Should Married Couples Have Joint or Separate Bank Accounts? – Engaged Marriage

Should Married Couples Have Joint or Separate Bank Accounts?

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Should Couples Have Joint or Separate Bank Accounts?Do you and your spouse use a single, joint checking account?

Or do you choose to keep separate bank accounts?

Have you considered the alternatives?

I was frankly surprised at the responses I’ve heard to these questions over the past week or so.

And I was really shocked at the emotional reaction that many have in defending the structure of their family finances.

It started in the responses I received where everyone seemingly ignored my main points in the “7 Simple Steps to Financial Success in Your Marriage” and focused in on my statement that a joint checking account was the way to go.

Curious, I then posed the question on the Engaged Marriage Facebook page and received some incredible responses.

For instance, the pro joint account crowd provided comments like this:

Mary: We have a joint checking account. Always have and always will. We’re married and share everything – nothing is his and nothing is mine. We agree on finances and how we spend OUR money.

Erica: We have joint everything…we discuss all major purchases/goals/bills, but gas, food, etc. just comes out of our joint account as needed. It works very well for us and I couldn’t imagine having it separate. All the figuring out who has paid for which thing and how much and trying to make it “even” etc. has never made sense to me. It’s US, and OURS. 🙂

And some readers love their separate checking accounts:

Sam: We have separate accounts. I cover most of the bills and the majority of his money is used for discretionary costs (gas, food, etc). We both have access to each others accounts, so it’s not like my money is strictly my money (and vice-versa). Works for us!  Honestly, I think a joint account would cause some stress for us.

Jennifer: We have separate accounts. I pay mortgage and living costs (groceries, fun, etc.) and he pays all other bills and savings. We find it much easier to manage money that way.

Don’t Tread on My Financial Life

I don’t think my suggestion of trying a single joint checking account was too radical or really all that forceful in the way it was presented.

Nevertheless, pretty much every comment on my Couple’s Financial Success post was related to that issue.  I was even accused of making broad generalizations, and it was clear that I offended some folks with my recommendation.

It turns out that people can be pretty passionate about their choice of bank accounts!  I loved the conversations, and as I have taken some time to think about the issue a little more, I’ve even opened my mind a bit.

I thought it would be useful to outline the main reasons why a married couple may choose a single joint account vs. separate accounts.  And then, for the really important part of this exercise, we’ll take a look at why this decision should matter to you and your spouse.

Reasons Why a Joint Bank Account is Best

  • Encourages regular communication about finances
  • Built-in accountability partner on spending matters
  • Fosters unity in money matters
  • Strong sense of working together to meet financial goals
  • Clear that all household income is treated as “our” money
  • No conflict or administrative work in “splitting up the bills”
  • Dave Ramsey says this is best, and we all love Dave, right?

Reasons Why Separate or “Yours, Mine and Ours” Bank Accounts Rule

  • Duties of financial bookkeeping not solely on one person
  • Clear boundaries set up-front for individual spending
  • May be easier to track specific savings goals
  • Easy to surprise your spouse with gifts
  • No need to talk about finances regularly
  • Each spouse can keep “their proportionate amount” of household income
  • Ability to maintain privacy about what you spend money on
  • More independence and autonomy to spend as desired without seeking concurrence

So, who is really right?

After reading a lot about this issue and reflecting upon it, I have divined the one, true and infallible answer to this age-old question:

It depends.

You will notice that the reasons I listed in support of separate accounts are broken into two groups.  In my opinion, the “black” group are legitimate and healthy reasons for having multiple accounts.  However, the “red” group spells trouble.

The reasons listed in red are centered in a mentality of not just separate accounts, but separate finances within the marriage.

I feel strongly that this is a dangerous and unhealthy foundation for money management for a married couple.  These reasons come from a spirit of selfishness, and they do not reflect the fact that marriage is a partnership.  And they certainly do not support open communication and trust.

The Key is Intent

Personally, Bethany and I use a single, joint checking account and feel that is absolutely perfect for us.  And before I gave this much thought, I would have prescribed this same arrangement for every married couple.

Actually, I still think this is the way to go, but I can see where other approaches can work fine, too.

The main reason that we choose to keep a joint bank account is our belief in unity.  We believe that when you get married, you become one, and money is a key area where this is lived out.

There is no “yours, mine and ours” but only “ours.”

When you handle your money together, you are agreeing on your hopes, dreams and goals together.

The use of a single joint account also encourages (requires, really) open communication about your finances, which is absolutely critical to a successful marriage.

As long as the right intent is there, I think you also operate in full unity with multiple accounts.

I don’t think it provides as accommodating of environment for unity and open communication, but I fully believe many couples lead happy, healthy and successful financial lives together under this arrangement.

Plus, we feel it is just easier to manage when everything goes into one account and out of the same account.  For us, it’s the simpler solution to maintain a single checking account.

I realize that some couples find the simplicity of their money management to actually be enhanced by using multiple accounts.  And, while that’s not our deal, I can certainly understand and respect that.

In fact, we have several different savings accounts for this same reason.

The Bottom Line

In my opinion, the real question to ask here is not how many accounts you have, the types of savings accounts, or what you call them.  The key is to operate your finances in a unified way with open communication at all times.

You can do that with one account or twenty. However, if you do operate with multiple accounts, they should all be “joint” accounts that you both can access, and there should be absolutely no secrets about how money is being earned or spent.

And remember that your motivation should be one of unity.  That will keep you in the black and out of the red in more ways than one.

Are You Ready to Take the Next Step with Your Money & Your Marriage?

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How to Get Control of Your Money and Create the Future You DesireTogether (1)

So, I just have to know:

Do you and your spouse use a single joint checking account or do you choose to keep separate accounts?  Why?

Share in the comments!


About the Author

Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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(164) comments


I’ve done both. I was married for 10 years and we both pretty much owned nothing going in, so sharing the finances made sense. We actually had separate accounts, but all household finances were shared, if one account was low the other one moved money to that one, no problem.

