Together & Separately

When you get married, does that mean you should become financially dependent on each other? I don’t think it should.

When I come across couples that are joined at the hip financially it makes me cringe. With a resounding, “We love each other, why would we keep our money separate?” these people equate life-partnership with total money melding. Coupling doesn’t mean make yourselves ONE; coupling means making a new economic unit. It means each person brings his or her strengths to a relationship. It doesn’t mean giving up your financial identity to the family unit; there’s no strength in that!

You’ll notice there’s no such thing as a joint RRSP, or a joint TFSA. Each of those vehicles has to be used separately. Joint accounts are great for dealing with the monthly fixed expenses like your rent or mortgage, utilities, food, insurance and the like. But savings… well, savings should be a thing you manage individually.  Since you have to invest your money for your savings to grow, and individuals typically come with different risk personalities, time horizons, and goals, keeping your savings separate is a nod to that independence you need to maintain to be a healthy couple.

And don’t even get me started on joint credit. Other than a mortgage, no credit should be joint. If you must have a line for which you are both liable, then it should take two signatures to access the line. No joint credit cards, ev-ah! And no co-signing for buddy because he or she can’t qualify on his or her own. If your bestie can’t get the loan it means he or she shouldn’t have the loan.

I’m not sure where the idea came from that we need to merge all our money to be totally committed to a relationship. Yes, you need to work together. Yes, it would behoove you to have at least a few goals in common. And, yes, keeping secrets is a bad idea. But having individual financial identities – individual credit and savings – is the only way to make sure you’re strong on your own as well as strong in your partnership.

Listen, I’ve been married three times. I’m hear to tell ya that it doesn’t matter how much you love a person, crap happens. If you think you’re immune to said crap, you’re living in a dream world. Death, divorce, unemployment are realities a lot of people have to live with. Make sure you’ve got a strong financial identity so no matter what life throws at you, you can stay strong.

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Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join MyMoneyMyChoices.com to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

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73 Responses to “Together & Separately”

  1. We had separate accounts, and it didn’t work for us. Maybe we’re an exception, but having the same goals, etc. makes it make sense to pool our money together. Technically, I have money in TFSAs and he has money in RRSPs, but it’s what works best for us. He needs the tax deductions, and is like to have money available that’s not taxable when we retire. We each have pension plans. Our savings accounts pay expenses and things we both appreciate. If he wants to spend x on beer or tools, that’s fine, because I’ll spend x on clothes or home decor. We both have keep in mind the minimum balance we want in our accounts, and never make a big purchase without having a discussion first. He put his vehicles in loans in his name, and I put vehicles I use in loans in my name. We both have excellent credit. Joint accounts work for us. I’m not worried.

  2. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Our finances are no more mine or hers than our house is mine or hers. The money we earn and our finances are ‘ours’. It’s not a financial decision, it’s a lifestyle decision. In fact since my wife does all the bookkeeping for our business and personally, if I need money I ask her. I wouldn’t reach into the family’s money to spend something other than routine expenses without discussing with her.

    It’s probably a bad way to go for almost everyone but given our relationship and our backgrounds it’s the only thing that’s right for us. We’re an outlier on this one.

  3. I’m going to be another dissenter. Because of choices we made as a family unit, my husband was the sole breadwinner for years while I managed the household and took care of the children. Now I have a steady income while he is getting sporadically paid from his personal business. We work together. Maybe it’s because I come from a family with no divorce (no really.. not my grandparents, none of my aunts and uncles, not my parents, none of my siblings.. no divorce) but I’m still one of those people who believe that my marriage is a life-long commitment. It would have destroyed me to feel that I had to ask my husband for money back when I was a stay at home mom. Had I felt that is was his money/my money instead of our money, I would very likely have undervalued my contribution to our family and wound up depressed and alienated. I worry much less about divorce than I do about death. I have taken steps to make sure were both protected in case one of us passes before the other.

  4. avatar Samantha Says:
    March 26, 2013 at 7:46 am

    My husband and I pool all of our money. Both of us will be maxing out our RRSP’s and TFSA’s, but our emergency fund and other savings are joint. We also have a joint credit card (but we both agree that credit cards are only to be used for things which you can pay off immediately when you get home).

    As long as you have a frank and honest discussion of how things will be split if anything were to happen to your relationship, and that each partner has demonstrated over a reasonable length of time that you both have the same financial beliefs and habits, there shouldn’t be a problem. I get the feeling from Gail though that this is rare, and that’s why she’s seen people getting screwed over by bad breaks.

