1. Tara May 19, 2017

    Even though I am not planning on divorce, I do take the legal view of things. Depending on state law, it doesn’t matter that the money is “yours only”, in divorce the partner gets half, so you might as well be in joint finances territory because the law does not see it any other way. That’s why in crazy divorce stories, you hear about mega rich dudes (occasionally it is a lady but not as common) who sets up all these shell companies to hide money so the spouse gets nothing in divorce.

    I think as a woman, I see the need for joint finances because of the history of female autonomy in the US is quite short. Women still couldn’t buy their own house in many states in the US as late as the 70s, so to me it’s personal. I have a close friend who is married and doesn’t have joint access to money. Her husband pays the bills, but if she wants to buy anything for herself, she has to work for it. But if she works, child care for three kids comes out of her paycheck, so she really doesn’t end up with much. She also does most of the work in the house, including changing all of the diapers and changing the litter boxes for HIS cats. She is essentially an indentured servant (and also faces emotional abuses often too) and it breaks my heart for her. I try to gently talk about finances with her, but she often shuts me down before admitting anything. She did sign a prenup, so I don’t know if things can be changed easily without getting a lawyer involved.

    The only times I see value to separate accounts is when one person really can’t budget. In those situations, I can see having separate accounts, but ensuring the spendthrift still pays their portion of the bills (some jobs let you split direct deposits into two bank accounts). But in these situations, you have to be on the same page and make sure both parties have come to an agreement on the financial terms, otherwise you’re heading to divorce. Yes, perhaps your spouse is bad with money, but that doesn’t mean he/she is not allowed to have any income from you, especially if you’re the only one with an actual take-home income. Stay-at-home parents are still entitled to fun money too. You also have to be honest with each other and make sure that the spendthrift doesn’t sign up for credit cards in their name and charge $40,000 worth of debt.

    If however, financial problems really are too bad, I can see legal divorce, but staying together as the only option. I know someone who did that because her husband, who was the initial breadwinner at the time (she started making more money after kids were in high school), took out a big HELOC without telling her on their joint mortgage, and due to bad business at the time, they were forced to sell. She legally divorced him, bought a town home in her name only, but got back together with the husband and they live together now. He pays her “rent” and splits bills, but they have completely separate finances in both the legal and technical sense. For some people, that is the only way to make it work. If a person is not only bad with money, but is also likely to sign up for debt without being honest about it, but you still love the person, do whatever works.

    • Lisa E. May 19, 2017

      Great points, Tara! I didn’t really think of it in the legal sense but you’re right – “might as well be in joint finances territory because the law does not see it any other way”.

      I feel for your friend and I truly hope her situations gets better. Also, I think separate accounts can definitely work but I don’t prefer it. Even if someone is really bad at budgeting, you can still have one joint account where one spouse (preferably the one who is good with money) makes sure the bills get paid. They could also use that as a teaching experience for the spouse who isn’t so great with money. Even if your spouse is bad with money, they still need to know where their money is going.

  2. Steveark May 17, 2017

    Hey, my trophy wife and I have been married for 39 years this month! Marriage isn’t easy so I agree, combine those finances. In fact combine everything you can. There are a million things that will try to pull you apart, you just have to hang on as tight as you can.

    • Lisa E. May 17, 2017

      39 years – that’s amazing! Congratulations!

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