Now I’m living with someone who owns and rents out his apartment (with a big mortgage on that apartment) and I owned the house we live in (also with a mortgage) before he moved in. For those reasons and several others it makes sense for us to keep our finances separate. We agreed that he would pay a part of the housing cost, sort of as rent, and share all household bills such as utilities, phone and of course food and such. It’s been working out fine for over 2 years.


    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Aslaug! Generally speaking, I would agree it’s best to keep finances separate when you are not married.


My ex boyfriend and I never had joint accounts, and I hated it. I felt like I was covering most things because he never wanted to discuss finances. My current boyfriend and I have had a joint account pretty much from the time we moved in together. We both have direct deposit into the account, automatic weekly transfer to the savings account, bill pay is setup for all of our bills in the one location, and we discuss finances on a weekly basis. I think if we both had owned a house coming into the relationship, we may have had a joint account and maintained a separate account to pay for the prior mortgages, but who knows.

I know many people who get heated about this conversation, I say it’s entirely up to the couple involved to find what works for them. I would never push something on anyone because who knows whether or not it would work. It is definitely up to the couple and their preference on how to handle their finances.


    Thanks for the great comment, Beckey! As I noted above, it seems like joining your financial accounts could be an issue outside of marriage, although I have to admit that I haven’t given it as much thought. Since you have experience with both joint and separate under that arrangement, what your experiences been with both (legally, emotionally, relationally, etc.)?


      Personally, I prefer the joint account. The difference with this relationship is we have already discussed getting married we just don’t have the money available to get engaged and then plan a small wedding. We are going to become debt free first so we aren’t bringing that mess into our marriage. Also, it’s not like one of us makes more money than the other, we make pretty close to the same amount so we pay off both of our debts equally. We are both very open and discuss finances often, so we don’t argue about it at all. I can understand having a individual account for special purchases for him and vice versa but our work around is to buy a AmEx gift card or use cash, then whomever can go out and buy that gift they want and neither sees the store name in the online banking.


We have separate accounts mostly because we’re lazy. He had bills automatically coming out of his, I had bills automatically coming out of mine and we just didn’t feel like hassling with changing it. That said, within the first month of married life we found and you can upload as many accounts as you want and see them all at the same time which is a perfect solution for us. We can see how much we have combined, how much we’re spending combined and what the other one is spending stuff on. Even though our accounts aren’t technically joint, we have pretty much all the luxury of joint without having to do the effort.

I think the intent behind either system is important. Is is separate because you really do think it’s mine/yours? Is it joint because one person wants all the control? Both sides can have malice intent behind them.


    Thanks, Marie! I LOVE your point about how a joint account could have bad intentions as well. I actually have a co-worker who controls all of their money and relegates his wife to what amounts to a small allowance at his discretion…NOT good!


      we were talking about this with some friends the other day. Apparently my friend’s grandfather would bring home his pay check unopened, hand it to his wife, and she would give him enough money to go get a shave at the barber shop that week. He grew up with that attitude to family finances, so he does that with his wife (except its direct deposited into her account, rather than her tucking it into her apron pocket) and she gives him an allowance based on what she thinks he needs that week. She hated the idea at first, but it seems to work with them, and he couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. it seems different things work for different people
      .-= Mary´s last blog ..Comic Book Confidential =-.


Money Funk had a post on this subject this past week and it’s had a lot of comment activity as well. I agree with your summation that it depends on what works best for the couple.

My husband and I have had separate accounts since we married 15 years ago. I think it worked for us because I was bringing two kids into it with their own expenses, etc. Now the kids are grown and we’ll bring the accounts together soon as we start preparing for retirement.

P.S. I love Dave Ramsey, but I don’t think because he said so is a valid reason to have one account:)
.-= Bucksome´s last blog ..Customer Service Story: Lee Jeans =-.


    Thanks for commenting, Bucksome. I threw in the Dave Ramsey note to be a little sarcastic. 🙂 I love Dave too, but a lot of his advice is (necessarily in his position) a bit too generic sometimes. I’ve always felt that way about his investment advice in particular.


I definitely agree that regardless of which route you choose, there should never be any secrets. Both partners should always be fully aware of what the other is spending on — in fact, all major decisions should absolutely be made together.

My husband and I have a joint account to foster that sense of togetherness. All money is shared 100%. But I agree that it can be done other ways as well, as long as money is always handled in a united fashion.


    You are too wise, Kathleen! Thanks for backing me up on this one. 😉


    Wise statement Kathleen….
    Thank You Dustin for touching on this subject, as it hits home. “Joint Account” is what I prefer, but with in the last year, my husband now has his own account and I don’t have access to it at all. This has cause much friction in our marriage. I currently pay 100% of the Rent, Utilities, My and our childrens phone bill, Food and Debt in my name. He pays debt in his name and the rest remains unknown.

Kristin Gentry

When my husband and I were going through premarital counseling, we were asked whether or not we’d combine finances. My answer was, of course not! We’ll each put a proportionate amount of money into a joint account to pay all our bills and whatever is left we get to keep to spend however we want. That seemed reasonable to me…

But then they asked me this question: What happens if you (the mom) decide to stay home with your kids (when you have them) and are no longer contributing to the family income? Do you get nothing? Does your husband then have complete control over the finances?

Well, I never planning on being a stay-at-home mom, but it did get me thinking. I changed my mind and we combined our finances. And boy was that a good decision when I was laid off from my job last year! Which, consequently, led us to understand that we couldn’t afford to live off one income if we had to and so we began a Total Money Makeover to change that.

I’m happy to report that we’re on track to pay off about $29,000 in CREDIT CARD DEBT (not cars, we still owe about 35k on those) by April ’10 (we started in October ’09). There is NO WAY we could have made that kind of progress if we weren’t totally committed to working together to make it happen.

