Why would anyone decide to share finances with their spouse

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.

Committed relationship

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.

thedollarnotesWe 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.

Learning teamwork

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.

Final thoughts

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

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14 thoughts on “Why would anyone decide to share finances with their spouse

  1. You guys have an interesting view for sharing a life and finances together.
    At my previous work I have witnessed so many situations where the other half has misused or even stolen the other one’s accounts… and taken debt in the others name. Maybe this is why I am a bit scared for having mutual accounts or even leaving my netbank identification anywhere in our house.
    In the future we will have a situation that my boyfriend will earn much more than I will. At the moment I am working and earning 4-times as much as him as a student. We are living up to a standard that we can pay 50%-50% (but I am paying maybe a bit more). I have no idea how we will act as a couple with our finances, and will it change if we ever get married. If we will have children, it means a career loss for me as a woman…

    1. Hey Ekonomimmi,

      Thanks for bringing a completely new perspective to the discussion! It sounds crazy that a partner would misuse trust in that way. I have heard of couples that have “secret savings accounts” but not one’s where somebody would take debt or steal from one’s spouse. I would think that there would be a lot of trust issues in that kind of relationship. It is definitely good to be sure that you are on the same page and you completely trust each other before you start sharing finances, we combined our money only after getting married.

      Have you discussed with your boyfriend what you would like to do if/when your circumstances change (e.g marriage, kids)? Finances can be a tough topic, but at least we have experienced that by being open about the topic, we create mutual understanding and we don’t really have to argue about how we use money 🙂 That being said, we are learning all the time and sometimes still we have misunderstandings.

      1. The misuse of a partner’s finances is actually unbelievably common!

        We have discussed it so far that my spouse want’s to have a prenup of some sort and some savings of his own. But it is possible that we might buy apartments (for investments) together. I have also been very strict that I don’t want to stay at home with kids (if we’ll have kids) for too long. But maybe we need to discuss that when the time comes 🙂

  2. We are very open about our finances but we haven’t combined our individual ones, mainly because we aren’t married yet. But we always refer to our monies as ours and never mine or his. I do the investing, but I do it with oyr future in mind and not just mine; he saves for a house deposit, for our house and not just his. But in saying this, I honestly think that we might struggle in joining our finances as we’re both used to being independent. I agree with what Tristan said about marriage being a union and working together but for someone who hasn’t depended on anyone since becoming an adult and actually being the provider for the family, this can be a difficult change. I’m used to having complete control over my finances and he is the same with his. I guess we’ll cross the bridge when we get there.

    1. Hey J,

      It’s great to hear your view point on the matter. It seems that the most important thing is that there is space to discuss finances honestly and openly. I’m interested to hear how you decide what do with shared expenses, do you do 50/50 or the person who has money pays? Both us had been taking care of our individual finances for quite a few years before we got married but the transition to sharing finances was relatively easy when we realized that we would be much better of sharing. It did (still does) take practice and plenty of discussions but it does make both everyday finances and planning for future easier 🙂

  3. To be honest, I find it hard to see how any kind of marriage would work without complete openness when it comes to finances, and to me that means sharing a bank account and keeping everything together.

    My fiancee and I got a joint account after getting engaged and we only use that for everything! People may call us naive or old fashioned, but I can’t see it working any other way. I like to think of us as a little two person team, planning our finances together so that we can retire young and wealthy!

    (I also recently wrote about this subject, can you tell?! So feel free to check out what I wrote on my blog.)

    1. Hey Elliot,

      thanks for dropping by! Now that I think of this topic a bit more, when you have a big goal in mind like financial independence, you have to work together as a team. But that is assuming that you have a big joint goal as a couple. I guess if a couple doesn’t share such huge aspirations, they might be okay with keeping their finances separate. What do you think? I’m just trying to think of reasons why sharing would not be necessary although for us sharing was an obvious choice 🙂 I will definitely check out your blog!

      1. No problem, glad I did! I know what you’re saying there about not sharing an aspiration, however, wouldn’t you say that’s perhaps necessary for a relationship to work? I mean, I’m no expert by any means, but my fiancee and I are pretty similar when it comes to money, and it sounds like it’s the same of you and your husband. I don’t think there’s going to be a right answer, I just know that like you sharing our finances was the obvious decision!

  4. We had our own bankaccounts on The beggining of our marriege, and one joined account where both our The same amount of money for bills and food. but when hubby desided to go to school, we started to use only our joined bank account. It has worked pretty well, it wouldn’t been right that other has only The student money and other full paid. Now i’m in home with our kid, so it goes another way. Sharing is careing ☺️

    1. Hey Hanna,

      nice to hear how your finances has evolved. Some other couples I know, have done exactly what you did in the beginning (having both your own accounts and then one for shared expenses). That can definitely work when you both bring an income. But like you said, later on it can get a bit tricky when the circumstances change. I’m glad you have been able to be mutually supportive to each other in different financial circumstances!

  5. I am utterly perplexed why every married couple in the world do not join their finances together. Even if that couple gets a pre-nup, even that couple earn vastly different amounts, it just doesn’t make sense not to.

    Like you said, money causes the most arguments and divorces. Why? Because they’re not COMMUNICATING about their finances. Communication does not just have to mean expressing your emotional feelings, it also means communicating about goals, about money, about ideals, about life. If you aren’t communicating about money, you’re probably bot communicating in a lot of different areas.

    Money can be influenced by a huge number of factors. Drinking or gambling problem? – Not gonna have any money. Incapable of having any patience? – Gonna have lots of debt and no savings. Have no financial goals or aspirations (Eg retirement) in mind? – Not gonna have any investments.

    If people think splitting finances is about being independent, then I think they’re seeing it wrong..marriage is about working together, you’re no longer 2 individuals, you’re a couple, so why act like you’re 2 individuals who just happen to live in the same house and may have (accidently) had kids together?

    Tristan

    1. Hey Tristan,

      thanks for commenting. It is nice to hear your ideas on the topic! I guess couples don’t really mind earning different amounts of money, especially when that is something they are used to. Sometimes the challenges arise only when the couple chooses to take over bigger joint commitments like having children. For me, it seem unrealistic that for example a couple chooses together to have a child but only the person who stays at home “pays” the cost.

      But like you said, marriage is about working together. It can be tough plan a future together if finances are completely separate. That is because most plans involve money (e.g buying a house, having children, traveling, retiring). Sharing money has really helped us to plan for our future. Even now as we are moving to Australia, I have no idea how would have worked towards this goal without sharing our finances. When did you guys start sharing finances?

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