Money is one of the top sources of conflict in marriages, especially when sharing expenses. It can lead to arguments, lack of trust, and more. Combining finances after marriage can be scary. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, you can have thriving finances and a thriving marriage; you just need to know how to do it properly for both you and your partner. If you’re thinking about merging finances with your partner, there are some important things to consider.
There is no right or wrong way of managing your finances as a couple after marriage. However, it is more common to combine finances after marriage.
How you handle your finances will depend on a few different factors:
- How much (or if) both partners are working
- Financial goals; including savings, investments, etc.
- If there is a prenup in place or if one partner has different needs (ie. business funds, irregular income, etc)
- Future plans; will you have kids and if so, will one parent stay at home?
Depending on your answers, and your personalities, this will help you decide if you should combine finances or not.
What percent of couples combine finances?
Based on a 2020 NerdWallet survey, more than three-quarters of respondents (or 77%) combine their finances at least partly with their partner. However, this varied by age too — Gen Z was less likely to combine their finances with their partner than Gen X.
How many married couples keep separate finances?
Again, this is dependent on age, but about a quarter of couples based on the study above kept separate finances. So this means combining finances after marriage is more likely than not.
Can financial stress ruin a marriage?
Yes, it can. A study by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis showed that money issues are the third leading cause (22%) of all divorces (behind infidelity and incompatibility). This means that nearly 1/4 of all divorces are largely because of money issues with their spouse.
This is why it’s so important to make sure that if you combine your finances, you have plenty of conversations about what that entails and an understanding and agreement on how it will all work.
It’s not if you should or shouldn’t, but if you want to. It is possible to combine finances after marriage without difficulty. And, it can help make everyday tasks like paying bills or buying groceries easier. This is because it will all come out of one account.
But, if you and your spouse have different goals and plans like one person wants to save more for retirement and one really wants to buy a house, it may not always be the best idea to start combining finances after marriage.
Should you combine bank accounts after marriage?
You should if you want to and if your spouse agrees to it. It can make many things easier, but it will depend on what you want to do as a couple. If you don’t want to merge finances completely, you can open a joint account for bills and spending and have separate accounts for savings and other goals.
How are bills split in marriage?
Many couples pay their household bills from a joint account, where each spouse contributes a portion of their income. After bills, each spouse uses their own accounts for individual savings, financial goals, and personal spending.
Some marriages are completely separate, where each spouse has a set of bills to pay, and no one shares money. And some marriages are completely combined, where spending and savings all come from one checking and one savings account (that each spouse has access to).
Yes and no. Your marriage finances should be equitable, not 50/50. In other words, both parties should be able to feel good about their contributions.
Usually, you should split your finances based on the person making the least amount of money.
For example, if one partner makes more, and wants to live in a fancier area, they should technically pay more in costs (since the person making less wouldn’t be able to afford it as much otherwise). Or, if a stay-at-home mom can’t contribute financially, that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be able to buy what she needs and wants from time to time since she is contributing to the household in other ways (childcare, cleaning, cooking, etc.).
All of this depends on what you and your partner decide. But, both parties should be able to pay their part of the bills, and still be able to reach their individual financial goals.
How To Start Combining Finances After Marriage
As you can see, it’s fairly common to combine finances after marriage. But how do you do it to avoid arguments or resentment?
Here are some tips to help you make better decisions when combining finances after marriage.
1) Be Honest About Your Finances
Couples should know the basic details of each of their financial circumstances.
- credit ratings,
- loans (including student loans),
- and their income.
- Also, it’s important to know your spouse’s money grievances and money management style.
This is why it’s so important to talk about money and spending with an unbiased view. If you can avoid passing judgment, you can make your companion feel safe. And this can pave the way to a partnership based on open communication — and easier money management.
Whether you’re marrying somebody born and raised in a wealthy or impoverished household, you may have different viewpoints on money management.
Instead of putting off uncomfortable conversations in the early stages of your relationship, be straightforward in your questions about their financial management.
Money can be a confusing subject to discuss. And some individuals can become dismissive about their consumption habits — like exaggerating how much they end up saving.
Obviously, once you’re married, these are harder to figure out or work on, so at the very least, be open and honest. And, if you feel at any point that you don’t want to deal with finances together, it’s okay to switch to managing your money separately.
3) Seek Professional Guidance
Couples therapy provides a safe environment where boundaries can be established and imposed. This allows both you and your partner to genuinely open up, communicate about your desires, and resolve problems while staying safe. No one wants money to cause their separation (although it does happen).
Instead, relationship counseling helps you put in the effort to avoid divorce and strengthen your bond as a couple. However, therapy is only as good as your willingness to participate.
Be open to listening and understanding each other, connecting, and being genuine to manage all your unsettled misunderstandings. This can make a huge difference in your relationship and your finances, so don’t take it lightly.
When it comes to combining your finances after marriage, you and your spouse have three main choices.
You can go all in, combining your finances into one checking and one savings account.
You can find a happy medium, where you share a joint account for bills and combined savings and have separate accounts for other goals and spending.
Or, you can keep things completely independent. This means finding another way to pay your joint bills and making an agreement on who pays what and when.
Even though combining finances can promote accountability and honesty, in worse cases, it can also lead to manipulative behavior and a loss of freedom concerning some transactions. Spouses with joint accounts must be able to discuss clearly and collaborate to reach their financial goals.
5) Keep Track Of Your Finances
Whether you maintain one or several accounts, you could use a system to keep track of your money. You could use any of the resources available for monitoring your money, no matter what system works best for you.
Joint account tracking may be as simple as connecting your accounts to your chosen finance management software. But tracking your expenses is another good way to prevent money fights and financial infidelity.
6) Plan Your Finances
Financial planning is essential for couples, especially if you have a single account. If you spend without notifying one another, you may find out that you’re spending more than you’re making.
Budgeting isn’t exciting, and having a joint bank account can be scary, but it’s better than constantly worrying about funds all on your own. And planning can also determine who will handle what bills based on their financial situation.
It is critical to audit your finances with your companion regularly. Having regular conversations in your daily life is a smart option. Of course, life gets busy, and it’s easy to ignore these conversations when you have other priorities. But it’s important to keep up.
8) Decide Who Pays For What
After generating a financial plan, you’ll need to decide who pays what bills.
There are some choices to make here.
- You can build a budget and split it 50/50.
- You can also split expenses based on your earnings if one of you receives significantly less than the other.
Whatever way is the best way for you and your spouse, go with that. And make a note to check in from time to time to see if this arrangement is still working.
Merging Your Finances After Marriage
When determining whether to merge your finances with your spouse, you’ll want to make sure that the budget and merging work for both of you. And as always, be sure to reassess things regularly to ensure you’re both satisfied with how things are going.
Marriage and finances don’t have to be hard, you just need to communicate!
What about you? Do you believe in combining finances after marriage?
AUTHOR Kimberly Studdard
Kim Studdard is a project manager for online entrepreneurs and small businesses. When she isn't spending time with her daughter and husband, or reading her growing pile of horror books, you'll find her working on her HR degree and working towards FIRE.