Great question, Dustin! This really is an important decision for couples to make…
.-= Kristin Gentry´s last blog ..What are some ways that you verbalize your love to your spouse? (Week 15) =-.


    Awesome job on the debt payments, Kristin! It sounds like you guys have found the incredible value in working together in your marriage!


Like I said before, we have a joint account. We joined our accounts before we were even officially married. Brad is by far the breadwinner of the family, so if we had separate accounts, he would definitely have more money in his. So then it comes to trying to figure out who pays for what…which I could see in some relationships leading to some arguments. Well we’ve cut all that out and have a joint account!


    Amen, Mary! You have summarized our approach to our finances as well, and it has been a real blessing in our marriage.


We’ve done it both ways. When we first got married we had separate accounts but very open communication about who was doing what. We went along for quite awhile like that and it worked out pretty well, possibly because our incomes were very even so it was easy to divide things up the middle. However, after awhile it became clear that “my” bills were getting paid with more regularity than “his” bills so the decision to combine became more of a division of labor issue. I was more skilled at managing the money so I inherited the job.

As someone who has done it both ways I can say I’m glad we made the switch to a joint account. The bills started getting paid with regularity. (He once forgot an Ameren bill and we came home to no electricity – that was pretty much the impetus behind appointing me as money manager and it also remains the maddest Micah has ever seen me). In addition to keeping the electricity on I also gained better Big Picture Perspective and as a result have been able to drastically improve our savings and investments to include more than just his and hers 401K accounts at our jobs. By combining our money into the same pot it gives me greater simplicity in household financial management and greater visibility of our progress on our long term money goals.

But even though the joint account system is superior for us, I do believe that the decision on how to handle finances is not a black and white issue and that there is no single dominant strategy that is the catch-all answer for everyone. Each couple needs to define their goals and identify the processes that work best for them and these processes are naturally going to vary because every couple is different. In this relationship I am better skilled at handling the finances and Micah values my abilities and trusts me to do what’s best for the family, and for me a the joint account is the best tool to achieve our common goals. While our individual characteristics lend well to the single account method, another couple’s individual characteristics may lend just as well to a multiple account approach.


    Thanks for the great comment, Kate! I have to be honest and say that when I originally wrote the articles/Facebook questions that started this whole thing, I was 99% convinced that a single joint account was the only way to go.

    However, after giving it some serious thought and reading more on the subject, I now believe as you do that some couples can have more success with separate accounts. But I won’t back down on the fact that they need to all be “joint” in their access and there can be absolutely no secrets!


I have done it both ways with my current fiance. We waited a while to combine finances, so for the first year and a half we lived together, we had separate accounts. We split joint bills down the middle, and I thought it was a pain in the butt. Also, it was harder to save money that way – partly because I didn’t have any accountability for what I was spending.

A couple of months ago, we took the plunge and got a joint checking account. We put the vast majority of our income into that account, and pay for almost everything from it. It allows one of us to take the lead on handling the bills, but we still do have very regular discussions of where we are, what we’re looking to achieve, and why or why not X purchase is a good or bad idea.

However, we also each kept our own personal accounts. In this account we give ourselves a relatively small “allowance” to purchase things without scrutiny. It’s not about keeping secrets; we both just wanted to fund from which to buy things the other doesn’t think we “need” – his cigarettes, my clothes/shoes/makeup, our lunches out or Starbucks-breaks when we’re at work. For us, this works so well.

I’m fiercely independent and very accustomed to making my own money and spending it whichever way I please. So it feels good to have a specified amount of money that is ABSOLUTELY MINE that I can use to treat myself. However, it’s awesome to be able to put a limit on it as well. Before, if I had the money, there was no reason I couldn’t spend it. It’s the same now, only the amount of money I have is much less – the bulk of our leftover money from bills is being saved or put to good use (we’re currently saving for our wedding, and after that we’ll be saving up for a down payment).

I don’t think there’s any way to say what’s best for other people. Everyone has a different relationship with money and handles it a different way. A couple can only decide what works for THEM.


    Thanks, Vee! To clarify, even though we have only a single account, we each have our own “free spending” money or what Dave Ramsey would call “Blow Money”. Each month, we each have a certain amount budgeted to spend however we want, no strings attached. I think we all need some freedom like that, but I don’t think it needs to require a totally separate account either.

    By the way, I checked out your blog. Great stuff!


great post.

We have a joint bank account. I could never see us having a separate/single. Its OUR money, we are married.

How would you divide up the money when one person makes all the money in the family? DIvide it 50/50? Then what about the bills? It doesn’t make any sense to me and I don’t understand the point in it. It’s actually sort of confusing to me- I just don’t get how it would even work?!

We each have our own spending money, but everything is joint.

I will say the ONE “disadvantage” to a joint account, if you will, is that one time I saw that my hubby took out $25.00 at the flower shop BEFORE I got the flowers so I knew what was coming instead of being surprised.. but if he would have taken cash out and paid with cash I wouldn’t have known. 🙂

Its our money. If one of us makes a stupid mistake and buys something dumb, its OUR stupid mistake. If one of us makes all the money, WE make all the money. You get what I’m saying… 🙂

Good post dustin.
.-= Samantha @ Mama Notes´s last blog ..Ask the Moms: Do Your Boys Play with Toy Guns? =-.


    I totally get what you are saying, Samantha! In fact, I agree completely with your philosophy on the household money belonging equally to both spouses, regardless of who earned it. By the way, I think you stay-at-home moms have the toughest job of all, even if there is no paycheck at the end of the week. 🙂


I think that anyone who gets annoyed or angry at a simple suggestion has an issue that they’re not facing! ..Seriously people don’t take it out on the nice blogger man! …You have some work to do!!!


    Thanks for having my back, Cory! My readers are actually very cordial, though. It’s those darn Simple Marriage folks that tried to roast me! 😉


      I got you!