  5. I’m with everyone else here. Perhaps we’re all a unique subset of most couples when it comes to finances. My spouse and I started off with separate finances but a joint account for the home. I initiated this, mostly to delineate my “territory”. But I got over myself long ago and now most of our money is now joint. When my husband started his own small business, I insisted that I at least having signatory access to his account. What if he was injured? Killed? How else would I pay his bills? Too often we’ve seen recent widows/widowers who are clueless about their finances get a shock when they’re most vulnerable. But Gail’s points are well-taken. Create boundaries and take care of yourself financially. If you chose to merge finances, keep the dialogue open.

  6. We have had separate accounts since we got married 25 yrs ago and it works for us. We have been splitting expenses by percentages depending on who makes what. I cant imagine doing it any other way. We have separate savings accts and when it comes time to buy big purchases we usually split them. I can spend whatever I want without feeling like I have to run it by him. When my husband lost his job, I paid more of the expenses for a few months until he was able to work and take them over again. If we go out to dinner we usually split or hubby pays if its a special occasion. This way is not for everyone but I love it. So simple….

  7. I agree with you 100% on this. It is very important to maintain your financial independence. “Yes” to a joint account for household bills, but “no” to joint savings accounts and credit cards. You need to secure your own financial situation, both present and future, and you need to be sure no one else can put that security at risk.

  8. I agree that each couple should have their own credit history and their own savings accounts as well, but I we have joint line of credit with bank and each of our names is on the other’s credit card as a secondary card holder. We also have joint emergency fund and joint retirement savings accounts with ING. We have been married almost 40 years and that has worked for us. I am not sure what the issue is. Is Gail afraid one of the partners will withdraw all the money and take off or make a huge purchase without the other’s knowledge. Doesn’t it come down to trust. Or are we not suppose to trust anyone, including our spouse? I think having everything separate shows a lack of trust in the other person. Just my opinion.

  9. I guess I’m old fashioned because I wouldn’t feel right about having everything separate. DH & I have a joint bank account and own a house together. However we each have our own RRSP’s and credit, though we both have supplementary cards on the other’s account. I look over his statements monthly to make sure there are no surprises, not really because I don’t trust him but to make sure it’s correct and that I keep in the know about our total financial picture, and he has the option to look at mine any time though he doesn’t bother (I’ve been trying to get him more involved in the finances). You should be able to trust your spouse to a point, and I think as long as you have those regular money talks and aren’t an ostrich or a “mushroom princess” like Gail has put it, this can be a good option for people in a committed relationship.

  10. I can’t believe in this day and age people still get mixed up between a healthy partnership where each person is still their own strong person vs co-dependency where usually atleast half the partnership has their head in the sand.

    I have seen the all-mixed/co-dependency relationship and they always thought they were the “exception”. They are the ones that are the most bitter when there is a separation/divorce because they have lost their identity along the way and have nothing to pull from.

    The friends I do know who maintain their individuality are not cold, nor hiding things from the partnership. If anything, they are more happy and fulfilled, and more respectful of each other.

  11. My husband and I are yours/mine/ours couple. We each have our own chequing and credit card, and then we also have a joint chequing and credit card for the household expenses.
    We each keep the same percentage of our incomes in our own accounts, and the rest is spread between the household and savings accounts.
    We have our own TFSA, and I have an RRSP. He doesn’t have an RRSP because he has a great DB pension.

  12. I agree that it is important for each person in a relationship to have their own savings and credit. We have a joint account that all of the money goes into and we consider it all “ours”, and each month I take a certain amount and put it into my own savings account & planned spending account. While on the big picture things we are on the same page there are other things where we are different, for example, I love to travel and he hates it so I save up for my trips separately and go with the girls. The separate savings accounts allow me to save up money for things that he may not want to spend money on. He is a total saver so any money he saves is typically for long term savings or to invest back in the farm. With very different financial personalities having his, hers, and ours accounts means we do not fight about money. We do have a joint loan, but that is from FCC (farm related), we do not have joint credit cards, but not because of lack of trust but because it makes no sense to have joint credit.

  13. I’m with you, Gail! I think of your money as joint in the sense that it is earned for our family and our goals, but we are two people so we need to manage it accordingly. I don’t think it’s just about trust since a person who is happy in their marriage likely trusts their spouse. However, (a) no one, including your partner, is perfect and (b) separate credit and accounts keep us protected should the worst happen (dealth, disability, fraud/theft, unexpected divorce). My husband and I will not go through life completely in sync: he wants to retire early, I want to work overseas, we want to have a kid. Managing things separately makes that feasible as long as we never lose sight of the fact that we’re in this (life) together.

