Is It a Good Idea for Spouses to Have Separate Bank Accounts?

"Could you write about your thoughts on separate bank accounts for a husband and a wife?"

Is It a Good Idea for Spouses to Have Separate Bank Accounts?

In one of the comments from Friday, I had this question posed. Could you write about your thoughts on separate bank accounts for a husband and a wife? First, you might be operating with separate bank accounts and everything is great in your marriage. Congratulations, because you are part of a small percentage of couples. I would imagine that the percentage of success is in the lower single digits. To me there are 4 reasons why separate bank accounts are problematic.

(1) It Emphasizes Control

When a husband and a wife stand on the alter and say their vows, they pledge unity on all areas of their lives. They don't pledge unity in everything but money. Having a separate bank account could mean that there is the need to control the handling of their own money. I have yet to see a couple be completely successful without surrendering control of money. This could also be a premarital red flag that needs to be explored. This is why it is important to go through premarital counseling regarding financial issues. Get those issues out of the way while you are in the pre-honeymoon phase.

(2) Temptation to Hide Spending

A previous Pastor of mine had an old saying that always stuck with me. He said, "If your head is made of butter, don't sit by the fire." Having 100% control over your bank account is a temptation to spend money that might not be in the best interest of your marriage. Plus it is easy to accumulate debt if your spouse doesn't see the credit card minimum payments.

(3) Builds Distrust more than Trust

To completely trust means to surrender financially. Now there are many areas of trust that have to be established and maintained in a marriage. If you are violating any area of trust, chances are you are hiding something financially which can only be done in separate bank accounts hidden or otherwise. Said another way, finances are tied to everything. Thus, to build a good foundation of trust, starting with a husband and wife surrendering financially to one another is a great place to start.

(3) Difficult to be on the Same Page

This is one of the single biggest problems when it comes to finances and marriage. In fact, it greatly reduces the chances of your marriage being successful long-term financially. To be successful long-term financially in a marriage, it is important to have a set of values that runs your financial life as a couple and a family. Further, those values are tied to your long-term financial goals. In order to combine values and goals into one game plan and monitor a successful spending plan that incorporates those important items, it is imperative that you have a combined bank account where spending is tied to a solid spending pan driven by your values as a couple and a family.

If you are engaged, deal with these issues right away and don't leave it to chance. If you are married, start the process of breaking down the barriers. It is a process and takes a lot of courage. Build that foundation in the heart of stewardship. Placing God at the forefront of your finances is the best place to start.

Thank you for answering my question Bob! Great insights.

I agree with your analysis. I guess my question would be why have separate accounts? As a married couple, pretty much everything should be managed and discussed together. One person probably does the day to day oversight but the other is kept in the loop.

@GunnersMom - it comes full circle back to the toxicity of money and how couples interact. For some it is easier than for others!

Great article. It's interesting too because there's so many dynamics that play into this. For example, times have changed. It used to be more common for there to be a stay at home wife/mother while the husband/father provides and take care of the finances. In that regards, it made sense for their to be only one bank account. But now, since most people I know need to be working parents (no stay home spouse), there is a battle of who 'owns' what. When really, we take a step back, it's God's money. And since they are unified as one in marriage, their money should be separate either.

This is a story that I went through for 19 years. I finally realized everything Bob said through daily reading of the Bible and time with God and I had to live out the word of God. And when we put our accounts together it did bring us much closer. Obedience to God is the key to a great marriage.

@RikDaniel - thanks for sharing your story - After 19 years I am sure that was not easy. Yet, you went to God's Word for guidance - the simplicity of that answer we often miss - I know that I do from time to time!

@PrudentMillennial - I think that the main point is being on the same page. How you get there depends on the environment and the times - as you point out, are changing!

I think a joint spending account is important and all financial decisions should be made by both. However, there are legitimate reasons some asset accounts may not have a spouse on it due to one spouse engaging in perhaps a highly litigious profession. You would also obviously have individual retirement accounts.

@JosephC - oh for sure - there are always exceptions to the rule - I sometimes forget to mention that