When my husband and I got married, we talked through our personal finances and our philosophy around managing money. Money is such a contentious topic and can be the cause of marital problems – it was something I wanted to avoid, because I had witnessed first-hand the impact it can have on relationships, including my own parents. I was open and honest about my less-than-stellar record of saving money. However, I was also motivated to make a big change, because I knew that our marriage could only work if we were aligned in our approach to money.
One of the first things we tackled was how we would be managing our money. While dating, our personal finances were distinctly separate. We each had our own banking accounts and credit cards. We would sometimes treat each other for meals, and sometimes we would split. There was no real hard line for how each one of us spent our money. When we became engaged, we decided we would combine our finances, while also maintaining some independence. We set up joint savings and checking accounts and applied for a common credit card. We agreed on a set amount we would each send to our joint accounts every month, which we automated for every two weeks. All of our common expenses, including mortgage payments, utilities, and other bills, were paid out of our common checking account. We often used our shared credit card for food and entertainment costs. Broadly speaking, we generally contribute an equal amount to our joint accounts.
Anything outside of those common funds are personal – my husband and I continue to maintain separate savings and checking accounts, along with personal credit cards. We individually cover our own personal expenses, including lunches, clothing, and our school loan payments. If we need to make a large purchase, we talk to each other about it, although most of our large purchases are family expenses that we generally pay for from our joint account. I sometimes use my personal card for shared items, but I’m not too fussed about it – I don’t want to fall victim to nickel-and-dime accounting.
We also separately contribute to our own investment and retirement accounts. While we have made some joint investments in the past, those have been minimal, primarily because my job actually limits me from making single-stock purchases. To be honest, I don’t inquire about my husband’s personal finances much, nor does he with mine. It’s not because we don’t care or that it’s none of the other’s business; it’s more that we were individuals before we were married, and perhaps maintaining a bit of financial independence is like maintaining a sense of self. Ultimately, our lives are fully intertwined and we share nearly everything, but having a little bit of self-sufficiency, especially from a financial perspective, doesn’t hurt anyone.
Photo: Steven Wu Photography