Not to go all Dr.Phil on you, but…
Do you love your spouse? Trick question. I am assuming you do. If you don’t, then stop reading my blog, and google a marriage therapist…right now. Anyway, there is a very strange debate going on in America today that you may or may not be privy to. The debate is this: should married people have separate accounts to make life easier in the event of divorce?
It is a sad yet interesting argument. Should you live your financial life cautiously to protect yourself from getting wiped out in a divorce scenario. I have seen and heard of a number of instances when one spouse is left high and dry. Could they have prevented this by asking for separate accounts early in the marriage? Maybe, but is such caution a self-fulfilling prophecy? I honestly don’t know the answer, but I do have an opinion.
This is a very complicated predicament. If you insist on having separate accounts, aren’t you planting the seeds of mistrust? Are you strengthening your relationship by driving a stake between your assets? This may seem like a moral issue, but things get pretty cloudy once you have seen a person get wiped out in a divorce. Part of my business’s mission is to open the lines of communication and trust in a marriage. The lack of trust usually manifests itself in the separation of bank accounts, but the mistrust has nothing to do with money. I am not saying that separate accounts always mean that you don’t trust your spouse, but there are some interesting things to consider.
Well, here is the good news. You can fix it. Money problems can usually be fixed by communicating with your spouse. I would love to know what you (the reader) think about separating your assets to prevent a divorce-induced financial meltdown.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.
10 thoughts on “Prepreparing for divorce gets kinda weird”
I’m not married and don’t have to share finances with anyone right now but I like the idea of a three-pot system. You pool most of your money together for joint expenses but maintain individual accounts. I would think this might cut down on arguments over every single purchase because whatever is in your individual account is yours to spend freely. For example, if I know my significant other is an impulsive spender and I don’t want to have to worry about it constantly, let him spend what’s in his individual account and leave the joint account alone.
I can see how some people might think having separate accounts is forecasting a dim future but I think it’s important to be practical and do what makes sense for you as a couple. And in my opinion, if you can’t trust someone to have an individual account, why are you with them in the first place?
Sorry for the long comment but this has been on my mind since we are in the process of updating our Money Skills for Newlywed Couples guide 🙂
I am all for spouses having separate accounts. As most people know, the biggest issue couples fight about — and probably the biggest cause of divorce — is money. I had a former spouse who rang up a mountain of credit card debt. How to pay off this debt was the source of constant fighting. Only when we were separated and traveling down the road of divorce did we get separate banking accounts — and a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders. Erasing her debt became her problem (thankfully all the credit cards were in her name). Luckily, my credit escaped unscathed. Had we had separate bank accounts from the beginning, it would have prevented many marital spats and could have helped mend a relationship (infidelity is an entirely differnet matter for an entirely different website lol).
That’s great perspective. Thanks for posting
Well I have a bit of a different perspective on this. I’ve been in a 25 year relationship where we’ve had separate accounts and pooled our money for expenses. In the beginning I was all in favour as I’d come to the relationship with 2 children where he had none. He made a lot more money than I did but I still felt it was my responsibility to be financially responsible for my kids. Once they left home though the issue of the separate bank accounts became an issue for me. My spouse always had much more to spend than I did and so he enjoyed buying himself toys of all sorts while I continued to struggle with my lower income but still paying 50% of all bills. It has put our our relationship on the brink of possibly no return. He refuses to combine our incomes even though neither of us have any debt and we have both always been financially responsible. Not fair, I say.
Well, then you might want to forward him tomorrow’s (8/30) post: An Open Letter To Husbands. It will make his head spin.
Would it directly affect him if you stopped paying some of the bills?
What are his feelings on providing for his family (i.e. YOU)?
I wish I would have always kept separate accounts from my soon to be ex-husband. He limited my spending to very small amounts each week, always telling me we couldn’t afford things – and now that I have my own – I actually control how my money is spent. It’s about setting your own budgets, not having someone set them for you. With joint accounts it becomes “our” money and sometimes “our” money isn’t equally divided.
I’m against it. The family is a unit and should be operated as one. There are a number of different functions to be performed in a family, and not all of them generate money. One spouse shouldn’t get a financial penalty because he or she is shouldering more of the non-money generating burdens.
That said, I’m not against some relatively small, “do whatever the hell you want with it” pots of money for each spouse. Money should probably go into those funds from the general fund in an equal fashion. That way, you have a little slack where your spouse isn’t necessarily sweating you for every expenditure; and, if you’re more inclined toward frugality, you can enjoy some reward for that by being able to amass some money instead of being worried your spouse will spend it as fast as you can save it.
I would have said that keeping separate accounts is not a great idea a few weeks ago. There should be trust in a marriage and constantly preparing yourself for divorce is not helpful.
My wife and I maintained separate accounts for most of our relationship and marriage. Shortly after marriage we opened a joint savings account but maintained independent checking accounts. I don’t think this was out of mistrust, but laziness. Things were fine how they were. We were splitting bills evenly and never arguing about money. If one had less in checking, the other one bought dinner, and so forth.
About 3 months ago, we moved to a new state and needed to begin the process of changing banks. We opened one joint checking account. I never thought there would be a problem. She’s my wife. We share everything. What’s mine is hers and what’s hers is mine.
About five days ago, she told me she wants to separate. Then this became ugly. We are fighting fiercely over the money in both savings and joint checking.
Despite what has happened to me, I don’t advise a distrustful attitude toward money in marriage. If you don’t feel you can trust your partner enough to share accounts, you should not be married.
I’m getting married for the first (and I’m pretty sure, last) time in August. I’m an independent person and grew up as an only child, so I assumed my wife and I would have separate accounts, with some in a joint account to cover household expenses. However, we recently decided to merge everything — even my poker money — into joint checking and savings accounts. I do think there is a metaphorical benefit here in terms of it signifying a full commitment to the partnership of marriage. I’ve also already noticed a bit of stress relief, knowing all bills and expenses will be funded by two incomes. Technically, that would be the case either way, but the optics of seeing the single account build up faster seems satisfying to me. But it’s important to note: I’ll be 37 and getting married for the first time, so I’ve obviously waited for the right person in all respects, including someone who has the same moderately conservative approach to spending and affinity for saving as I do.