      Dustin! Congrats on the facilitator position! Something tells me you’re gonna inspire a lot of people! Very important topic with tons of interesting and helpful points of view!

      btw:I love how you responded to everyones comments! Great way to engage :o)


        Thanks, Cory! I try to respond to all of them because I really do value the community we’re building here. I got behind because we were gone all weekend helping to host a marriage retreat. It was exhausting but incredibly fulfilling for us.

        And I guess it went well because that’s where I was asked to facilitate FPU! 🙂

Roundup and Link Love: Ice Storm January 2010 Edition

[…] stirred things up a bit with an article on whether couples should have joint or separate bank accounts. Join in the […]

Amanda (Garibay Soup)

JOINT! Always have, always will ~ we’re married and in my opinion that means there’s nothing separate. We’ve never had a financial fight… not even once!
.-= Amanda (Garibay Soup)´s last blog ..WFMW ~ A Life Tip =-.


    Thanks, Amanda! When something is simply right, you don’t need many words to make your point. And we never fight about money either…maybe there really is something to this simple and unified thing. 🙂


[…] Dustin at Engaged Marriage debates whether married couples should have joint or separate bank accounts […]


[…] Should Married Couples Have Joint or Separate Bank Accounts? from Dustin @ Engaged Marriage and Separate Bank Accounts @ Money Funk both have good discussions going on the pros and cons of couples having separate accounts.  What do you think? […]


We have seperate accounts at the moment. We have started to open a joint account, with the plan to move everything over for that one, but it hasn’t really happened yet. I’m meant to go down with my ID and stuff to get my name on it, and find the bank’s hours very limiting and it doesn’t work well with my work hours. We’ll just have to make the time for it.

I do worry about changing the account over is that i’ll miss some sort of direct debit payment that i haven’t thought of. I have so much stuff coming straight out my account from Church Planned Giving, to gym membership, health insurance, etc. I suppose its just a matter of being organised.

If you have a joint account, how do you get around buying gifts. I often order things online for my husband’s birthday, and if that came up on the bank account, he’ll know where i’ve been buying things and what he might be getting. How do you keep the surprise in a case like that?
.-= Mary´s last blog ..Comic Book Confidential =-.


    Thanks, Mary! I’d love to hear from some of the other readers about how they keep gifts a surprise.

    In my house, my wife rarely looks at our online bank accounts so it’s no big issue for me. She also buys most of my gifts with cash, so again I don’t find out. Really though, unless it was a very specialized store, just knowing that something was purchased there wouldn’t necessarily give away what the gift is…


      The gift issue has never been a problem for us, because I keep the books and my wife generally uses cash for gifts – isn’t much of an online shopper. There are a few ways around the problem that I can think of. Set up a separate paypal account and agree to a designated amount to be deposited for surprises. Not everyone takes paypal, so an alternative might be a Amex or Visa gift card in the designated amount that can be used anywhere a credit card is used.
      .-= Scott´s last blog ..Perfection and Paradigms =-.

Brian Cordell

I recommend joint accounts because this is a matter of two becoming one. However, I also recommend special purpose accounts to drive various goals. Its easier to keep special purpose funds separate if you do. I know that some firms offer “do it all accounts”, but its too easy to get off track. Possible categories include: emergency fund, sinking funds for vacations and future big purchases, gift funds. You can break bad habits by limiting your activities in these categories, with the possible exception of real emergencies, to the dollar present in the account.


    Thanks, Brian! Like I mentioned in the post, we actually have several different savings accounts that we’ve created for different sinking funds or special goals. We also keep some emergency funds local (for super quick access) and some online through ING. For the most part, these funds are pretty static though. Most of our transactions come out of our joint checking account.

Carrie Burgan

We have a joint savings/checking/money market account with the credit union and a separate joint “emergency fund” account. I have a small business account (my name only for liability reasons) and he has his credit union bank account from college, but we divert his check into our account, saving a bit to cover his student loans out of the other. We went through Financial Peace University ten months before we were married and this helped us lay a solid foundation, considering we both had a lot of debt. We argue about many things, but very rarely do we argue about money. That’s a rarity in our families! We budget each month and look over the family finances. We have equal access to the check book and our online passwords are stored via a super-encrypted program called Passerby. We have one main access password and both of us can get into the other person’s accounts. We feel that hiding parts of our goings-on breeds distrust!
.-= Carrie Burgan´s last blog ..Winner & Wrap-Up: Living In the Trenches Giveaway =-.


    Awesome, Carrie! It sounds like you are guys are right on track with your finances and your personal money management system. We did the Dave Ramsey plan through self-teaching since no classes were available in our area. However, our Diocese is bringing Financial Peace University to our area, and it sounds like I may be a facilitator! 🙂


In our Marriage Prep 101 workshops, many of our couples ask our opinions about joint or separate finances. Unfortunately, there is no good research about which way is better. We believe that sharing money may be the most intimate, trusting act that couples embark on. We have shared money since we got engaged, and I came to the marriage with $120,000 PhD Student Loan Debt! We have had our share of financial arguments, but have certainly grown from them. We recommend that couples check out “Money Habitudes” and consider seeing a financial advisor together.
.-= Michelle Gannon´s last blog ..“The Happiness Project” Book Review =-.


    Great advice as always, Michelle! Thanks for sharing it! And, I think I’m glad my wife only brought around $12,000 in student loan debt to our marriage…we didn’t need that extra “0”. 🙂


I believe pretty strongly in the joint everything approach. It does require trust and communication, but it also builds them, which in and of itself might be an argument for doing it that way.
.-= Scott´s last blog ..Perfection and Paradigms =-.


    Thanks, Scott. In our relationship, I would definitely agree that the trust and communication aspects of our money management have had a huge positive impact on our marriage overall.


I’ve also done it both ways. In my first marriage, my instinct was to have separate accounts, but my ex-husband believed that all things should be combined and shared and, though hesitant, I went along with this. Unfortunately, it turned out that he had horrible spending habits and with him constantly drawing out of the pot, I was bouncing checks left and right! He still didn’t want separate accounts, so I just paid for everything with money orders and that worked fine.

