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2008.06.09

Comments

Annie

My husband and I were both already grown ups when we got married, and we have never merged our money. I arrived saddled with student loans (which he avoided by being smart enough to get a degree in science where they actually give you money, instead of farting around in law school which apparently exists mostly as a way to raise money for universities - not that I'm still bitter or anything!).

We do not spend too much time talking about it, but I don't ever seen any reason to merge our money; we share the bills and we pay for our own stuff. I just can't see having to "consult" with him when I want to go crazy at Amazon and he's under no obligation to talk with me about his purchases at REI.

We don't have kids, however, and that might be a different issue for some people. But, in the meantime I don't see any reason to join our money just because we have joined other things in our lives.

Jenn C.

We did merge our finances. Not through any grand decision, but mostly because that was what we saw from all our other role models.

When we graduated from college, my husband (boyfriend at the time) started working, while I took a fifth year of graduate studies. I worked too, but not enough to fully pay my half of our expenses, so we really merged out of simple necessity - he could afford it and I couldn't. We didn't officially merge our accounts until we got engaged, and at that point we were already so entrenched that it seemed like the obvious choice.

10 years later, I'm still glad we did it this way - the logistics of keeping separate accounts seems overwhelmingly like it would not be worth it, and given that I have consciously downgraded my career to be better able to deal with childcare duties, it also seems like the more fair approach - if I was in a position of doing more childcare, watching my career stagnate because of it AND also having to live on a much tighter budget than my husband because he was freer to work his career, I'd be significantly unhappy. Since we share and share alike, it feels like more of a team effort.

Siobhan

We're fully merged, I took over the budget this year, and we're doing well. Not GREAT, but well, esp. for my first time.

I think you could kind of encapsulate that entire Smart Money article into a one sentence "You're not a YOU anymore, you're an US."

Rebecca

We merged out accounts, which is working out okay. He is actually balancing the checkbook regularly (something neither of us did before) and I am the big picture monthly budget woman. It seemed to make sense to merge our finances -- and now that I am contemplating a vocation change that would require lots of schooling, I would not want to have to contribute with just my portion of $$.

Brianne

I have no intention right now to merge my finances with my significant other. We're moving in together next month and have already discussed it. I saw what happened when my mother merged with my stepfather. She put money in and he took money out. Not that I think my bf would do that, but I'm still paranoid.

lg

Married nine years, and no merging of day-to-day accounts. Separate checking accounts, one savings account, one credit card we both use and pay off each month (and each of us has an emergency back-up card that we don't use). I make more than he does, so I pay more of the monthly bills, but he pays some of them. If one of us is spending a lot one month on "household" things, like car repair or something, then the other will pick up a bill or two so no one is in danger of being overdrawn. But we don't really quantify it, it's informal - he'll just say, your car needed an oil change and some AC work this month, can you handle the wireless bill for me? Any large purchases - new washer/dryer, etc - are discussed. Neither of us are big spenders, so we're not really hiding anything with our separate checking accounts. And we're both the kinds of people who balance their check books regularly (more often than monthly).

This system is the by-product of both convenience (ie, hassle to combine accounts when we got married) and my need for independence (symbolic, like keeping my last name). Really, it never occurred to us to combine and use one checking account. Seems like more opportunity for conflict - who holds onto the checkbook? who records transactions? at what level of purchase do you have to consult with the other?

And one last note - we do have one child, with another on the way. Hasn't altered our arrangement at all.

molly

My husband and I married in our 30s. I had been married previously. We kept individual accounts and then opened a joint one because a) we both had money/control issues to deal with and b) we were both too lazy to change our direct deposits and electronic billing. I had control issues because when I got divorced I had no credit cards and no credit, which was pretty bad. I think his control issues revolved around me dictating his spending, which whatever it was he got over pretty quick.

Once we moved and I became a stay at home mom, I closed out my old checking and savings accounts but kept all my credit cards. We still do not have joint credit cards (and never will). Currently, we have a joint banking, money market, savings and brokerage account. He still has his personal checking account because of his auto-payments.

In general, we never fight about money since we have similar spending habits. I tend to be the one who oversees all the accounts (including his personal account).

I guess I would recommend individual accounts with joint oversight to couples getting married who are worried about the pending money merge.

meghan

We merged just about everything. The only thing we didn't merge on was some investment cash my grandmother had left to me after she died. However, my dad just told me I'm free to take the money out of where it is now and put it somewhere else - it had been in a trust but now it's not, so if we do open up a new account it will probably have both of our names on it.

We ultimately decided to merge everything when we moved in together two years ago because he makes 3x as much as I do and it seemed to be the wisest financial decision to do. So far it works out OK.

Lisa S.

My husband and I married in our 30s. I had been married previously. We kept individual accounts and then opened a joint one because a) we both had money/control issues to deal with and b) we were both too lazy to change our direct deposits and electronic billing. I had control issues because when I got divorced I had no credit cards and no credit, which was pretty bad.

Hey, Molly, drop me a line, would you? I want to follow up on this privately with you. Thanks.

drunken monkey

We are half-merged, half-not. I take care of the bills, which works for both of us. I have my personal and household spending set up on a biweekly budget to coincide with my paycheques, because that's what I need to stay on track; his pay comes in at odd intervals, and he is better at managing his money without having to micromanage it. So he knows how much his cut of the rent and bills are each month, and just makes sure he's given me that before they all come out.

