved cross-country (twice), bought a house (twice) and remodeled (twice). All of this was together…but with separate finances.

Whoa! Back up, you say? Why did we have separate finances through all of our major life changes? Honestly, we just didn’t put the time and effort into joining our finances. Our system worked, and it worked for a really long time.

For us and for countless other couples, separate finances were the way to go. Let’s take a look at this idea’s madness.

Separate Is Easier

When you don’t have to check in with each other, money can be a lot easier to deal with. Mike and I both made about the same salaries when we split the bills, so we just divvied up our expenses and savings deposits equally. Whatever was left was spent as we pleased.

This can also be accomplished in other ways. Maybe you have separate accounts but both contribute the same amount to a bill-paying account. Or you could have a joint account into which all of your income goes and two separate allowance accounts. Any way you cut it, separate can be easier.

Separate Could Bring Couples Together

With separate accounts, couples may fight about money a lot less. When Mike and I had separate accounts, for example, we never fought about money; we always had some of our own cash to manage and to spend.

Couples who have their own money may also appreciate themselves more as a romantic couple. Date nights can become more special because someone is always treating the other person. The mindset of using your own money to surprise your spouse can make dates, anniversaries and other events more meaningful to both of you.

Separate Is More Fun

Surprises are also much easier to pull off with separate accounts. It is terribly difficult to surprise your spouse when they have access to your joint account. With separate accounts, surprises are simple. You can book a hotel room and order flowers without danger of your spouse discovering your surprise.

Looking back, I would have to say separate finances were preferable…at the time. They allowed us the spontaneous, easy-going, and fun togetherness that came with engagement and early marriage. As our goals changed, our spending habits changed. We’ve since joined our accounts, and we are now happily spending and saving from the same account.

However, separate accounts have their place. New couples, partners with very different spending habits and couples who cannot stop fighting about money may find that separate finances can help them in their paths.

What about you: when do you think separate finances are best?

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous wrote:

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 13:57 Comment #: 1

Just a thought...while we didn't have different accounts while we were married I was a saver and my husband was a spender. We ended up getting divorced and guess what? My savings were half his but all the crap he bought with his money were mostly worthless by that point.

Bottom line, it's not the separate accounts that are really the issue, it's more the different spending habits.

Anonymous's picture

retirebyforty wrote:

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 14:46 Comment #: 2

I think separate finance is probably best when partners have different financial habits. If one person is a spender and another a saver, it would be tough to have joint finances. Even then, I think it would be tough on a relationship if those two get together. We have joint finance and it works pretty well.

Anonymous's picture

Alex | Perfecting Dad wrote:

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 17:25 Comment #: 3

I hate to say, and I hope you don't mind, but I disagree. The reasons you gave are good, but the one reason that I disagree is that it is possible to keep secrets with seperate accounts and credit cards. I am convinced that the ability to keep secrets is one of the top ways that people in relationships do things against the relationship. Secret money, secret computer accounts, secret phones, etc. makes it just so much easier to go out on dates with others, hide communications, hide suspicious purchases.

This isn't planned at the beginning, but when the opportunity arises there is a lot less risk if someone can work under a veil. My wife and I have a joint bank and credit account and we never fight about money. I mean never. If we have a disagreement it's just a quick conversation. Also, we both feel very free to buy anything reasonable, we don't have to check with each other. We also have a lot of investment accounts and such, and those accounts are all linked with each other and we both know all the passwords. It's the same with the rest of our lives, email, facebook, etc. It's all open to each other. No secrets.

Just my opinion. People pick their noses when they think nobody's looking, but most people don't pick their noses in public.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 18:35 Comment #: 4

Anonymous, very true about being on the same page, no matter if you have separate accounts or joint accounts! I am fortunate that my husband and I have been a financial team, even when we had separate accounts, and I think it is the team mentality that really gets couples through any financial struggles. PS: I think the savings should have been entirely awarded to you!

Retirebyforty, the spender/saver team is a difficult situation to address. Some couples can agree to spend and save from separate accounts, while this may drain on others. I think it's really the communication that can get them to agree to this type of financial agreement, but I do agree it would be tough!

Perfecting Dad, I don't mind any disagreements! I think that's part of what forums are all about: collecting many different people together for idea sharing! I agree that separate accounts can allow people to feel more free to be secretive, but I don't think it will cause any kind of cheating behavior. If a person wants to cheat their partner in any way, they will, no matter if they have joint accounts or not. This is a mindset, not an opportunitistic event. That being said, being open and honest with each other at all times makes for a better relationship -- which I think is possible in both seperate and joint accounts.

