Most first marriages start with high hopes and dreams that the uninitiated lovers share in boundless enthusiasm. Such optimism often includes an assumed trust and faith in one another. At the beginning of a new life together, sharing assets and debts equally can be easier. As the marriage progresses and years are added to the relationship, many factors contribute to declining enthusiasm for transferring the money equally, such as egos, selfishness, varied ideas about necessities versus wants, etc. Adversity sets in, as it does for all of us. Perhaps problems are holding a job, health issues arise, or accidents occur, or maybe it is as simple as mistakes made while balancing the checkbook. As troubles tax a couple’s finances, resentment might build as one or both partners look back and wonder if they could have been more prosperous by staying single. The chances of working through such adversity together are lessened if finances are kept separate. Isolated into what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine, people feel alone and disheartened even though they share life with another person through marriage.
On the other hand, if finances are shared, both partners are equally responsible for the union’s successful financial outcome. By jointly holding the money, each spouse seeks the other’s input and wisdom to manage the accounts for maximum profit. What challenges one faces both faces together. What success one achieves both enjoy together.
“When you get married, you become one.” “Money is a key area that helps bring unity.” David Ramsey, Financial Expert. “… spouses should combine all finances and work towards common agreed-upon goals… Separate money equals greed. The bottom line is that couples planning their lives and finances together are much more financially successful financially and with their relationships.” –Marriage and Money – Dave Ramsey vs. Suze Orman, March 20, 2012
The old saying goes, ‘There is no I in the team.’ Is marriage a contract between me and me, I and I, or is marriage about us, us? Going into life together can be tremendously beneficial to both partners. When two become one in all things, each becomes more than they are by themselves. Math is possible. Many families have a tradition of saving their nickels and dimes to use to go on vacation. Considering each family member saving to go on holiday separately is ridiculous. Mom saves to see Grandma; Dad keeps camping; Marsha saves for Disneyland, while little Johnny saves to go to the ice cream parlor down the street. Agreeing upon a mutual activity takes negotiation and more effort than going on separate vacations, but it also builds shared memories that are held precious later.
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This is not to say that one partner should be timid in passiveness and yield all financial opinions and decisions to their spouse. Often, there are stark differences in the perspective each companion uses to view resource usage and risk management. One spouse may be analytical, and the ther might make their decisions from more of an emotional base. Such dissimilar viewpoints can make reaching an equilibrium with which both are comfortable challenging. It may seem easier to separate finances. However, such a decision can result in grave consequences. “Divorce attorneys have told me that when money is the issue that brings a couple in to see them, as it often is, the specific issue is usually that the husband and wife were living separate financial lives. Want to mess up your marriage? Live separate financial lives.” How to Mess Up Your Marriage, Monday, December 12th, 2011, Matt Bell, author of Money and Marriage.
Is there more to a union of two souls than that of corporate mergers? Ironically, finances are often merged in shared business arrangements. Yet, some recommend the opposite approach for couples as if married companions are “… Independent Operators, my term for pairs who keep their accounts entirely separate.” Jessica Crouse.
Healthy marriages are built upon compromise, respect for each other, and the willingness to entertain the thought that together, you are smarter than you are separately. Nature witnesses the efficacy of sharing the resources- even birds and animals bring home the bacon to be shared with the whole pride. Think about the survival rate of any animal species that behaved as if each was responsible separately for their maintenance and subsistence. “Life is not 50:50, nor should it be… when did this degrade from a marriage to a micromanaged contractual partnership?… From the first bit of separate money in a marriage, I see a continuum to living as roommates.” Evolving Personal Finance: The Slippery Slope of Separate Money.
Sometimes, we might wonder why some people make their financial decisions. During the recent housing crisis, many opinions were expressed via Twitter, internet forums, and even talk shows about where the responsibility rested for so many foreclosures. Terms like ‘predatory lenders’ and ‘irresponsible borrowers’ were bandied about. It is natural to become couch quarterbacks and passenger seat drivers when viewing problems others encounter, especially when contributing to them. When married partners hold the finances separately, it is easy to do the same with a spouse. Harboring criticism instead of openly communicating about financial troubles does little to foster unity in marriage.
“For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6). Today it seems as if half of society would amend these Biblical verses to ‘For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife, except financially; and they shall become one flesh’ and ‘So they are no longer two, except the bank accounts, but one flesh. Therefore, God has joined together, let no man separate except the money.
In this world of hyper-competition, stress rules. If children are part of a marriage, the love and joy that come to parents can also be accompanied by even more stress as the demands on available resources grow. If outside influences threaten the family’s financial stability, stress levels rise even higher. Money is one of the major contributors to divorce, and it’s easy to see why. Many people constantly worry about taking care of their families and, as they grow older, taking care of themselves through retirement. Such worry can breed fear. Fear can eat at the faith and trust in one another that was assumed at the start of a life together. As faith and trust erode, the bonds of matrimony can resemble chains tied to a sinking vessel where it becomes ‘every man for himself’. However, if couples are committed to each other ‘for richer, for poorer,’ they can lean on each other for the strength necessary to endure and overcome life’s challenges in these modern times. Years of struggle and effort together can help forge a tie to defy financial obstacles in favor of the security such strong bonds ensure. Such security might not be financially based, but it might find a strong foundation in emotion. This means that sometimes spouses must choose what is most important to them- money or love.
A clear conclusion supports the unified approach while comparing the pros and cons of United versus separate finances in marriage. Consider the following from Engaged Marriage: “Reasons Why a Joint Bank Account is Best: Encourages regular communication about finances. Built-in accountability partner on spending matters. Foster’s unity in money matters. Strong sense of working together to meet financial goals. All household income is treated as “our” money. There is no conflict or administrative work in ‘splitting up the bills. ‘… Using a single joint account also encourages (requires, really) open communication about your finances, which is critical to a successful marriage.” –Should Married Couples Have Joint or Separate Bank Accounts? By Dustin of Engaged Marriage.