4 Reasons to Say 'I Do' to Joint Finances

Research shows sharing money with your significant other will lead to a happier marriage.

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Portrait of happy couple paying with credit card in store
Blend Images/AlamyJoining your finances in marriage fosters a sense of teamwork and can help spouses reach money goals together.
By Holly Johnson

Every married couple has to decide how to make their household work. It can be challenging enough to figure out the small details like who will be in charge of laundry and dishes or who cares for the lawn and garden. But what about money? That's where things get interesting. Many couples combine their finances and pay all bills and expenses out of joint accounts. Others keep separate finances or take on a hybrid approach. But is that the best way?

According to research referenced in Bloomberg View, couples who pool all their resources report a higher level of happiness within their relationship than those who don't. Couples who pooled most of their money were happier as well. For example, couples who pooled 80 percent of their money were happier than those who pooled 70 percent, and so on. It's hard to say why this is the case, but some experts believe couples who share their finances just have less to argue about.

Say 'I Don't' to Toxic Money Arguments

If having joint finances means adding less fuel to the fire, then most people would say that's a good thing. This is especially true when you consider the growing body of research that shows money arguments can be lethal to a marriage. For example, arguments about money are the top predictor of divorce, according to a study last year by Sonya Britt, director of personal financial planning at Kansas State University.

"It's not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It's money -- for both men and women," Britt wrote in a press release. The findings held up even when accounting for income and net worth, according to the study of more than 4,500 couples. And unfortunately, those money arguments die a slow death in most relationships, if they even die at all.

"You can measure people's money arguments when they are very first married," Britt said. "It doesn't matter how long ago it was, but when they were first together and already arguing about money, there is a good chance they are going to have poor relationship satisfaction."

4 Ways Joint Finances Can Improve Your Marriage

Research shows that money arguments get ugly -- and stay ugly -- more often than not. But, what if you could avoid these types of arguments altogether or at least limit them? If you're on the fence about combining finances when you get married, consider these benefits:
  1. No haggling with each other. When you have separate accounts, you have to negotiate who is going to pay each bill or how to split them in a fair way. On the other hand, having joint accounts allows you to avoid the awkwardness of haggling with your spouse by handling all bills and expenses jointly.
  2. Dream together, save together. When you've committed your life to another person, you've committed to building a future, and perhaps even a family, with your one true love. Having joint finances means chasing down dreams together and pooling your resources to make those dreams come true.
  3. Joint finances build a sense of teamwork. You know the saying, there's no "I" in "Team." Well, nothing says you're out for yourself more than keeping separate score cards from the get-go. But it doesn't have to be that way. Having joint finances helps you grow as a team by forcing you to create joint goals and work together to achieve them.
  4. The beauty of complete transparency. Having joint finances means you truly have nothing to hide. When all money is in one pot, you are forced to be accountable to one another and compromise on any money issues that might arise.
Money issues can make or break a relationship, and it's easy to see why pooling your money could lead to more happiness and contentment within your marriage. After all, marriage isn't just about the union of two souls; it's about becoming a family and sharing your joint goals and dreams. So, put away your separate checkbook, and bring your marriage to the next level by proving you're a team in every sense of the word. Saying "I do" to joint finances is the perfect way to do just that.

Holly Johnson is the founder of personal finance website, Club Thrifty, which provides tips for frugal living, budgeting, and more. Holly also writes about frugality and travel at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and her other website, Travel Blue Book.


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14 Comments

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raginnftmfs

It's a nice thought to think marriages will always work out, but the truth is they don't and money is an oft quoted reason. So you need to have all those discussion, hopefully, before you tie the knot. At http://www.mutualfundstore.com/financial-impact-marriage, you can learn about all kinds of potential financial impacts you should know about. It's not just the savings and checking accounts. It's a huge step to say you will spend the rest of your life with someone and you should consider as many aspects as possible.

May 16 2014 at 12:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bp17200etal

Keep it separate. Buy property separate. Cover it with powers of attorney for each of you. Be open with each other but each should have their own accounts. Pay expenses anyway you want. You never know when one of you will get sued. Joint accounts are vulnerable for everything. If you don't trust each other then don't get married.