Great points everyone!! The key to happy relationships lies in honesty, not in your account preferance. However, I still think an agreement between spouses for separate accounts can help them reach a more peaceful state of mind (and finances) if -- and only if -- they agree that each person's own money was theirs to keep. For example, a spender could spend all of his money and a saver could save all of hers. But that saver's money would be hers, no matter what. Anyone out there have an agreement like this that works well?

Anonymous's picture

Alex | Perfecting Dad wrote:

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 19:13 Comment #: 5

Hey Christina: My point is like the nose picking, people can keep their fingers out of their noses when they think they might get caught. Yes, there are many, who will seek opportunities no matter what, but when it just "comes up" then it's way easier to resist knowing that you might get caught. We all know we behave differently in public than in private That's all I'm sayin' :) It's really a tender spot right now because a friend of mine recently found out her husband has been on dating sites and potentially been cheating on her, at least lying to her about where he was. She had to hack into his computer to find out because he was secretive about his passwords and documents. My wife and I looked at each other knowing that this was impossible to understand for us ... we couldn't keep secrets like that so easily, so we're not even tempted.

Anonymous's picture

Miss T wrote:

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 03:39 Comment #: 6

I have really seen success both ways. I think it all depends on the couple and their money situation. My hubby grew up with parents that had separate accounts whereas my parents shared everything. We decided to do joint accounts, as per my request because that is what I was used to. I don't think it really matters in the end but I do feel more like partners now that we are sharing our accounts.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 14:59 Comment #: 7

Alex, true, I do think it could give a spouse more of an opportunity to be secretive, but I still think it's really up to the person to follow the path of opportunity. Personally, I trust my husband whether we have joint finances or not, so I cannot imagine an affair ever being an issue. But if it were and our finances were separated, I would not blame the separate finances but the lack of all-encompassing connection and communication (and my husband!) for the fall. It is really rough for your friend -- or anyone -- to experience a cheating spouse, though, so I feel for her!

Miss T, excellent point! It does depend on the couple and each of their own upbringings whether joint or separate finances work best. My husband and I both were raised by single mothers who met wonderful men whom they married and (eventually) joined finances, so we were both fine with either joint or separate. Now that we are joined in finances, though, I do like how much easier it is to budget!

Anonymous's picture

Alex | Perfecting Dad wrote:

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 15:05 Comment #: 8

"but I still think it's really up to the person to follow the path of opportunity."

For sure, no doubt about that!

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 16:50 Comment #: 9

Thanks, Alex. By the way (unrelated but I had to mention), you have an awesome website! :-)

Anonymous's picture

Hosting A Carnival and Weekend Round-Up | Spruce Up Your Fin wrote:

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Sunday Link Round Up Move To Portugal | Move to Portugal wrote:

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous wrote:

Sun, 06/12/2011 - 18:29 Comment #: 12

I totally agree with you.

The recommendation that separate is better, might be for singles. The fact that one will have to split everything in a divorce, cannot be fair to have one person racking up expences that the other know nothing about.

People that insisted it's better to have seperate accounts, are full of horse manure.

Anonymous's picture

JNUrbanski wrote:

Tue, 06/14/2011 - 00:42 Comment #: 13

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree and do the same thing. Just because you are married doesn't mean you should lose your individuality. Kahlil Gibran wrote: "drink not from the same cup, but from each other's cup" and that's definitely more romantic!

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Tue, 06/14/2011 - 13:40 Comment #: 14

Anonymous ~ Welcome! I agree that singles, the engaged and early couples may be the most ideal couples to split finances down the middle. However, I do know (personally!) that separate finances are possible in marriage. I think the absolute key to separate finances in marriage is communication...and possibly a pre-nup to protect that saver's savings account!

JNUrbanski, exactly my point! Having a little of your own money can help you remain more of an individual...and more romantic!

This is such a hot topic! I should clarify here that couples do not have to have entirely separate finances to enjoy the individuality, but a small "own" account for each partner may work as well...hmmm, another post idea!

In any case, I think that communication can make any financial arrangement work well!

Anonymous's picture

Pam McCormick wrote:

Wed, 06/15/2011 - 17:24 Comment #: 15

Been with my husband 39 years married 34 of those ...ALWAYS kept finances separate,it just worked for us.The part about secretive well ... be it money-computer-credit cards or whatever in my opinion that speaks to the character of the person.If there is a way that type of person will find a way with joint finances or separate it won't matter.Think of it like a business with equal say from 2 partners.Communication is the key and it is okay to agree to disagree.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Thu, 06/16/2011 - 14:06 Comment #: 16

Pam, awesome job on the 39 years together! Thanks for weighing in on the separate finances: I knew that they could work well for some people for the long term, and it's great to hear from someone who enjoys that path. Definitely communication is key, and it sounds like you and your hubby have mastered it!

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Finances and Relationships - Taking on Tough Topics | MomVes wrote:

Sat, 01/21/2012 - 18:00 Comment #: 17

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