In my current marriage, we kept our accounts and banks separate until we were married. Once we got married, we moved all our accounts to the same bank and set up separate checking and savings, but a shared household account – all of which are accessible under the same log in.

I agree with “no secrets” in the money arena – and in every arena. Gary and I have a policy of transparency in our marriage because we know how hard it is to earn trust once lost/damaged/bruised and that should doubts/fears/questions/hesitations arise, the fewer excuses/lies/explanations/confessions the better. Control/privacy of money isn’t worth the risk to us. There are bigger things to worry about and we want to be free to focus on those.
.-= Newlywed & Unemployed´s last blog ..Guest Posting Day! =-.


    Thanks for the great comment, Kate! I think your last paragraph does an excellent job of summarizing why openness and “no secrets” are so vital to a healthy marriage.


My wife and I were discussing this issue last night with some friends. The way we currently operate our finances is that we have one joint account, and also a separate account each. Money to cover joint expenses (household bills, food, rent etc) is automatically transferred at the beginning of each month, and the amounts are proportional to our respective incomes. Whatever is left over is ours to do with as we see fit, although we are always open with each other about any big purchases we are making. We also have a savings account for big ticket items, future plans etc.

I think that a dual system is the best because, no matter what anyone says, two people do not automatically become one person when they get married. To say this is to essentially say ‘you now have no individuality’, in which case why would you want to be married to them? With a joint account plus a separate account you are acknowledging and, indeed, respecting that person’s individuality (which is reflected in their spending habits, amongst other things).

Respect for each others’ individuality, however this might be manifested, is in my view the key to a healthy relationship. Furthermore, having open communication in a relationship is not predicated on needing to know what each other is spending over and above that which has been mutually agreed upon. That ‘need to know’ suggests an unhealthy controlling element in the relationship, in my opinion.


    Thanks for your great comment, Richard. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on your general opinion regarding “oneness” in marriage. I understand your viewpoint that “two people do not become one” when they get married, and I obviously agree with that from a physical standpoint. We still remain two different persons with our own individual personalities.

    However, spiritually and emotionally, I actually do believe that we become one. We form a wholly new family unit and we pledge unity for life. In religious terms, we enter a Sacrament and become one flesh that can never be separated in the eyes of God. Heavy stuff, yes, but relevant to the formation of my viewpoint.

    Religion and spirituality aside, I believe that the unity that husband and wife share is very important, including in their financial life. I understand that you feel you only need to “disclose” your expenditures to your wife up to a certain amount, and beyond that it is your individual business what you do with your money. If that creates harmony in your relationship, I’m happy to hear it.

    I happen to have a fundamentally different perspective where that sort of “arrangement” doesn’t make sense. WE have money in OUR household, so there is no individual accounting or disclosure agreements. It’s all our money and we communicate openly about how we plan to spend, save and invest it for the good of our marriage and our family.

    Again, thank you for your thought-provoking comment and for being a reader!


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We do both. Our combined expenses are paid out of a joint account that we both contribute to (about 50/50) and we have a few joint savings accounts for various things (new car in the future, a place to put our income tax refund, etc_. But the rest of it is separate and we love it that way.

We have never argued about money in the year and a half that we’ve been married. Not once. If money is the #1 argument among married couples I’d say that’s pretty good.

We’re not rolling in dough either. We have a limit on what we can spend on the joint account without conversation with the other, and so far our system has been great. I never begrudge my husband anything that he buys for himself with his money, and he never lifts an eyebrow when I come home shopping.


    I’m glad this is working for you, NA. This seems to be a pretty popular approach, especially among newlyweds who bring two accounts to the marriage.


Separate. While we both generally agree on money, we would fight about the small stuff that doesn’t matter. We both have our responsibilities to pay certain bills, and are free to spend/save/invest what is left over. This works mainly because in the big picture – we both have similar values.


    Thanks for your thoughts, Marc. Certainly more important than the structure of your accounts is the consistency of your values.

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My fiance and I will ALWAYS have a joint and a separate account. We are contributing a set amount into our joint account every month, and then the rest of the money is used how we please. As a woman, I have to protect myself financially should (heaven forbid) anything happen in our marriage.


    Thank you for your thoughts, Kelsey. I understand that you have a mix of accounts like many others in the comments. However, your last sentence concerned me a bit when I read it. It seems like there could be some underlying fear or trust stuff going on regarding your finances. Hopefully, that’s not the case at all, but I’d be interested to hear more on your perspective if you feel comfortable sharing it.


My wife and I have a joint account. She handles all the bill payments, and everything and I have to ask permission every time I want to make a purchase. She is of the everything is OURS ilk. I think there should be certain personal off limit things, including money, so long as all the mutual expenses, i.e mortgage, rent, food utilities, etc. are shared and covered. My wife is so tight and a save savvy that it irritates me. Add to that, she is a credit counselor by occupation and I can barely squeeze a penny out of her. It’s so bad she has actually gone through the storage compartment in my truck looking for loose change and taken it because it’s “OUR” money. My fault in all of this is I knew that’s how she was before we got married and we argued about it, but since I knew I wouldn’t win the argument I gave in and said okay, have it your way, and we have joint a account. Since we married, any personal purchase, on my end, especially major ones like a new computer or truck, has been a major uphill battle to get her to submit. Anyway, I think you should absolutely have separate money for personal thing that the other can’t dictate how it’s spent. I men you work hard for your paycheck, you should be able to use a little of it for yourself. Separate allowances or accounts will avoid hopefully arguments. But the most important part of my story is to know how you each feel before marriage, and never yield on it if you disagree like I did. Your better off not getting married at all. Trust me.


    Thanks for your comment, Joe. I have to say that your comment was both insightful and quite upsetting. I really feel for you and it’s clear that you have some bigger issues going on in your marriage that are being reflected in the controlling manner that the finances are being handled. I fear that control would be there whether you had separate or joint accounts, and I think it would manifest itself in other ways (if it isn’t already). Your last two sentences are quite telling.

