Should You Combine Finances When You Get Married?

by Lyle Daly | Updated April 7, 2022 - First published on July 5, 2019

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Some newlyweds go for joint accounts, and others keep things separate. Here's how to choose the option that works best for you.

Are you getting married, already married, or in a long-term relationship? You need to discuss whether you're going to combine your finances with your significant other's.

Although couples have traditionally done this after getting married, the practice isn't as standard as it once was. In fact, the number of couples with separate incomes has skyrocketed. This has led to many couples preferring to keep things to themselves, including:

For you and your spouse to make a decision one way or the other, you'll need to know the pros and cons of each option.

Getting joint accounts with your spouse

The traditional route of setting up joint accounts is still popular. Here are some benefits of this option:

  • Convenience -- With joint accounts, you can pay all your bills from those accounts instead of each making your own payments.
  • Equal resources -- You can both access your money, avoiding a situation where one partner is more financially comfortable than the other.
  • No legal hurdles to access money -- In the event one of you dies or becomes incapacitated, the other partner will have access to both partners' money. With separate accounts, there's a legal process to go through, which can take longer.

There are also some notable drawbacks to joint accounts:

  • Breakups are more complicated -- A breakup or divorce is ever easy, but it's simpler from a financial perspective if your money is separate. With a joint account, more disputes can arise about how much money belongs to each party. And it's possible for one spouse to withdraw all the funds without the other's consent.
  • Unequal contributions -- If one partner has more money saved or a higher income, they may not feel that a joint account is fair to them.
  • Financial issues could damage both partners -- A problem with joint accounts is that misuse by one partner will hurt the couple. For example, one of you might charge too much to a joint credit card. This will have a negative effect on both of your credit scores.

Keeping your accounts separate

There are plenty of couples who elect to have separate accounts. This is especially common among millennials, and it does have advantages:

  • It's fair -- When you have separate accounts, both partners control their own money. You'll avoid the frustration that could arise with joint accounts if one of you contributes more than the other.
  • It's easier to track your own finances -- With your own accounts, you can easily track how much you're earning, spending, and saving. This can be trickier with a joint account, since two people will be using it.
  • You can each spend your money how you want -- Separate accounts makes it less likely that one partner will be resentful of how the other spent the couple's money.

There are some downsides, too:

  • Paying bills is more complicated -- You and your spouse need to come up with your own portion of the bills. If your incomes are significantly different, you may also need to figure out a way to split bills that leaves both of you happy.
  • It's harder to work towards financial goals together -- Even though you can set financial goals as a couple with separate accounts, it's simpler to work together with joint accounts.

What to do with your money when married

Here's the simplest way to decide whether to go with joint or separate accounts: If you and your spouse want to combine finances, do it. If you don't agree on the subject, maintain separate accounts for the time being. No partner should feel like they were forced into combining finances.

Remember that if you keep your finances separate, you need to figure out how you want to divide your monthly expenses. These are the most common choices:

  • 50/50 -- Everything gets divided down the middle. Couples with similar incomes often opt for this method.
  • An income-based split -- Each partner pays a portion of the bills based on the couple's income ratio. For example, if you make $60,000 per year and your partner makes $40,000, you'd pay 60% of the bills and they'd pay 40%.

There's no right or wrong answer on how couples should handle their money. What matters is open communication and finding an arrangement that you both like.

RELATED: Check out The Ascent's guide to the best banks for joint bank accounts.

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