Why Couples Should NOT Keep Separate Finances

Hooooooooo boy!  Want to see a relationship go ballistic?  There couple fightingare a few subjects that consistently lead to maximum stress and even termination of relationships.  You know – things like infidelity, lack of intimacy, abuse, and yes… money issues.  Depending on which study you look at, money is pretty consistently at or near the top of the list of reasons why marriages fail.  Don’t believe me?  Just google it.  After all, it’s on the internet so it must be true….

But seriously, from a credit counseling perspective, we definitely see money causing or at least exacerbating issues in relationships.  I don’t know that the root of the issue is necessarily keeping separate finances, but rather why couples are choosing to keep separate finances.  Secrecy, distrust, lack of commitment.  I think the list could go on.

And let me be clear – I do understand that there are times when separate finances may be appropriate.  But that does NOT mean that they have to be secret or even mutually exclusive.

Flipping to a little more positive, here are some reasons why you definitely should not keep separate finances in your relationship:

Transparency – Nothing defeats a lack of trust like transparency (as long as transparency doesn’t reveal deeper reasons for mistrust).  When everyone knows where the money is going, they have a solid foundation to move forward together.  If things get tight, everyone knows why changes need to be made.  This, then, becomes the basis for creating a plan to move forward.  Don’t feel like this is a problem in your relationship?  If you don’t talk about finances, what else isn’t your partner talking to you about?  Just sayin’.

The bigger picture – While you may be able to split expenses 50/50 and “keep it fair” with separate accounts, this probably doesn’t reflect a true picture of “fairness” in the household.  Let’s use an extreme example to make the point – a stay-at-home spouse.  But to be fair, “my money is my money and yours is yours because I worked to make my money and so I should have control of it.  I make more so I get more.”  Now, you may be the one bringing in the income.  But who is the one doing the bulk of the cooking, and cleaning, and child care, and yardwork, and needed errands, and washing your dirty underwear?  If we are going to be fair about each aspect of the home separately, shouldn’t you take on at least half of all of that?  There is a bigger picture to consider and keeping finances and everything else as a unified effort will help balance all of that together.

Death – We all want to believe that we are going to live forever or at least well into our 90’s.  And by then, who cares?  Unfortunately that is not always the case.  Unless your partner is on your bank accounts or you have some very specific estate planning in place, your money may be tied up for months while probate figures out what to do with your assets.  In the mean time, your family may need the money to get through the new challenges and will face additional hardship because they do not have access to your money.

couple computer couchI’m sure there are more reasons out there, but these are the main ones.  If you and your partner are keeping separate finances, I would encourage you to take a hard look at not only what you are doing, but also why you have made those choices.  Maybe you will change, maybe not.  But you will have made a very intentional, thought out decision as a couple.

Want to get things straightened out before the big joining-of-the-funds?  Maybe as a part of that joining?  The counselors at the Center for Financial Resources can help with that.  We have helped a lot of couples come together on the same financial page towards a much happier, healthier relationship.  You can schedule an appointment at CFR.LssSD.org or by calling us at 605-330-2700.


written by Breck Miller, Community Relations Coordinator
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

LSS Center for Financial Resources
Consumer Credit Counseling Service | Housing Resources | Sharpen Your Financial Focus| Financial Fitness Education
705 East 41st Street, Suite 100 |Sioux Falls SD 57105-6047
605-330-2700 or 888-258-2227
Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities

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