We each have our own spending money that we don't have to really account for -- within reason -- though we're open about it anyway. His income is less than mine so a greater proportion of what he makes goes towards fixed expenses; he needs to have a bit of cash he can do what he pleases with, and unless he starts spending it on blow I'm going to keep my mouth shut about it. And I start to feel a bit antsy when I feel "poor" so having some freedom in my spending helps prevent that; I don't hide purchases, and he notices new outfits so that'd be difficult anyway, but I like to treat myself once in a while. Though he has less dicretionary cash, he's a lot better about managing it in general; he helps to keep me in check. He's definitely the saver in the relationship, and I'm the spender.

As for debt, we have a lot of student debt and no credit card debt, car loan or mortgage. (We also have no house or car.) Mine is higher and I've been making payments on it for a few years now; his is half what mine started at and his payments won't start for almost a year. We've already decided that we'll keep paying our required payments on both sets of debt individually -- they happen to break down along our income lines -- and then as a loan gets paid off, that payment gets rolled into another one until they're all gone. (In, like, a decade.) Any lump sum payments -- say, wedding presents or tax refunds -- will go to my larger student loan, because that one costs us a fortune in interest and has the longest amortization period. He's done super well with using his loan money wisely and will actually have one loan almost entirely paid off by the time he graduates in August, which is a lot more than I can say about how I managed my loan money.

We don't file taxes together yet but generally make decisions about what we'll do with our refunds together. We've usually put some towards household items like furniture and then the rest in savings or towards debt repayment. When we're married we'll file together and I'm looking forward to using our credits and difference in income to drop myself into a lower tax bracket.

Our biggest source of arguments is that he is cheap and hates to spend money, so sometimes it's a struggle between spending more to get something of better value (or just something I think is prettier) versus spending just enough that we get something that'll do for now. Also, he once put his foot down about the number of pairs of shoes I had.

Our approach is kind of scattershot and maybe wouldn't work for everyone, but it works for us. If for some reason it stops working, we'll re-evaluate.

SP

My parents' and my husband's parents are all still married, so I think that helped us with the trust it took to merge our accounts, which we did. And we both had law school debt, which means that the loan payments take a huge chunk out of our monthly income, but it also means that neither of us was the only one bringing tens of thousands in debt to the marriage.

When we got married, I made more than he did, and I had fewer and smaller monthly obligations, because the big paycheck was a relatively new development and I was used to living on very little. He proposed keeping separate accounts and aplitting the household bills -- which would have been a much worse deal for him and was therefore a sweet thing to suggest -- and I counterproposed that we merge our finances completely and pay for everything out of the same account. We went with my proposal, not least because it just seemed so much easier than having to do an accounting every month, or having to figure out whether a new lamp is a household expense or something I should pay for because I'm the one who hated the old one, or what. I pay the bills from that account and make the budget and balance the checking account, and I write almost all the checks on the account; I like that stuff, and he hates it. Every month or two, we go over the budget together, so he knows where the money is going.

We deposit our income into one account, and we each take an equal amount of personal spending money every month to spend on whatever we damn well please. He doesn't know where my spending money goes unless I tell him, and I don't know where his goes unless he tells me. I tend to take mine in cash or just keep track of how much I've used; he still has a separate bank account that he puts his monthly money into, and those statements go only to him.

I like our system. It's not for everyone, but it makes me feel like we're a team, and I immediately got more careful about money when it became OUR money and not MY money. I'm willing to squander my money a little, but not my beloved's hard-earned money. Screwy priority, maybe, but it works.

Chiara

I have control issues as well--I think it would be really hard for me not to have my own accounts with my own name on them, especially for paying off my gargantuan (!) student loan; I feel strongly that my personal debt is my responsibility, not my partner's. I know lots of people who have kept separate checking accounts and got a joint "house" account, for food and rent/mortgage, etc., which is how I think I'd go if I were living with a partner.

Money brings up interesting trust issues--especially with the idea that there is no you in a long-term partnership, as Siobhan said, but an us now. I saw my mother get totally taken for a ride by one of her partners (and also by my dad) and it's made me believe that there's something to be said for a (financial) way out of a bad relationship situation.

Jessica

We merged. When I was married before, we had personal and joint checking and a joint savings account, and we allotted percentages of our personal income to each one.

This time, we just merged it all. Neither of us has student loan debt. We each came in with one credit card with a substantial balance, and he has two vehicle loans. My name is still on all my retirement accounts, and he has an old investment account in his name only. I'm comfortable with all of it. The thought of continuing to do all the back-and-forth "I owe you this much for the power bill this month" and "You got the last dinner, so I'll get this one" would make me INSANE.

Also, I hadn't thought about it till now, but I think that the likelihood of us being uprooted by his job on a regular basis (military) makes this more practical as well.

We were both involved in creating the budget spreadsheet. I handle its maintenance since he's away a lot with little to no access to banking documents or the Internet (again, military).

Biggest budgetary differences: He loves eating and drinking out more than I do. Of course, every day he's been home in the last year has been cause to celebrate, so that's exacerbated things.

Jessica

To clarify: the credit cards have been paid off since we got married in Feb. last year. The vehicles are next.

Melissa

Little late to the game here. We have separate credit cards but all our banking accounts are merged. I don't understand being married and dickering over who is going to pay the gas bill. We're a unit now and all money coming in is ours, regardless of who earns it. When we got married I was working, but now that I'm staying home with the kids, I'm glad we have this situation because otherwise I'm not sure how it would work--would my husband give me an allowance or something? It also works because we have similar attitudes and spending habits (completely learned, for me--I used to be terrible with money). We discuss big purchases with each other but otherwise just try not to go crazy.

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