Three Options for Managing Money as a Couple

Young couple using laptop computer in kitchen, high angle

You’ve taken the plunge and married your best friend. Now it’s time to take the relationship one step further and figure out how you’ll manage finances as a couple. Couples can manage money in three main ways – separately, jointly or through a combination of separate and joint accounts. Here are a few tips for each option to help you figure out what will work best for you.

Separate Accounts

Many couples elect to keep separate accounts in their relationship because they are used to managing their own finances. When a couple decides to marry, or move in together they must navigate income differences and debts. Keeping money separate can help avoid conflict because each person has full control over their funds and spending, but the downside is that separate accounts will hurt investment potential and will require the most discussion about who pays for what. If you do go the separate account route, it’s important to make an agreement about how shared bills will be split and to make a budget for household expenses. Creating a spreadsheet to track expenditures is very helpful.

Joint Accounts

If you want to simplify your money management, having joint accounts is the best option. It’s easy to track spending and budgeting on financial software like Mint, and you won’t have to worry about dividing resources and financial responsibilities. The downside for some couples is that all the spending habits are in the open. If your significant other has an issue with what you are purchasing it can lead to arguments and resentment, especially if one person makes more than the other.

Separate and Joint Accounts

Having joint and separate accounts is a lot more complex way to navigate finances, but it can also help eliminate judgement on spending. The way a multiple account system works is that all the income goes into joint accounts. Bills, savings, debt and retirement are then managed jointly, just like the Joint account option above. But this option also includes private checking accounts for each person. A set amount is transferred to these accounts each month and each person can decide how they want to spend that money. Having both separate and joint accounts allows a couple individual freedom, while still providing an avenue to work together on joint goals and retirement. With this method, you’ll have to keep track of more bank accounts. It may also cause relationship problems if the higher earner feels like they are giving his or her partner an allowance, so be sure to discuss all the pros and cons with your loved one before giving the separate and joint account option a shot.

No matter what financial path you and your significant other take, it’s important to communicate, trust and plan to avoid potential conflict.


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