Joint versus separate accounts

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Joint versus separate accounts
Wed, 07-31-2013 - 7:17pm

Being newly married (for the 3rd time) and reading Racerchick's posts, has got me thinking.  What really hit me was "he thinks $2,000 in the bank is broke, and I think $2 in the account is broke.  I would love to have $2,000 in my account."  Holy cow, are you my twin in an alternative universe? 

Although I do think we will keep our individual accounts, and we do need to get to the bank and at least be signers on the other account so we can have access if something were to hapen to to other, but a TRUE joint account that is used as such in the pracitical sense?  I don't know. 

How would that even look?  Thought about us each putting a set amount in each month for strictly household bills.  DH tends to be loosey goosey about that.  Right now, if I were to be picky, he is a month behind.  Granted, he paid for most of our trip.  And our rings, etc.  But it is so hard to get through to him how him paying for other things may be very kind and generous, but doesn't pay the bills.  He is kind of starting to get it.  He gave me money to pay bills right before we left on our trip.  So, he is getting there. 

The other night he said "I am going to let you take me out to dinner," and I said "I couldn't even if I wanted to.  The money I do have has to last until payday." 

Anyways, with the boards not being as active as they used to be, I thought it might spark discussion.  DH and I are making progress, but not where I would like us to be quite yet in this area.  (i.e.  Same physical therapist.  He pays his huge bill in a couple of months, and a year later I still owe them $200.  Stuff like that.)

Serenity CL Making a Second Marriage Work

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-31-2010
Wed, 07-31-2013 - 8:11pm

Money between couples is a very interesting dynamic indeed.

We are a second marraige as well and both need our space.  I pay all the bils with a joint account, but DH gets his check deposited into an account he has had for decades, then gives me what remains after his spending.  Now he makes six figures, does carry our benefits and 401k, he also pays his car payment nd HELOC, but I only get from $1,000 to $1700 every other week - not enough to pay the mortgage and all other household bills.

I don't know how we make it work, especially lately, but we have been.


iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Wed, 07-31-2013 - 8:37pm

I think in cases where married people keep separate accts, they need to sit down & go over all the household bills and the first priority should be to make sure those bills are paid in a fair manner--maybe some people would say 1/2 each, but if one person makes considerably more than the other, then I think that person should contribute more--otherwise you could have a situation where one partner has plenty of money for discretionary spending while the other one is scrimping & saving and can't spend anything on him or herself.  I don't think that's fair when you're married & could lead to a lot of resentment.

I was married twice and both times we just put all our money together.  That worked fine in the 1st marriage but it was really a mistake in the 2nd one.  I just figured that was what married people did.  I also figured everything would work out fine because when we started living together, my (now exH) made more money than I did--well then he got hurt & was on worker's comp for almost 2 yrs.  At first he had some savings since he had sold his house but then that ran out & I was basically doing most of the supporting of a family of 5--which I couldn't afford.  Then despite that, even after he got a job & we made about the same, he would question me a lot about how I spent money--and believe me, I'm not a wasteful person.  The ironic thing was that he'd never ask me about how much I spent on clothes for myself, which is my weakness, but he'd ask about how much I spent on my kids where I never questioned what he spent on his DD.  So after that, I think for a 2nd marriage, there should be a joint acct, but I also think that each person should have their own money to spend on their kids and their personal things--it saves a lot of arguments.  I'd never combine all my money with anyone again.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-2001
Wed, 07-31-2013 - 8:49pm

When H and I were seriously dating, we just naturally split our finances the Suze Oreman way- by percentage of our income.  So say H made 2x what I did, then he paid for twice as much as I did for any vacation costs we incurred.  This arrangement was important to me since my ex had been a terrible leach on my income - and I felt strongly that I should contribute (to not be the leach my ex was), but that I also wasn't going to take on more of the financial responsibility than was fair (like I had in my first marriage).  

When we moved in together (after a ring, but nearly a year prior to the arrival of the wedding date), we decided to pool our funds and make joint decisions on how to spend the money.  I brought two small children into the union.  H had no children.  (And sort of interestinly enough, I brought no debt and a little bit of savings into the union and H brought a small amount of debt and no savings - go figure!- lol)  The small amount of child support I recieved was added to the pool.

H never had a problem with this arrangment.  

It did cause some problems with H's family, however, since they interpreted our arrangement as me taking advantage of H's income.  And they were very upfront about letting H, me and "our" children know that they didn't consider the children as part of THEIR extended family (they were merelyy "H's wife's children").  Sadly their loss.

