Nowadays it’s quite common for married couples to keep their individual finances separated. There are multiple reasons for people making that choice: keeping a sense of autonomy, wealth accumulated before marriage, spending habits may differ, sharing is old fashioned and so on. When we got married, we made a different kind of choice: we decided to share our finances completely. This sharing meant that we took joint ownership over any debt and wealth that had been accumulated before and during our marriage (in our case Mr DN’s student loans).
To make sharing easier, we went to the bank a few weeks after getting married and told them that we wanted full access to each of our accounts. The bank teller was stunned and asked if we were really sure we wanted to share accounts. Until that point, I had understood that some people choose to have separate finances but I didn’t realize how “abnormal” our choice was. But just like people have valid reasons for not sharing finances, we have our reasoning behind the choice of sharing them.
We started sharing finances fully only after getting married. For both of us, marriage was a huge commitment and it meant that we were committing to work as a team in all aspects of our marriage, even finances.
We didn’t make this jump blindly, though. Because we took the commitment seriously, we prepared as much as we could before getting married. Not only did we discuss our values, hopes, and dreams, but we also talked about finances. We knew each other’s financial status, we observed each other’s way of spending money and we were aware of how each of us grew up in terms of money. This may not sound very romantic, but it gave us a fairly good foundation to continue discussing finances after getting married.
Based on our discussions/observations about money, we learned we had fairly similar values when it comes to money and the choice of sharing them was not difficult. In retrospect, even though we had quite similar outlook regarding finances, it has still taken some time to learn to work together.
In today’s individualistic culture, sharing finances may seem old fashioned. Marriage is not any more the same kind of financial commitment as it was back in the day as often times both spouses earn an income. Especially in Scandinavia, sharing finances seems to be a red flag, because there is no “true need” to be reliant on anyone else but yourself.
We had both been “financially independent” from parents for a significant amount of time before getting married and had had the chance to make our own individual choices regarding finances. We both had traveled and lived abroad which took the majority of our income. Once we got married, we saw sharing finances as a possibility to learn to work a team towards mutual goals like moving to Australia and having a family someday.
Sharing finances has been a great place for us to learn more about each other and respectful communication. We also have monthly practice (budgeting) in how to really take into consideration each of our needs or desires for the coming month. Some argue that sharing finances mean that you have to “beg” from your spouse for something you really want. I sternly disagree with this idea. If you both respect each other’s individual desires, needs and wants and money is not used as a method of control, there is no such possibility. When we make our monthly budgets, we have to have an honest discussion about where we are at financially, what are our needs and wants, and how those relate. Based on these discussions, we can evaluate whether the purchases in mind make sense.
Moreover, finances is one of the most common arguments in relationships, by learning to work together we have experienced that it doesn’t have to be that way. Because we keep our lines of communication open even with the topic of finances, we don’t have to argue about the topic. We do disagree every now and then, but we don’t get into heated debates as we discuss finances on a regular basis.
Two is better than one
Most marriages face times when one person’s financial situation will be worse for a while. You might have a kid, one of you might become unemployed, or ill, or decide to study etc. These situations can be a result of a joint decision or they may come suddenly. When finances are shared, you are used to (if you have practiced) tackling challenges as a team.
When we face financial challenges –such as Mr DN’s studies, my unemployment and forced leave to name a few– we don’t have the added stress of trying to figure out on our own how we are going to manage. Neither do we have to argue who is responsible for paying unexpected bills. Because there are two of us, it is easier to compensate for the other person’s loss of income as we are used to living well below our means. This situation is not unique to us, we have seen many couples who share finances greatly benefit from this aspect.
Multicultural marriages require heavier reliance on each other
We are sure there are multicultural couples that have decided not to share their finances, but we can see a huge benefit in sharing financial responsibility when being in such a long-term relationship. Multicultural relationships impose heavier reliance on each other. One of you will you will always be further away from family, visas and permits are expensive (especially to Australia, goodbye 5000 Euros!), language and differences in educational systems make finding work more challenging for the immigrant spouse and so on. Because of these reasons, by nature, multicultural relationships are a financial investment.
Of course, you can decide that each of you pays for their own plane tickets, visas and takes care of themselves through seasons of possible unemployment, but I could see how in the long run, that can build resentment. This is because the opportunities are not quite the same for the foreign spouse. There is a chance of double loss for the “foreign spouse”, not only are you far from your family and everything familiar, you also may face unemployment and financial hardship because your education and experience don’t translate in your new country. When we got married we were very aware of the challenges multicultural relationships can pose, by combining our finances we alleviate the financial stress that this type of relationship can bring.
Although we have decided to share our finances, by no means we mean that all couples should do the same. We recognize that our viewpoint may seem a bit “extreme” to many, especially when sharing is not that popular anymore. All we want to do is to give you a glimpse of why we have made such a choice. In another post, we will cover how we share our finances in practice.
Do you discuss finances with your partner? How have you decided to share responsibility?
Featured image by Sebastian Pichler