How We Make It Work: Joint Finances

by TTMK on May 19, 2014 · 1 comment

The following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai

When it comes to the topic of separate or joint finances after marriage, people are passionate about their preferences. Those who have joint finances can’t imagine having separate finances and vice versa. There’s no right way; you and your spouse just have to do what works best for each of you.

Our Experience with Joint Finances

My husband and I have been married nearly 14 years, and from the beginning, we merged our finances together. (Of course, we were both broke, so we didn’t take any real risks here.)

Luckily, we had both grown up in households where finances were joint and the woman took care of the day-to-day finances–creating a budget, tracking spending, and paying bills. Therefore, we were both comfortable having me do those tasks.

Another lucky feature for me is that my husband is not a spendthrift. He rarely spends money during the week, but if he does, he always makes sure to tell me so I know what unknown expenses are showing up on the credit card.

Once a month, I torture him (I jest, I jest, at least partly) by taking 15 to 30 minutes to give him a quick rundown of our financial situation. Meanwhile, I easily spend at least two hours or more monthly on financial tasks. Sometimes I get annoyed that handling the money isn’t his job, but ultimately, I like to be the one managing the finances on a daily basis. I’m much more the financial “nerd” as Dave Ramsey says, than my husband.

Why This Works for Us

When we got married, my husband had no credit. After we married and joined finances, he suddenly had a very good credit score thanks to my credit history. This has benefitted us both, especially as we are now preparing to enter the housing market.

Our situation mirrors our parents’ financial arrangement, so we’re both very comfortable with it. I imagine if either of us had come from an environment where the man made all the financial decisions, we’d have struggled with how to manage the finances.

We’re both financially responsible. We always check with one another before making a purchase larger than $25. Because we’ve lived on a very tight budget for most of our marriage, neither of us spends wildly; we’re both quite frugal.

When Joint Finances May Not Work

When one person has good credit and the other has poor credit. My cousin married a woman with stellar credit; he had filed bankruptcy before. In their case, they kept the finances separate and maintained separate bank and credit accounts. When they bought a house, it was in her name so she could qualify for a lower interest rate. My cousin never did change his spendthrift habits, and a few years later they divorced.

When one person is a spendthrift and the other isn’t. I would imagine being married to a spendthrift would be difficult at best, but it would be even worse to work hard and watch your spouse spend all the money you made. In this case, separate finances may be best to limit the financial damage. This is also true if one spouse struggles with addictions like alcohol, drugs, or gambling.

My Questions for You

Do you and your spouse have joint or separate finances?

How did you reach the arrangement you currently use?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Peter May 21, 2014 at 8:39 am

We have one joint account and we were advised to do this from our pre-marital counselor. I handle most of the management and my wife doesn’t really seem to care. I’m more of a spender than her, so it works out.

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