H's brother married with similar circumstances just two weeks before we did (another irritating thing about this family - seriously who sets their wedding date TWO weeks ahead of their brother's wedding date - off topic . . . sorry - I guess I'm still not over it - lol).  His brother had two small children from his first marriage and married a woman without children.  They always kept their finances separate - how would I know such a personal thing, you might wonder?  Well because it caused constant friction between them.  At some point, his wife actually complained out loud that his seven year old daughter had TWO sodas at dinner and she "sure the heck wasn't footing that bill".

Twenty years plus later, both of us couples are still married.  But I have to tell you I would NEVER want their type of marriage.  They had a child together, and spent a lot of time keeping tabs on every individual in the family so everything was "tit for tat".  Honestly you can see the permenant stress on their faces.  And there was A LOT of drama over child support issues.

Now our marriage has never been perfect . . . but we've never had any disagreements about money things.  Truth be told, my ex really was an smuck of a dad (sorry to say this, but, hey it's true).  And when child support stopped coming in, H and I simply took it off our "pooled funds" and discussed our options (like if it was worth the emotional and financial cost to fight him in court - that whole "getting blood from a turnip" thing).   We also decided together for me to become a stay at home mother while "our" youngest dealt with some academic issues. 

I certainly might feel very differently about pooling all income and debts when marrying, if it was an older couple, with adult children and some significant assets or debts coming into the marriage.  

It's certainly an interesting topic!  I'm glad you brought it up!

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-17-2010
Thu, 08-01-2013 - 7:57am

When both DH and I were working full time, we had a joint account.  It was a HUGE problem for us.  I would log in to check what we got paid and to pay the bills and balance the checkbook and he would already have spent over $100 on stuff.  I would pay the bills and hardly anything would be left.  He would get angry with me for saying he needed to chill on the spending and that I was treating him like a child and I obviously couldn't manage our money.  He went on deployment which curbed his spending, and I was able to wipe out our credit card debt but it caused a lot of resentment on his end.

When he returned from that deployment we sat down together and determined that separate checking accounts were what we needed.  He has his own account, I have mine and neither knows what goes on with the other.  He makes a great deal more than me (I only work 15-20 hours a week, I'm home the rest of the time) and transfers what I need to supplement my check.  I know all our income and outgo but he physically logs into his account and pays the bills.  He can actually see what's leaving and knows what is still there.  He hasn't overspent since, as far as I know.  The bills are paid in full and on time and I have what I need to keep the rest of the household running.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-2012
Thu, 08-01-2013 - 11:49am

In answer to your question, yes, we might be twins from a different universe. :) I will give a little more perspective on our situation.

First, yes, he has savings built in to his checking account. That is the $2k I referred to.

I make about the same as he does, but he pays for the health insurance from his check, and also has child support taken out of his check, so while our gross incomes are comparable, take home pay is not. Additionally, I recieve child support (more than he pays, when it arrives), and also have had a second job for two years.

Proportionately, I pay more bills, both in number and in amount.  He pays the mortgage and cell phone bill. He also has his credit card bills and loans, and I have mine. What irritates me more than anything is that I can't seem to save anything because I also pay for household necessities and groceries, while he will often pay for dinners out. Unfortunately, after paying for groceries, I will then also pay for many dinners out, when he gets down to his limit.

This week, he has hit bottom, to some extent. He realized that he is going to be short on paying the mortgage. And I don't have any money for eating out. That means that we have to eat at home. He is suffering silently. :) I think he may be getting the picture that money is finite. He seems to forget that if he is out of money, that I might be as well. So he assumes that I can pay for whatever whim strikes him.

He really isn't all bad. The point I'm trying to make is that he simply is unaware of my situation, and doesn't realize when I am strapped. That is my fault for not making it clear. It is also my fault for not making it a point to save my own money before it is all gone. I just have a hard time not seeing everything that needs to be bought for the household. It never occurs to him.

I hope that clarifies some of my comments. :)

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-14-2008
Thu, 08-01-2013 - 4:17pm

This is such a touchy one. Everyone is sooo different.  Not only that but circumstances can change in a family to make views change on this 3 to 4 times often in a very short amount of time. Just think about the last 5 years. 