    I really dislike the tendency for people to equate separate accounts with the idea of someone not being invested in their relationship or trusting their partner, but I imagine those people equally dislike the notion that they are naive for merging all accounts. I guess my ultimate take away is: do what works for you, with your eyes open to the risks involved with the choices you make.

  14. We have the best of both worlds. 1 joint account, and 1 joint cc for all household and child related expenses. I manage all the household expenses and he handles the business expenses. Half the bills are in his name, half are in mine, and we each have our own bank accounts and credit cards too. We invest with the same person but each make our own choices about how to invest and what risk is exceptable to each of us (though we discuss how that risk would effect our retirement). We also have trust funds for our kids where we put all the money family gives for birthdays, Christmas, UCCB money, etc.. and one of us is on each of them.

    I know that if anything ever happened to one of us the other would have enough credit to stand on their own, and we each have enough personal and joint savings in our personal accounts that we’d be okay if the worst hit, but that if the other really tried to run with the money you could not get all of it because only monthly expenses are kept in the shared account. :)

    It works for us, and trust him 100% so I don’t need to worry about it.

  15. avatar Tracey H Says:
    March 26, 2013 at 8:57 am

    I’m with the first few couples who commented. I can’t imagine “his” money and “my” money in our relationship. I think every couple has to figure out what works for them, but I can’t imagine my husband feeling entitled to spend more money on his fun based on his income. That seems so self-centred and greedy to me. Our money is ours. Our assets, our responsibilities, our properties and possessions are all ours. I’m the financially-savvy one in the marriage and I deal with bookkeeping, investing, etc. He earns; I spend wisely. It works for us (and you might guess from that comment that I don’t work–it’s a decision we made jointly and review from time to time). So, especially with a couple where only one person works (or the other only works part-time), keeping money together would most likely create a huge imbalance (of both money and power) in my opinion. I can totally see how a couple where both work and make similar amounts might manage very separate money, but it’s hard to imagine it working for single-income households (I’d feel I was getting an allowance and that would make me feel either like a child or a ” little wifey”).

  16. avatar JS Ritchie Says:
    March 26, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Gmail isn’t saying that pooling your money is a bad idea. She’s saying you should maintain a separate financial identity so that if something happens to your relationship you aren’t tied to your partner’s credit history. If you’ve read some of the horror stories on this board, you should know how badly things can turn out.

  17. Gail I agree with some of the others on here, maybe your past experiences have soured you but for us I find managing our money together a lot simpler than it would be if it was all separate. Only exception is my wife has her own credit card with a small limit ($8K) but we mostly my card for purchases, that’s just to keep her credit history together. In my mind I go the other way – we share everything in life, so of course we’ll share a bank account. YMMV.

  18. @JS Ritchie: That’s what I took from the post as well.

    It’s not an all or nothing, which co-dependents tend to think. It’s a healthy balance of partnership AND being your own person.

    People either get it or they don’t. Unfortunately, sometimes you get it the hard way.

  19. avatar Christine Says:
    March 26, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Great post Gail! Having your own financial identity is very important. Stuff happens in life that will be beyond your control. Thanks

  20. As a stay-at-home mom I have to disagree. If my hubby and I did not share our finances, I would be doing all of the stay-at-home work and receiving no income and he would be paid quite handsomely to come home to a clean house, happy kids, a stocked fridge, and dinner on the table. When we entered into our marriage we knew it was a partnership, forever. We made sure we chose the right person from the beginning so that when “crap happens” we can deal with it and move on.

    They say that the topic most argued about in marriage is money. Not so in this home. We have chosen to have the same money philosophy and after 14 years of marriage we have very healthy finances. We would not be where we are if we played the “this is yours and this is mine and keep your hands off of mine” game. That’s a recipe for arguing, pointing fingers, and ultimately divorce.

    The marriage relationship has to come first. Finances are hard enough. It’s best to do it together, with your best friend, the one other person in this world who has your best interests at heart because they line up with his.

  21. I agree with Gail 100% my spouse and I have a joint account that we both contribute to pay all joint expenses we each have our own chequing & savings, & rrsp I have a pension and tfsa on top of that I believe if I work hard and save its mine. If my partner decides to spend more of his $ and save less he will have to work longer & that’s his choice. I just wish that in the case of separation if its separate it stayed that way. If we were to split we can fight over all of the singularly held assets. It’s a joke if I wanted/the intention was to fund his retirement I would purchase a spousal rrsp. I believe that getting a divorce shouldn’t be a lottery win.

