First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…a joint bank account? While that’s not how the original saying goes, that’s what happens in a large number of marriages. My husband and I chose to combine our bank accounts and assets when we tied the knot – it just seemed like the logical thing to do. Admittedly, it was a mildly (very) scary moment. It seemed like there was no turning back once our money was lumped together. We both gave a little shrug, a nervous smile, and pulled the trigger. (Ok, it wasn’t that easy. There were many phone calls and papers to sign at different banks, and then it was done.) And it has absolutely worked for us.
I am no accountant, and everyone has to do what makes the most sense for their financial situation, but here are some reasons that combining assets is definitely the way to go.
1. Combining finances makes it feel like there’s no turning back.
But isn’t that the point of marriage? For better or for worse. No escape plans or exit strategy. We were going to be in this thing together. If one of us wanted out, it was going to be a lot more difficult than just filing a document at the courthouse. Marriage is not an arrangement to enter into lightly. The combining of assets is simply symbolic of how important and permanent the decision to marry actually is. You can easily see dollars in a bank account. Love and commitment are a little more intangible.
2. Combining money takes any competition out of the scenario.
One person in the relationship most likely earns more than the other. So should that mean that one person should be permitted to spend more than the other as well? Marriage should be about partnership. If you’re up one day and your spouse is down, tomorrow it might be flipped. You have to be there for each other no matter what.
And that goes for money as well. Of course it’s important to come to agreements about budgeting, large purchases, and household responsibilities. But I would resent my husband if he were spending lavishly on toys while I skimmed to get by, simply because his bank account was more padded than mine.
3. When children enter the picture, money has the potential to become a very sticky subject.
In my own household, we agreed that I would be the primary caretaker for our son and that I would work part-time, while my husband held down his full-time position. If our money weren’t combined, it would be a lot trickier to determine what percent of each of our incomes should go towards expenses for our child. And should I be compensated in some way for caring for our son? The whole idea makes me cringe.
With our current setup, we have proceeded no differently than before we had a baby. Every expense for him, me, and anything else in our lives is covered by the same bank account and credit cards.
4. Having combined assets keeps us in check.
If I had a “slush fund” or some other account that my husband couldn’t access, maybe I would shop more. Perhaps I would get more manicures and pedicures. But since I know that we’re dealing with one nut, so to speak, I am more careful about how I spend. I know that every dollar I use is going to influence the bigger picture in some way. Do we still treat ourselves? Absolutely. But I think we’re a little more responsible about it since we know we’re not the only ones being affected.
5. It’s just plain easier.
I have friends who keep separate accounts, and every month they have a process. They put X amount of money into an account for their child, they put Y amount of money into a shared account that covers household expenses, and then they put a certain amount of money aside into each of their own savings accounts. To be honest, it just sounds exhausting. My husband and I have our shared budget and savings account and there is nothing complicated about it.
See next page for one downside to combining assets.
I have found only one con to having combined our assets.
I’m certain that people with specific financial situations will advocate for separate accounts, but I’ve personally only found one. Every time I want to buy my husband a gift (and vice versa), it is virtually impossible to keep it from him since he can see our credit card and bank statements. Accordingly, he and I have each kept one credit card in our own names. I pull it out twice a year: at Christmas and on his birthday. And then I pay the balance with money from our joint account after I’ve given him the present.