Adam Baker, who writes at Man Vs Debt, has published a really great article this week about couples and money. It includes not only his own thoughts, but a substantial interview with Corey Allen of Simple Marriage, thoughts on the subject from Adam’s readers, and links to lots of other bloggers who have written about couples and money. Since money is a major cause of relationship problems, and since most people will eventually be in a long-term relationship, Adam’s article is a good read for just about everyone.
Personally, I feel exactly the same way Adam does. My husband and I have had joint finances since we bought our first home (before we were married), and I cannot imagine living any other way. We both grew up in homes where our parents had joint finances, and until I read Adam’s article, I’d have been hard pressed to come up with any positives associated with having separate finances.
My husband and I are very much on the same page in terms of financial goals, which means that even though we’ve been through some very lean times, money has almost never been a source of discord in our marriage. I don’t think either of us would have married someone who wasn’t financially responsible – that just would have been a deal breaker. I know that people can change over time though, so I guess we’re fortunate that we’ve become more solidified in our joint goals as the years have gone by.
I cannot imagine either of us making a major financial decision without discussing it first. That’s not to say that every purchase gets discussed though. I do nearly all of the grocery shopping, and my husband has no idea how much the bill is each time. Sometimes we go together, other times he stays home with our son while I go, but in general, he doesn’t know or care how much we spend on groceries. He trusts me.
My husband loves everything about long term investing, and manages all of our investment accounts (retirement accounts and our HSA). I know how much we put into the accounts, because I’m the one who transfers the money from our checking account. But from there, he does the rest. He loves to talk to me about it, and tells me exactly where everything is because he’s so excited about it. But to be honest, I doubt I could tell you off the top of my head where even a quarter of that money is invested. I trust him. (And the balances in the accounts continue to grow, so he must be doing something right.)
We don’t sit down together every week and go over the details of where every penny was spent or saved. I handle the bills, and let my husband know where we are in terms of spending on our credit card a few times throughout the month. All of our income is deposited into one joint checking account. The only separate accounts we have are IRAs (although both of us know the passwords for all of our accounts – there’s nothing that only one of us can access), everything else – like our online savings accounts and our HSA – is owned jointly. We have one credit card (an AmEx) that we use for all of our purchases, and one backup card that we use at places that don’t accept AmEx. Both cards are jointly held, which makes it easy to track our total spending each month.
I do tend to be a bit of a micro-manager when it comes to money. The idea of paying a bill late makes my break out into a cold sweat, and I have been a saver since I was old enough to know what money was. I got my first credit card when I was in college, and other than a couple years when we were paying off debt from starting our business, I’ve never carried a balance from one month to the next or not known what my total balance was. My husband is a bit more relaxed about the details, but he’s very focused on the long-term goals, and the idea of living frugally and below our means. So the arrangement we’ve got works perfectly for us: I do the day-to-day stuff, keep on top of the bills and credit card balance, etc., and he makes sure that our long-term investments are on track.
For nearly ten years now, my husband and I have identified as a unit rather than a two separate people. Everything we do, and all the goals we have are built around that starting point. Obviously we have different interests, likes, and dislikes. But everything we have is ours, and the life we’ve built together is ours. It just makes sense that our money is also ours, rather than being mine and his.
Reading Adam’s post, I could obviously identify completely with his initial point of view, and was skeptical of the idea that any really strong marriage could involve separate finances. But there are a lot of good points in the article, especially in the interview with Corey, and I can see a bit more of the other side of the issue after reading it. In my own relationship, the idea of separate finances still has no appeal what-so-ever. But my view of relationships that do utilize separate finances is different now.