  22. Keeping our accounts separate works for us. We each have individual accounts and one shared for household items (e.g. mortgage, utilities, savings for replacement items). We each contribute a percentage of our income to the household account. Each year we revise our budget based on taxes, utility consumption history and foreseeable repairs.

  23. Ha, we merged our finances when we had been dating for 6 months, when he moved in. We had gotten pregnant early in our relationship so he moved and and we both agreed to join our finances. 6 years later we’re married, own a home, have 3 beautiful kids, a new van and I stay at home with the kids. What good would it do me (staying at home to raise the kids) to have separate accounts?! Then I would never, NEVER get any money into savings and I’d NEVER have any money to spend on wants if/when we could afford such things.

    Gail normally I’m totally with you but in this case it’s a big no. My financial security is in everyone in this family treating the family income as “FAMILY INCOME.” Not, his or hers, ours. We’re mature responsible adults and have talked before about how to separate if the time came, even though we both say it won’t. We have a plan for finances, living arrangements and custody of the kids and we will follow that if there ever came a time that we needed to. Neither one of us wants to see the other suffer of end up in a bad spot, we want better for our kids than that.

    Any hiccups in the system we discuss and resolve. Shared finances in a marriage just make sense when your in a marriage with someone responsible, mature and when you practice good communication.

    Important thing to note, I’ve met 2 couples who didn’t share finances, it made their divorce that much easier for them, since they already had one foot in, one foot out.

    I’ve meet, I don’t know how many couples with joint finances, they are all still together.

    I can’t say if it’s just the people I know but those who seem inclined to keep separate, usually separate. Those who work on together, often end up together ;)

  24. Gail, you are a wise woman. If you are comfortable pooling your money, think of the worst case senario, and have the “secondary” person (on the account etc)call the bank to do a walk through and see what they have to do to gain access to the money in question. It’s an eye opener. Some friends of mine had to redo some of the “access points” with the bank so that the spouse would be able to have access to the money the same way the primary account holder would.

    That was even a lesson for me as a single person. Just because your married, doesn’t mean that financial instututions will treat you the same. If I had a nickel, for every man or woman who came to me after their spouse of 20+ years had cleaned out the account, ran up “secret credit” blar blar blar… I could buy Louboutins(my favourite shoes) every year.

    Be honest, be real, and always remember to mitigate risk.

  25. @Tracey H
    I do agree that everyone has to figure out what works for them. However one has to be smart and have plans in place for whatever the future brings. You say that “He earns; I spend wisely.” It’s good that you spend your spouse’s money wisely but maybe you should also be contributing to the finances in the family. You talk of “our” properties and possessions, yet you are depending on your spouse to provide his earnings to buy everything. Are you also depending on him to finance your retirement years? He may not be around then. Remember, too, that the longer you are out of the job market, the harder it is to get back in.

  26. Aside fom our mortgage, my husband and I have separate everything…..bank accounts, credit cards, etc and none are joined… We don’t even bank at the same institutions. I can’t see why we would ever change this but I guess you never know.

  27. I agree with JulieBo, the financial decisions we make are made for our family. If he needs to study for an exam that will let him move up a level and get a raise, then I take care of the house and kids exclusively so he can study. If I need to study, then he takes care of things.

    I believe vehemently that every person should have their own savings account. I don’t care if the Burning Bush told you that you will be with this soulmate until you both turn 80 and die together from food poisoning, have your own money! If her super duper work pension plan that they were both counting on vaporizes in a recession they’ll both be glad to know that he has a bunch of GICs somewhere.

    I was particularly struck by a comment posted a few years ago here from a woman whose culture expected her to never leave home and look after her parents. She would have had to accumulate it secretly, but if she’d had an EF she could have freed herself. That’s probably why women like jewellery so much, it’s a portable EF.

    When I was in school, the cousin of a classmate got himself into big trouble vacationing in a foreign country. He’d come to the defense of a woman being harassed in a bar but because it ended with physical violence he was in jail and would not be allowed out until the trial, set many moons in the future. The family pooled their EFs to make bail and got him the hell out of there.

  28. avatar psychsarah Says:
    March 26, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I agree with the sentiment that maintaining one`s own credit rating is important, but like many others here, we`ve always had “our money”. This was at my husband’s insistence when we moved in together before we were married. I was a student with very limited income, living on scholarships and savings, he was working full time. He supported me for 11 years of training for my profession. Now, he is fulfilling his dream of starting his own business, and I’m supporting him for the first year or so as things get rolling. I believe that our arrangement of “our money” has facilitated these dreams (I’m sure there are other ways to do this, but this works for us). We both have credit in our own names and our own RRSPs, but I suspect DH would have taken a lot longer to prioritize retirement savings and EF savings if I hadn’t nailed it down with our financial advisor. I also insist that he knows how to pay all the bills (something he did for himself before we got together) and where the money, insurance policies, etc. are in case I die, so he won’t be left floundering, but I still do all the day to day stuff. I guess there is “more than one way to skin a cat” so to speak. It’s probably not all or nothing, but I agree that one must not bury one’s head in the sand and assume all will be peachy keen forever and a day.

