Monday, August 31, 2009

Separate or together, doesn't matter, just agree

On Mondays in this space we answer a financial question from a reader. Post your questions in the comments and we'll answer them here next Monday.

QUESTION: My fiancĂ© and I are getting married in October. However, we don’t agree on one point: checking accounts. I say we should have one. He says we need separate accounts so we can each have some freedom. What do you think works best?

ANSWER FROM DAN DANFORD: Every couple is different. In my house, we keep separate checkbooks on the same checking account. It's harder to reconcile each month, but it allows a certain freedom that suits us both. Most families have a designated finance person (gender doesn't seem to matter), and that person divvies up the money and pays the monthly bills. Obviously, someone's got to do it and it's not a high-glamour job.

My only concern with this question is that it seems to indicate a bit of financial friction already. Finances are at the root of many troubled marriages, so I'd try to resolve as much as possible before the nuptials. I doubt there is a specific right or wrong on the issue of checkbooks, but it's important to find a solution that fits your relationship. Money equals power, and no one wants to lack power in a relationship. You need to negotiate a solution that meets everyone's needs. For the sake of your marriage, do it before the wedding.


  1. My wife and I have had seperate checking accounts for most of the 27 years we've been married. We're each joint on the other's account and each have our own income direct deposited into our own account. I can see her account online and she can see mine. We use the same credit union. We always know where the money goes, but each has the freedom to spend what we want/need to without asking. Of course we communicate about large purchases (over $250.00). I pay the majority of the bills (mortgage, HELOC, cars, insurance, utilities) but also have the majority of the income. When we were first married, my wife paid all of the bills and most of my income went into her account. Turns out that she didn't enjoy paying bills (who does?) and sometimes put it off, so I agreed to do it. This works for us, mostly because we trust each other. Not sure it would work for all couples.

  2. Every couple is different, and long-term relationships find a system that works for them. As you prove. And, as you also prove, roles sometimes change as we grow. The main thing is to find a system that fits your relationship, and to keep the communications open. Congratulations on working your own successful system for 27 years.

  3. We have one checking account at our house, and I basically do everything, including pay the bills and move money around. I've always done this, and I can't really explain how it fell into my lap, but it did. However, it seems to work for us. We are supposed to consult on major purchases, which I defined as above $100, but both of us have violated that. We definitely consult, though on truly major purchases such as electronics and home items. Either way, we don't argue about it, we seem to manage our money well and we want to spend it in about the same way. I guess when it works, you don't question it!

  4. As others have said, it really dpends on what works for you. I've personally had success with keeping a joint checking account and a personal account for each of us. It's the perfect compromise for us. We have some privacy, but still have an account together.


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