Married with separate bank accounts? (010-Q3-Henry)

Henry asks, “Do you have advice on keeping separate bank accounts? My wife and I each work, but we struggle to agree on how to spend money.”

Answer (From Podcast Episode 010):

Henry, you can try it and see how it works for you—if it works for you.

My opinion, though, is that you’d be better off to communicate on how to spend money. Try to figure out how to communicate. Learn how. It may be hard, or a “struggle” (in your words), but you’re not alone.

After 20+ years of marriage, I find it very helpful to have a written budget that is based on shared goals. My wife and I list our main goals on paper, giving each a priority. Then, the most important goals get moved to the top. I’ve found that by communicating about our shared goals, we can more easily come to agreement.

The main problem in running separate bank accounts is that you’re not communicating much at all about money. You’ll likely wake up to realize that you’ve both spent willy-nilly, without having a shared plan. (Without having any plan, really.) She’ll have a bunch of crap that seems worthless to you—and you’ll have some crap that she finds worthless, too.

A worse possibility is that, by keeping separate accounts, you’ll also be prone to running up separate debts, especially credit card debts—and this can be a catastrophe for your marriage. It can lead to secret spending and financial infidelity.

With that said, though, it’s hard to learn the right way without trying various things for yourself. If you try to have separate bank accounts, and you find that it does help your marriage, okay fine. But if it doesn’t improve your financial situation (and I suspect that it won’t), then stick with a shared bank account and work on shared goals.

I prefer Dave Ramsey for advice on how to budget together. So give his program a try if nothing else. It works.

Good luck. I hope that helps.

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