Should You Say ‘I Do’ to

Combining Finances?


Marriage has historically been a merger of love and finances. Until recently, most partners entered their union with a blank financial slate. That’s rarely the case today.

The average age of first marriage in the U.S. reached a record high in 2019—age 28 for women and 30 for men.1 Additionally, close to a quarter of all currently married people were previously married to other people.2 These demographic changes mean that more people enter marriage with assets acquired while single or in a previous relationship.

That makes merging finances a lot more complicated. For some couples, it might make more sense to keep finances separate altogether. According to one study of married couples, one in five lead separate financial lives entirely, and 24% don’t share checking and savings accounts, credit cards or mortgages. In the same survey, almost 30% of couples said they didn’t know each other’s salaries at all.3

MARRIAGE MERGERS
More people are entering marriage with money acquired while they were single or in a previous relationship.


No matter your decision about combining finances, it’s important to talk about your financial plan before and during marriage. Talking can promote financial openness within your partnership, eliminate many disagreements about money and help you plan a successful financial future as a couple.

Here are some tips to help couples decide how to structure their finances after marriage.

Separate and Joint Accounts

Many couples open joint checking and savings accounts for shared expenses and keep separate accounts for personal use. This arrangement lets couples work toward joint goals, such as a home or car purchase, while offering some independence for personal spending.

It may also be good for credit history since you’d keep existing accounts. Closing an existing account to start a new one with a spouse or adding a partner to an existing credit card or loan could hurt more than help. 

When it’s time to pay bills, couples who choose not to create a joint marital account should designate who’s responsible for paying for certain expenses from their own accounts. Many couples prefer knowing that one person will pay for utilities, for example, while the other partner pays the mortgage. 

Joint Account

All income and expenses are managed from one account.

Separate Accounts

Partners manage their own money and decide how to split shared expenses.


Joint Account & Separate Accounts

Shared expenses are managed from the joint account; separate accounts are for personal spending.


Prenuptial Agreements

Partners can use a prenuptial agreement to solidify their financial agreements. While prenups are often seen as security plans in case of divorce, they should also be considered as valuable resources to protect the financial interests of both parties during the marriage. Include as much detail as you need to lay out your financial plan and look at your prenup as a tool to protect both parties and ensure financial expectations are met on all sides.

Credit and Debt History

Joint credit cards or adding another user to an existing account may affect the credit score of both partners—either good or bad. A lower overall credit score makes it less likely to secure low interest rates for major purchases, like vehicles or homes. It could also make it harder to be approved for other forms of credit, which hurts both parties.

Spouses should also consider different feelings about debt. How would a saver feel about combining accounts with someone with a lot of credit card debt? If your partnership can withstand conflicting values about money, that’s great—but keeping accounts separate might be best to avoid resentment.

Be Willing to Adjust

Situations change throughout a marriage, and couples should be open to reconsidering financial agreements that might have worked during an earlier stage of their relationships but aren’t as feasible now. Major life events, such as the birth of a child, could be a reason to start comingling finances more if you didn’t previously. 

No matter your decision to combine finances entirely, partially or not at all, it’s crucial to talk with your future spouse about money before you marry and continue those conversations throughout your marriage. Refusal to discuss money matters is a red flag—and conflicts about finances are among the top reasons why couples get divorced. 


Need a Hand?

Life changes could make you rethink financial goals.

1U.S. Census Bureau, 2019 https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/visualizations/time-series/demo/families-and-households/ms-2.pdf

2Pew Research, 8 facts about love and marriage in America, Feb. 13, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/13/8-facts-about-love-and-marriage/

3Policygenius survey, Sept. 24, 2018, https://www.policygenius.com/blog/couples-mange-money/

This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.

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