April 26 2014 at 11:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dollibug

Most retirement accounts, if set up through an employer, requires the spouse to be the one to get the money, if something happens....UNLESS the spouse signs over the ok for it to be left to another person. Both mine and my spouse's were like this but I do NOT know if it is a *state regulation or a federal regulation*.

April 26 2014 at 3:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jesse.tropman

Ill tell you one thing that saved us a bundle after we got married (6 years now) but first I want to point out that if you are married it is pretty rare that you do NOT have joint finances. I would be offended if my wife did not want them with me, and vice versa.
Well we got married, have one little guy running around, and a princess on the way, so I knew we needed life insurance. I actually got talked into a policy when I was 25 by one of my Dad's friends who is a financial advisor. I was paying about $200 a month to this, and the point was that it would save money. Well after I got married and had a kid I realized that I needed more insurance, but could afford another few hundred bucks a month.
After doing some research and watching Dave Ramsey and Suzey Orman talk about it, I realized that I could get the way more coverage for about $25 bucks with a term policy. I went to LifeAnt because it was easy to find the cheapest policy ($23), or you can talk to a prudential or LP advisor or whoever you use too if you like being sold. Now I actually save more for retirement with the difference. If you havn't heard of buy term and invest the difference watch Suze or Dave sometime its good stuff.

April 26 2014 at 2:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jesse.tropman's comment
bp17200etal

My wife and I have every thing separate. However, we don't buy anything over a few bucks without telling the other. She has my account passwords and I have hers. The same with credit cards. The house is in my name. When we buy the second home it will probably be in her name She is the beneficiary for everything I own and I am the beneficiary for everything she owns, We do this just in case something bad happens to one of us, the other has funds that can't easily be touched. Trust each other (or don't get married), but protect your partnership from outsiders.

April 26 2014 at 11:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fred

Been married once to the same gal 40+ years. One that I would add: If one spouse dies, the other has immediate access, whatever the account may be (house, checking, savings etc.). Also, Be sure to complete survival forms/beneficary for Roths, IRS's, 401k's etc.

April 26 2014 at 1:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SPQR

Well it is good to be optimistic in a very pessimistic world. We will see how the gay marriages work out in a few years. If only marriages worked out nicely and 2 people could work together to reach a goal and be happy.

April 26 2014 at 11:14 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
SPQR

WOmen get married for mony and men for sex..basically! Women are 100 times more dveious than men and you never know what they are doing. If the woman is good to a man the man will usually reciprocate. Get a prenup and post nup!!! Iron Clad if you have any money! Women think that getting married means they own everything! His and hers forever !

April 26 2014 at 11:06 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
bigwave48

This is the worst advice i've ever heard. Today more then 50% of marriages end in divorce.
One of the main reasons to keep your finances separate, If you get married, have each
partner signe an agreement, that your credit card debt is your own. Sign a prenub. Make
sure the retirement accounts, savings, are not community property, make sure there is
a clause, requiring approval for any home equity loans, or loans against 401 k accounts.
My daughter is going through a divorce , with a debt creator. If you don't do this your
partner can ruin you.

April 26 2014 at 10:27 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
nevadan99

My wife and I have his, mine, and ours. We each contribute to the household expenses and what we keep for ourselves, we spend the way we want. Never any arguments.

April 26 2014 at 10:25 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jim1392

Why bother getting married then? Just live together. Less expense for you so you won't have to pay for the divorce!!

April 26 2014 at 9:54 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jim1392's comment
SPQR

I would agree. 50 years ago joint finances were the way to go, but not anymore. Just charge your significant other rent. Women out spend men 10 to 1. Men have 2 pairs of shoes and women 50. Men have one wallet until it disintegrates and women have to have a purse for every occassion and outfit; it could easily be $3000 in purses at any one time. There are some great women who actually commit to the relationship, not many but a few

April 26 2014 at 10:21 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply