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Relationships & Money: Women's Stories

Updated on February 22, 2008

I have read a lot of articles and taken part in many discussions about whether or not couples should have joint or separate accounts. The best conclusion I’ve come to, so far, is that it depends on each couple. As long as you are honestly communicating about money and financial matters with your partner, there is no wrong or right way to handle your finances. Some couples find it natural to merge accounts, while others prefer keeping things separate.

My husband and I have joint accounts. We share everything. It doesn’t matter who makes more money, or who makes less—there is none of the “my” money and “his” money stuff because it is all “our” money. We discuss large purchases before making them, and keep track of our budget together. The important thing is that this works for us. It doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for everyone.

Friends and co-workers have been kind enough to share their stories with me about their decisions to have joint or separate accounts. I’m sharing their stories with you here. Please note that I’ve changed their names to protect their privacy.

Melissa’s Story

Melissa is a professional in her late thirties. She is an intelligent, hardworking woman with a PhD in her field. Her partner is in his early fifties and has worked hard to cultivate his career. Melissa and her partner are not married, and do not plan on marrying or having children. They do own a house together, but keep all of their accounts separate. Melissa enjoys having financial independence and doesn’t want to merge accounts. They pay bills together, but spend their personal money on whatever they want. Melissa thinks merging accounts would mean she is giving up her financial independence.

Sarah’s Story

Sarah and her husband have been married for 17 years. They have three children together, all still living at home. Sarah is a teacher and her husband works as a manager for an international firm. Throughout the years, Sarah has taken time off from the workforce to care for their family. From the beginning, Sarah and her husband have shared accounts. Sarah is the one who balances the budget, and agrees that it is difficult at times because her husband tends to overspend without discussing it with her first. For the most part, though, she thinks joint accounts are beneficial for her family.

Lisa’s Story

Lisa is in her mid-forties and has been married for twenty years. She and her husband both have successful, long careers as civil servants. They have chosen not to have children, but do own a home together. Their accounts are joined. Lisa trusts her husband completely, but sometimes worries because of his preference for gambling—both in casinos and online. She struggles over his habit, and is concerned about his tendency to charge more on their credit cards than she thinks is safe. Whenever anyone suggests she establishes her own account, she baulks at the idea because she believes married couples should have joint accounts.

Be Prepared in Case the Relationship Ends

Jennifer’s Story

Jennifer and her partner lived together for thirty years, but never got married. Jennifer works full time, but is paid by the hour and doesn’t have benefits through her employer. Her boyfriend, on the other hand, has a salaried position and full benefits. They have always shared their accounts and own a home together. Then, Jennifer’s partner left her. For the first few months, they continued to share their joint accounts. But Jennifer soon discovered how risky this was after finding most of their checking and savings had been drained by her ex. As well, she noticed expensive charges on their shared credit card bills. Luckily, Jennifer was able to separate accounts quickly, but struggles to pay her bills every month. She is currently trying to find a way to buy her ex out of the house they own together.

Rachel’s Story

Rachel has been married to her husband for fifty years. They have had children and grandchildren together. They have joint accounts, and put both names on everything they own—from cars to houses to investments. Rachel manages the budget, but she and her husband discuss their expenses every month. Before making a big purchase, they always check to make sure their budget can handle it. Rachel admits that she loves to shop, so she has to try to control her habit of overspending. They are now retired, but both Rachel and her husband used to work full-time jobs.

Honesty and Openness is Important

There are people who insist that sharing an account is the best for a relationship, but there are others with equally strong arguments that couples should keep their accounts separate. I cannot stress enough that there is no right or wrong way to handle your finances, as long as you are communicating. If you feel that trust is an issue, or your partner no longer communicates openly with you, you might consider having separate accounts.

As well, if you do choose to share accounts, stay informed. Both you and your partner need to be involved in the budgeting. You should both be aware of how much money you have and how much is spent. Along with awareness comes trust—and it will be harder for your partner to pull a fast one on you if you are both involved.

What’s your story? Please feel free to share your thoughts, experiences, and ideas by leaving a comment in the box below.

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    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      You told my story - Im Melissa to a T Well OK Im mid-40's been with my partner who is 10 years old for 10 years (gasp ) not married not having kids. We just set yp joint cards/ac when we got together and bought a house in NZ. Since we moved to Oz we have just run 1 card and 1 a/c and that seems OK too - as we are not now earning the same amount of money it was better for me to have a single a/c - I couldn't have handled asking for money from him!

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