Matthew Paulson of Finance is Personal asks, “Should Married Couples Combine Their Finances?” His answer is an unqualified yes. One of the things I love about the Finance is Personal site is that it almost always gives me a fresh viewpoint.
I think it’s impossible to give a hard and fast answer here. All the things said in the Matthew Paulson’s article are true, but the reality of marriage is that half of them end up in divorce. Nearly everyone who writes about personal finance agrees in having some kind of emergency fund for, well, emergencies. In general if people plan the rest of their financial spending well, they’ll only need this emergency fund 10% of the time. So why does it make sense to guard against something that’s 10% likely to happen and ignore something just as disastrous that’s 50% likely to happen?
It may sound like negative thinking to be prepared for divorce. It’s also negative thinking to prepare for an earthquake. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. If both of you love each now, you’ll each realize this and want the best for the person in the future, even if life comes between you down the line.
I don’t really understand the preacher argument in the aforementioned article. Mr. Paulson wrote, “The preacher says, ‘And now you are one.’ He (or she) does not say, ‘And now you’re one – except for your checkbooks – those are separate, go ahead and do your own thing there.'” That would be a crazy long thing for a preacher to say. A preacher can’t say all the exceptions. For instance he also doesn’t say, “You are one… except for airline tickets… you have to each buy your own there, because airlines will consider you two separate people.”
One must recognize that having separate finances is not the same as not having common goals. For instance my new wife and I have been putting money into a joint account each month to use for a home someday. As long as we make this commitment, we stay on the right track to reach our goals. And if she uses the rest of her money to buy 5 jet skis, I don’t have to feel resentment that she’s spending “my” money. I think this works particular well for us because we have similar salaries (though she earns a little more). If we had vastly different salaries, we’d probably have to come up with a different plan.