    I’d strongly suggest you and your wife seek some counseling and try to get back to a healthy place in your marriage, man. Please let me know if there is some way that I can help.

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Female Minister

I believe and embrace the oneness philosophy; and my husband and I added each other’s names on each other’s banking/saving accounts at the onset of marriage 13 plus years ago. However, my husband feels like he needs freedom to spend without having to communicate or seek concensus for smaller purchases ($500 below). Also, we occassionally disagree about expenditures (whether small or large) regarding family members, including his adult daughter. To reduce agruments and stress in the marriage, I’m considering separating our finances. However, spiritually, I feel like we’re fiscally divorcinng; and I understand that long-term, we will be accountable for each other’s fiscal fruits or debts, which may compromise the quality of life for our child, who is currently a minor, or life after the surviving spouse. I want to be a crown unto my husband as opposed to a disease that eats at the autonomy of his manhood. I want to act in accordance to the Word of God. Please advise.


    Thanks for your open and insightful comment, Female Minister. Given your name, I feel like I should be asking you for advice on this one. 🙂

    In your case, it really does sound like separating your finances is in a way demonstrating a lack of trust and a breakdown in your communication. You even used the words “fiscally divorcing” which is a pretty powerful statement of how this is making you feel.

    All I can offer is opinions, but it really sounds like you guys need to open up on the real issues in play here. In many ways your money squabbles seem like symptoms of some other concerns regarding his daughter and his feeling that he is somehow losing some of his independence by have to get consensus before spending anything less than $500. From my perspective, $500 is a LOT of money, and that seems like an extremely high ceiling for what one spouse could spend without discussing it with their partner.

    It also sounds like you guys would greatly benefit from a budget, so you could have regular communication and agree to the financial plan up front rather than fighting about it either as it comes up or after the fact when one of you feels a bit betrayed that the other spent unplanned money.

    Again, I only have opinions based on very limited information, but I strongly stand by the “oneness” philosophy that you have lived by for more than 13 years. I don’t think splitting up your finances at this point is going to accomplish anything other than delaying dealing with the issues you need to deal with.

    Thank you for visiting the site, and I hope you guys are able to face these issues and get back to enjoying the God-given marriage that you have been blessed with.

Female Minister

Thank you. I appreciate your service.


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What about bankruptcy, or financial difficulties? Having family members who are self-employed, I know that separate bank accounts have saved married couples from a lot of financial hardships when one spouse hit a rough spot in business. Lawsuits, bankruptcy, poor credit ratings, etc… not that you want to plan to get in those situations, but if something goes wrong, sometimes a separate account can help a couple better stay afloat by containing a problem.


    Thanks for the great questions, Anon. I am NOT a lawyer, and I certainly don’t know the specific legal circumstances where different account set-ups are beneficial.

    That said, it seems to me that any business should have a business banking account that is totally separate from the household anyway. And the business should be separated as much as possible from personal assets (through an LLC or other legal protection). If that is the case, I don’t see where having separate accounts on the personal side helps much.

    However, if there are legal benefits to separate personal accounts (and there very well may be, then that’s okay. You can certainly have separate accounts but still work *together* with your money. And that’s the real key.


      Yeah, that makes sense. I’m getting married this summer, just looking into these sorts of things. Planning to go with a combination of personal accounts (I’m largely self-employed too), and a joint account, but that makes sense—the important part is working together with finances.


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I think whatever works best for the couple is all that matters. That said, for me it’s a hybrid. I think that a certain amount should go into each partner’s separate account, although the majority should go into a main account. This allows spouses to spend some of their own money — allowance or whatever you call it — without the partners breathing down their necks. A little fun money should be spent as the person wants, without fear of admonition from the other.
.-= Abigail´s last blog ..Getting the most from rewards programs =-.


    Thanks, Abigail! I definitely agree that what actually *works* best for the couple is the right way to go, although sometimes we don’t realize how much better we could be doing until we try something different.

    I agree with your general suggestion, but we do it a bit differently. We don’t see the need for separate accounts because we just allocate a certain amount of “personal fun” money each month that we each spend however we want. It is part of the budget, and it does come from our single account, but it’s ours to spend however we’d like individually. If we don’t spend it, we can “donate” it back to our larger goals or just pocket it until next month.

    That works for us. 😉


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We have separate accounts and my husband is making way more then I do. It always bothered me that I didn’t have any access to HIS or OUR money. He deposed once dissent amount on my account, but then every time I asked him for money he started to list all things he is paying for. Things got worse when I became a mom, it took me a while to get a credit card from him, which he would be responsible for, but I didn’t feel comfortable charging my personal shopping items on it, so I was using my parent’s money for that. Now when I’m back to work I’m glad to be making money and hoped to have it all to myself, but he is asking me now to pay the bills!!! I’m coming from Russia and Man is always supposed to take financial care of his woman and all her needs. Maybe that’s why it’s difficult for me to cope with the notion that I have to pay some bills, when he is making much more, not giving me access to his money. all my Russian friends have same issues, I guess we want our money to ourselves plus man’s financial care, but it doesn’t seem to work here.


    Margo, thank you so much for sharing your insights. I really feel for you in your situation, as I would definitely NOT consider this a healthy way to handle finances in a marriage.

    Of course, I am not attune to your cultural differences, but it sure sounds to me like your husband is being awfully controlling in the finances. It’s one thing to provide for or even “take care” of your wife, but it’s a different matter when you have to “ask permission for a credit card” or get money from your parents in order to go shopping. This is not the way that I recommend a relationship be handled, and this is also not the “American Way” when it come to money in marriage.

    I really think you both would benefit greatly by working together with your money. I don’t know the extent of your issues, but if the control issues are really serious, you may want to consider sitting down together with a marriage counselor to help you guys find a healthier balance.


