Why Some Couples Keep Finances Separate

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11 of 15

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More and more married couples are keeping their finances separate today. That’s not just separate checking accounts but also savings accounts, investment portfolios, and credit cards. When I first heard of this happening with a couple I know, it sort of bumped me. But then, when I learned a bit more about their reasoning, and discovered that many of the happily married couples I know handle their money this way, I began to get on board with the idea. Merging finances, all because you’ve tied the knot, is actually a rather antiquated system. Look, naturally if my partner fell on hard times while I was thriving, I wouldn’t say, “Tough luck!” and leave him to suffer. I’d cover his living expenses until he figured things out. But beyond that, do I really need to give him access to all of my accounts? And do I need access to his? What does that have to do with our romantic bond? Here are good reasons spouses are keeping finances separate.

spouse finances

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Student loan debt

With student loan debt absolutely skyrocketing, many people just don’t want to link their unsuspecting partner to their Sallie Mae woes. That’s not the nicest wedding gift, right? But if they do join accounts and default on a student loan payment, it could be both individuals who get dinged.

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Credit card debt

Credit card debt is pretty high these days, too. The truth is, if somebody has credit card debt, it’s best that she just have access to her own budget, so she has to live accordingly to that while finding ways to pay off her credit card. Suddenly having access to another person’s money could really reduce motivation to live stingily, and get around to paying off that debt.

spouse finances

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Credit issues

If someone has bad credit, then the pair really can’t go in together on certain assets. Like when it’s time to buy a home or even just a car for the family—perhaps only the credit of one individual will qualify them. The other person’s credit slashes their chances. And so, the car belongs to the person with the good credit. The house belongs to the person with the good credit.

spouse finances

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The divorce rate

Not to be unromantic, but couples today aren’t oblivious to the divorce rate. They of course hope to stay together forever, but they’re more realistic about the changes life throws at couples. Why, if they already have to deal with the horror of divorce, add the headache of detangling finances to that?

spouse finances

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A new sense of independence

A lot of women don’t want their partners to support them anymore. They just want to buy for themselves what their own income can afford them. They don’t feel right about having access to new funds, all because they get married.

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That money is hard earned

On the flipside, women who are successful don’t necessarily want to share their hard earned money with a spouse. They worked their a**es off to get that, all the while facing the wage gap. Giving it away to a man just doesn’t feel very feminist. And if they wouldn’t expect their partner to support them, they don’t see why the reverse should be expected, either.

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It’s a second marriage

Second and third marriages are common today. Many of the couples with shared finances that we’re discussing aren’t first-time spouses. They’ve been married before, shared finances then, and their partners completely screwed up their money. So, in other words, they’ve been hurt and don’t want to go there again.

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It’s just complicated

Depending on how fortunate the couple is, merging finances may just be too complicated. There could be so many accounts. Personal loans. Stocks and bonds. Investment properties. Multiple savings accounts. Who wants to deal with that?

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Family heirlooms

No matter how much someone loves her spouse, she could be in possession of a family heirloom—like a property—that is explicitly only meant to stay within her bloodline. So, while her children may have it, her husband just can’t. That’s what the documents say.

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It can reduce bickering

Keeping accounts separate can minimize the bickering. You don’t need to get upset over how much your partner spent on shoes if you never see the amount hit your statement.

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The perks of multiple credit cards

When it comes to credit cards, going separate can come with perks. Depending on your credit history, you may qualify for vastly different cards, and so you should diversify as much as you can. Maybe you alone can qualify for that travel card that gives you $700 worth of travel points, just for signing up. But he can’t. He can, however, qualify for that cash back card that offers high cash back on things like groceries and gas. So he can get that one, and you two can work together to make the most of your cards.

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A history of gambling

If one person has a history of gambling, it’s only responsible that the two spouses don’t merge finances. And remember that gambling doesn’t just mean hitting the casinos or betting on sports games. Doing things like day trading without any knowledge of the business or making uneducated investments is a form of gambling.

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They lived together before

Since so many couples live together before marriage today (though the benefits of doing so are up for debate), they already have a system for handling household finances by the time they get married. They see no reason in messing with that after marriage.

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They marry later

People are marrying later, meaning they are further along in their careers, meaning they have a good idea of their earning potential and their assets. With that information in mind, they may just want to keep things separate.

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Gifts really mean something

One cool thing about keeping accounts separate is that, when you buy something for a spouse as a present, it really is a gift. It wasn’t taken from joint accounts, so he didn’t also pay for his own gift. It can feel nice being truly generous like that.

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