“Should we merge bank accounts or keep them separate?”

This is one of the most frequently asked questions by couples and it’s one I love answering because it helps clients to consider their individual circumstances and make the choice that they feel is best for them. The short answer is, “it depends.” While combining accounts can make dealing with finances more simplistic, it could also result in one person “turning over” full money responsibilities to their partner and no longer engaging in the family’s financial planning. Keeping separate accounts can make it more complicated to track spending activities and bill payments, but could also be a great way for two financially independent people who are coming together to still feel in control of their pocket book. So, what’s a couple to do? Consider the below for each option and have a candid conversation around what you each feel is the best route for your relationship.

The Case for Combining:

  • Joint accounts allow for full disclosure. You’re able to see what both you and your partner are spending and can check-in with each other along the way.
  • It’s easy to manage. Paychecks are deposited to one place. Bill payments, groceries, dining out, and all other monthly expenses come from that same place. Who pays for what doesn’t become an issue. Sounds easy enough.
  • Accountability. While bills will get paid and goals funded whether accounts are merged or kept separate, when operating with a joint account, spending habits are revealed and your spouse may turn into your accountability partner in reaching joint goals and helping you kick habits that may be detrimental to your financial success.

Personally, my hubby and I merged finances, but have separate credit cards on which we give ourselves a set amount every 2 weeks to spend as we please. We’ve found that this keeps us on track for our bills and goals, and allows us the freedom and flexibility to spend as we’d like within our limits.

The Case for Keeping Things Separate:

  • When one spouse makes more than the other, having separate accounts and dividing up the bill payments accordingly can help each to feel like they are contributing, but not carrying the full weight of the payments due.
  • When either spouse is bringing debt into the marriage, it may make sense to keep things separate until debt is paid off. This will allow the spouse with the debt to work on spending and money management skills and ensure healthy habits are formed before combining.
  • You put aside what is needed for bills and goals and whatever is left is yours to do with. This is ideal when one partner spends more or less than the other. Spending habits, from frequency to size of expenditures, can cause tension when they’re differing.

Keep in mind that there are many options and ways to get creative under the “separate” umbrella. You can choose to keep all items separate and divvy up joint bills for payment, or you can maintain your separate accounts and open a joint account meant for paying household bills out of. You can decide to go 50/50 when paying bills or contribute on a percentage basis based upon the amount of income you and your partner each bring in. Ultimately, you’ll need to have a conversation around what is best for you. If you need advice on how other couples are making separate accounts work, check out this article which shares one couple’s story.

Commitment & Communication

Either path you take requires you to set expectations and make a commitment to communicate and stay involved. If you’re merging finances, determine how you’ll manage the accounts and spending. If you’re keeping things separate, assign how and who will pay which bills and determine amounts to allocate towards joint goal funding. Remember, separate accounts doesn’t mean separate goals and it’s not an excuse to keep financial secrets. Set a schedule for money dates and check-ins and be sure to evaluate your strategies as your situation changes. Like what you read? Sign up for the Workable Wealth community for more tips and resources and receive 9 Steps to Workable Wealth, a free guide to help you kick start your financial journey.