My husband started off with joint accounts – which was fine at first, til he had a breakdown six months into our marriage and completely screwed his life up – after that unfortunately all it meant is I’d go to pay the rent and bills and buy food on payday and find he’d blown all our pay on drugs.

So we moved to one joint account and an account in my name only. Which worked when I was the one doing the majority of the paid work, but when our daughter was born, I quit work (and he got fired). We still maintained the old system, but my parenting payment didn’t cover the bills and his unemployment payment was all going on drugs.

When he finally started working, thankfully there was usually enough left after his drug splurge on payday for the rent and some bills to be paid.

In the end though, when he finally got full time work (meaning my parenting payment was cut off altogether), it was a disaster that even separate bank accounts couldn’t fix. When he went on drug binges, there was no income of my own to ensure our little girl had food and local charities basically all have a policy they will only help people twice within 12 months.

In addition to this, many things like the electricity, gas, phones, credit cards, etc were in my name only as he had a history of debt defaults before we got married and no company or bank would allow him to apply for anything. Which meant we seperated, he had run up $3000 on my credit card (a lot of it by sneaking it out of my purse and getting cash advances to buy drugs), $1000 in unpaid bills in my name, and $80,000 in debts in both of our names (even though he got all the money) which he then stopped paying as soon as he took off.

Thankfully I was able to negotiate with one bank because they realised with me on a disability pension due to injuries from my ex husband I could never pay back the $10,000 he owed them and it was a very simple matter proving he had received all the money and I had got none of it, but the rest of the debt, I’m still paying off (and probably will for life).

Of course the ideal is joint bank accounts, but not all marriages stay ideal and sometimes too late you find out you’re married to a selfish person who would let your baby starve to feed their drug habit. Even in cases where there is no abuse, sometimes people are simply no good with money – obviously it would be best for them to learn how to be responsible, but while they are working it out, it would make sense to have seperate accounts.

It all comes down to intent – what would help the marriage and what would hurt it?


    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Julie. You and your daughter have been through so much, it hurts me to hear it. I grew in a home full of abuse and an alcoholic father, so needless to say my parents’ money situation was similarly terrible. My parents eventually divorced and remarried later after the alcohol problem was addressed.

    I think the main lesson I take from hearing your experiences is that no amount of planning or good intentions will fix a marriage when a serious addiction is involved. Given your ex husband’s drug problem, you simply could not thrive (and would be fortunate to simply survive) under any system, which to me makes the discussion regarding separate vs. joint accounts meaningless under those circumstances.

    Thanks again for sharing your very personal and painful story.


Dustin wrote, “Thanks for the great questions, Anon. I am NOT a lawyer, and I certainly don’t know the specific legal circumstances where different account set-ups are beneficial.

That said, it seems to me that any business should have a business banking account that is totally separate from the household anyway. And the business should be separated as much as possible from personal assets (through an LLC or other legal protection). If that is the case, I don’t see where having separate accounts on the personal side helps much.

However, if there are legal benefits to separate personal accounts (and there very well may be, then that’s okay. You can certainly have separate accounts but still work *together* with your money. And that’s the real key.”

Dustin, while reading this article and comments all I could do was chuckle quite a bit considering the questions and strategies many of my readers/clients drag to my doormat.

If you think the question about a joint versus separate checking account is a big issue just imagine dealing with this hypothetical.

Two self-made entrepreneurs, both from middle to upper middle class families, in their late twenties decide to get married. The male comes with about $3m of on balance sheet debt with a ‘viewable’ net worth of about nothing and a doctoral degree. His monthly cash-flow from passive sources is about $100k per month. The female comes to the table with about $20m of assets, most of it ‘viewable’, no debt and is currently in finishing her MBA. The male, because of several business and legal arrangements, is required to have a prenuptial while the female has no such entanglements; although she should probably want a prenuptial (which I recommend in almost all cases as all they really are is modifications to boilerplate terms of the marriage contract and can always be used to provide greater financial and legal protections to both parties).

Or better yet, how about a couple which has been married for about 30 years. By ‘getting separated’ and properly documenting and arranging their affairs, in addition to a few other things and actions, they may be able to legally decrease some of their expenses by about $300-500k per year. Separate checking accounts would be extremely useful in this instance.

So, I think your final statement hits on the critical issue. If two people are going to be crazy enough to engage in a merger then it only makes sense to align their foci to use all the financial and legal tools available to legally provide the level of financial and legal protection they desire while at the same time minimizing their individual risk. The question of a joint or shared bank account is only a leaf on a branch of the tree and nowhere near the root. And one of the things that is really sad is the State’s involvement at all in this sacred institution that such materialistic considerations become so seemingly important.
.-= How To Vanish´s last blog ..Keep Your Home Address To Yourself =-.


    How to Vanish, those are some fascinating case studies! While I’d like to have some of their financial “problems” it seems to me that the issue of joint or separate accounts in those cases is relegated to quite a minor consideration. I like your last line most of all…I couldn’t agree more with you there!

    By the way, you should check out my post on prenuptial agreements…I’m sure you’ll have something to add there. 🙂

    Thanks for your contributions to this discussion!


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My husband and I have a joint account and we each have a separate checking account. We have all income automatically put into the joint account. We use that account for all family expenses. Then, each month, I deposit a set amount of money into each of our separate accounts, like an allowance. That is what I use if I want to buy something for myself, like clothes, music, etc. The amount is small, less than $100, and it allows me to buy frivolous things without feeling like I have to ask permission–and my husband can, too, with his own money. As a SAHM, that helps me feel like I have some money of my own even though I don’t earn an income. As for gifts, I deposit a set amount into our accounts. For example, with Mother’s Day coming up, I’ll deposit some money into my husband’s separate account. This way, he can buy me a gift and keep it a surprise. This approach allows us to stay within our budget, work together on our family goals, and still have some autonomy on the fun little things we each want.
.-= TXMom2B´s last blog ..Andrew’s New Room! =-.