I think it would be extremely difficult for you guys just to have one account. There is too much baggage lol. You have more debt but own the house so there is probably equity there. He has seriously different views on paying things. You both have kids from different relationships adult and not adult, thus different expenses...I don't mean it in a bad way. It is so great that you guys got married and I'm not saying it can't work, it just has to be managed more, and more often.

And perhaps something bigger would have to be changed to even things out. That would require both of you letting go though. Example. Could he buy into your house to get rid of some of your debt and then pay bills proportionately to your income? You would really have to do the math here. I know hubby does all the math in his head for everything and still comes out in the positive, he would have to let go a bit here and perhaps weekly chats about the joint account and bills would be beneficial?

We were lucky( hahahahahahaha) in that when we started out together we had realatively the same amount of debt. He had a couple of vechicles and I had a store. We were kind of even believe it or not. So there are no resentments going on. I feel a bit of that in your posts about  your debt and how hubby feels. If you don't even the playing field here some how and get the trust and other things balanced the joint account thing is not going to work. Maybe you are ready for this conversation, maybe not. Throw things around in your head before you tackle it with different scenieos on paper too and see what comes of it. I don't see that anything has changed significantly since you guys got together 6-7 years ago in this area, so even though you say you are making progress, I'm not sure I see in what regard that is? I know the vehicle situations have been changed slightly but I can't recall anything major that has changed financially? Is child support an issue here and things may change when that stops? 

Are you still in school? Is this a factor? Would/does he consider this a burden or happy to help like in other areas where he pays for pizza on the weekend? 

I get the feeling you are studying in a social science field since you always have such good personal advice. I feel weird about offering you some, but I know you know, it comes from a good place! Perhaps this was more than you were looking for, I have just been thinking about it.


Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Thu, 08-01-2013 - 5:39pm

Wow, some great discussion going on here!  Seems the topic hasn't been brought up in a while. 

Karen, I always love how much of my story you remember.  Very impressive!  I am also leaning against a joint account that we both put money into.  We will add each other on our current accounts, but won't use it in them in the practical sense as a joint account.  Just want access in case of an emergency, illness, etc. 

Racerchic, aside from some minor details, our situation is very similar.  Hoping to settle in over the next few months with a new plan. 

I think what I have taken away from this discussion is the idea of a level playing field, what ever that may be. 

I believe I already mentioned that I estimated our 2013 tax return and essentially his tax liability is going to off set my refund.  I could see his wheels turning when I told him that.  With my HARP refinancing (assuming it goes through, they say I am approved) he will now be on the title of the house, although not on the mortgage.  Although some items are still "his or hers," he is relaxing a bit on some things, now that we are married.   

Anywho, I just thought it would be a good topic and everyone gave me some things to consider.  I think I need to crunch some numbers and maybe come up with a couple ideas to present to DH. 

Oh, and feel free to keep posting ideas and scenerios.  I am always curious how everyone does it.

Serenity CL Making a Second Marriage Work

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-08-2008
Fri, 08-02-2013 - 1:54pm
There is something I tell my kids all the time: "we share everything in this house." Because I refuse to buy two of everything like other parents. I am not getting two leap pads just because they can't share. They will learn to share. So my DH and I share everything too. We have only a joint account and everything goes in and out of there. Yes, it is for convenience but it is also the style of our r/ship. We have two vehicles but there is not "my car". We just use whichever vehicle makes sense for the trip. The longer trip, you take the hybrid. For a shopping, you use the larger car. When DH's hockey pants got too small for him, we bought him new ones and I use his old ones. We just do whatever makes sense w/o any regard for what is "his" or "mine". :)
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-14-2013
Fri, 08-16-2013 - 12:46am

I'm on my second (and last) marriage.  With m first husband, we had joint accounts.  I didn't think anything of it.  The biggest issue was overspending in general and we were both guilty.  I balanced the books so he never knew what we had and he'd run out and spend a couple hundred on whatever without asking if it was available.  We ended up bankrupt after the divorce.

My new husband (3 years now), was pretty scarred from past experience and he wanted to keep things separate.  I have to say I really like it this way.  There is no drama over what I spend or what he spends.   He carries far more of the household load than I do, but I handle my own bills and necessities.  I help where I can in the house with food, cable and a couple odds and ends.  

When I bought my car, I bought it on my own.  His name's not on it.  Likewise, when he buys his, it's his.  On one hand it feels weird, like we're together but not together.  On the other, it works because we're in control of our own stuff.  I don't have to worry about him spending the money and not being able to pay my bills and vice versa.  Plus I know if I get in a pinch, he has my back.  So it works.