    Thanks TXMom2B! I actually really like the system you have going with your financial management. Thanks so much for sharing your approach with our community!


We actually have both. We have a joint account for almost everything and separate accounts for an “allowance.” The allowance can be used for whatever we want – he buys comic books, I buy running clothes, and we can transfer money from the joint account into our personal accounts for gifts. I actually remember putting the note on one of these transfers as “NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, ANDREW.”

It was for a birthday present for him. 🙂


    Awesome, Nena! It sounds like you take a similar approach to TXMom2B above, and it seems like a great system that works well in your marriage. And nice work on keeping the birthday present a surprise! 😉


Great discussion! When my husband and I married 13 years ago, we saw joint accounts as the only option. We had no assets, only liabilities. School loans, and his credit card debt. 😉 I’ve always been in charge of the finances, and paid off his debt quickly, and this made us both happy. We’ve both worked, except when I was in school and during my maternity leaves.

However — there is an interesting “side-effect” of joint accounts. When we got married, I knew that my credit scores were *way* better than his (after all, he had credit card debt, as well as other minor issues like bounced checks). After being married for a few years, we had our scores ran when we were getting our first mortgage. His was *significantly* better than mine! How was this possible? We shared everything financially! Our scores should be the SAME!

I then learned of a paternalistic standard from “times of yore” that is still be in play in the financial world: if you jointly apply for something (like a credit card or mortgage), the male is placed as the “primary” and the female is the “secondary.” Our joint accounts were his first, then mine — at least according to the bank and the credit score number crunchers.

This lead me to make a slight change in my manner for managing the finances. I applied for a credit card in my name ONLY. Then added my husband’s name as a secondary after it was approved. My credit score improved quickly. Strange, huh?


    Thanks for your great insight, Kristen! I wasn’t aware of the “paternalistic standard” and that’s really interesting. I see how that could effect your credit scores for debt accounts like a credit card, but I don’t believe your bank accounts have any effect on your FICO scores.


      Hi again! Yep, FICO scores are not dependent on your assets, but they do account for bounced checks. Also, I consider (and I think most Americans do) credit cards and mortgages a big of the “family finances”, not just bank accounts.

      I wasn’t aware of the “standard” either until it affect me. I think the mortgage professional explained it to me because I was so miffed at the different scores!


In general, i believe joint accounts are the way to go, that way the finances are about us and not each individual. But, i do think each partner should have an account dedicated for personal spending money. It shouldnt be a lot, but everyone should have access to some cash that they know is theirs and that they can use however they want. If this can be done with a joint account, maybe by giving each partner some cash every month, then thats even better.


    I’m with you, Stephan! I think any healthy budget needs to have some “free money” that each spouse can spend however they choose. I don’t think this should be based on a percentage of “their” individual income, though, but rather should be an equal amount to support a unified approach to their money.


      o ya definitely dustin, it has to be equal, if its not, the marriage will certainly suffer as one will feel superior and the other will feel like a lesser part of the marriage


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This is a great article, with insightful comments!

My fiance and I have a similar approach to many of the commenters above. We figured out what our monthly bills (rent, food, insurance, gas, etc.) were and deposit enough into a joint checking account to cover them. With the rest of our paychecks, we transfer certain percentages into various ING savings accounts (for down payment, vacation, etc.) and our retirement accounts. What’s left we get to spend on ourselves/gifts/charity/etc. (we’re still discussing whether we will keep separate accounts for this – I’d like to). He is doing a combination of freelance and part-time work right now, so his income is uneven, while I’m fortunate(especially in Michigan!) to have a fulfilling salaried job with benefits. Because my income is higher, I contribute about twice as much to the joint checking and savings. I’m fine with it, since he is doing what he loves and setting himself up for future success and fulfillment in his career. I expect that we will take turns as the higher earner over the course of our marriage, and I want us to contribute proportionally to our incomes with no judgement or guilt, since we make career decisions together and want the best for each other spiritually and intellectually as well as financially.

Some commenters mentioned that they give their partner an allowance (or receive one) from a joint account or the the other person’s account, but I think I would feel uncomfortable doing this. I’d rather keep some of the money I bring in, or have him keep his, than transfer from one of us to the other. I’m not sure why.


    Thanks for sharing your plan, Katie! It sounds like you guys are on the same page and working together, which is vital. I think the reason you’d feel uncomfortable giving your spouse an allowance is because that would be treating them like a child, which is the wrong approach of course. It’s all about making decisions together and working in unity with your money.

marriage saving

If you’ve found a system that works for you…stick with it. Otherwise, experiment with other things until you find one that you are both happy with. Read through the comments to this blog…you’ll find plenty of suggestions for you to consider.

The key is for the both of you to agree before implementing the system, so that you both have ownership.


My husband and I have been happily married for 25 years. In the past 25 years, we have many joint accounts as well as many separate checking accounts. Each account has its own purpose.

For example, if my husband and I own a rental property together, we’d set up a joint account that mainly takes care of all the bills related to that rental property.

My husband collect stamps on a regular basis, so he has his own checking account that only for stamp-related purchase. It makes a lot easier to see how much he has spent on his stamps.

We also have a joint account that only takes care of the household expenses, such as mortgage payments, utility bills, food, insurance, car payments and any household related expenses. This account basically handles all our “fixed” expenses, so we have a good idea on how much our monthly fixed expense is.

Besides “fixed” expense account, we also have our “vacation” joint account. Every month we put aside some money and deposit it to this account. Vacation is very important to our family. Knowing how much we can afford a vacation gives us the ability to plan ahead and enjoy our vacation even more!

So, should you and your spouse use a single joint checking account or should you choose to keep separate accounts? Well, it all depends on how you use these accounts for.


All of our accounts are joint. I cannot imagine not having a joint account. We want everything to be ours together; everything is shared. Nothing is just “mine.”

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