  29. My husband and I did not marry until we were 40. Why ever would we suddenly pool all our money when we both had homes/credit, etc before we got together?
    We are absolutely committed to each other (unlike the person who rudely assumed that by not co-mingling our $$, we had “one foot in, one foot out”), I think we both enjoy having our own money and separate responsibilities to the family. We still make joint decisions regarding large purchases, regardless of who is paying.
    I guess things are different for couples where one partner is perhaps a stay-at-home person who is not bringing an income into the pot.
    But people ought not to be so smug as to think their relationship is impermeable to strife. Many people are caught off-guard by their spouse’s secrets. Some financial independence is necessary. I expect many of the people who have written in have secreted away some amount of money, large or small, that is absolutely their own, unbeknownst to their partner.

  30. I wish I though of this 25 years ago before I married and subsequently divorced. The positive thing, is that I left a money moron and am now debt free except for my small mortgage. I make a much smaller income than my ex, but I have a much better quality of life because I can save money long term, but also have the freedom to travel, etc as I choose. I am not a slave to visa/m/c or trapped in a relationship with a disrespectful spender.

    I am however, pissed off that the rules have changed for living common law with someone is BC. I bought a property with my own money when I first got together with my current boyfriend, and it seems that if we split up, he is magically entitled to half? I am horrified by this, and probably would not have moved in with him before buying my house first.
    Does anyone know of any loopholes for this?????

  31. We share almost all of our finances. We each have a small savings account and our own credit cards but joint line of credit. When we buy a vehicle it goes in the name of whoever the vehicle was that we are replacing and the loan goes in that person’s name. When we got married in our early 20’s (30 years ago) neither of us had much of a history (no loans or other commitments) and it just seemed natural to pool our limited resources. I suspect that is also because it’s the way both sets of parents managed their households. I also suspect that if either of us gave any indication that we couldn’t be trusted with money making decisions we would have changed it around and separated it out but that didn’t happen. I find it very easy to deal with the money as if it is in one big pot but that’s probably because it’s what we are used to. I do feel it is imperative to ensure that you both have an adequate and up to date credit history as well as access to all assets in the event of a major illness or death. You can’t protect against every eventuality but I feel you must be aware of any risks and mitigate them as best you can. Money is such a highly personal matter it is difficult to find a one size fits all solution. I also note that some of my friends who are in second marriages or married later in life do better with separate finances as they had prior commitments and that makes sense to me too.

  32. I do not agree with Gail with on this. I usually do agree with Gail and value her financial advice & expertise.

    I firmly believe a marriage/partnership means depending on your partner & holding them accountable, along with yourself. In order to build trust you must learn to share! If you can’t share your finances 100% with your spouse, then how can you share your life 100%? It seems as though Gail is expecting a divorce or something bad to happen. If you go into a marriage with this attitude it is easy to see a marriage would fail….

    This is great advice for someone who is going into a marriage expecting it to fail. But if you are committed to your marriage then you should be committed to a joint financial life.

    Good luck y’all!

  33. We are a mine, his and ours couple. I would not have it any other way. People’s risk tolerance, spending tolerance and worst CREDIT tolerance is different in every couple. Even in the best of times.

    And for all of you who happily declare that you “chose the right person from the beginning”, that might not be true for everyone. Believe it or not, it might not even hold true for you someday. This has happened to too many of my friends and co-workers over the years to count. And there was no predictor to which spouse was blindsided with a financial surprise when a split happens.

    No. Joint. Credit. Ever.

    Banks won’t let you take a separate mortgage if you are both on title. In second marriages, this is particularly troubling when you still want to keep thing separate, but want to live and love together.

  34. avatar Michelle Says:
    March 26, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Wow, lots of opnions on this topic! It’s great to see all of the lively discussion.

    In the first years of our marriage DH and I did maintain separate accounts, however, once we decided to clean up our financial house we joined accounts and it has worked really well for us. Truthfully, he was struggling to keep things balanced on his side and it was something we needed to work on together. We now have a full financial picture and each see the money coming and going with no surprises.

    We do have credit cards in our own names and the EF account is in my name, which also makes sense for us.

  35. I am about to say ‘I do’ in less than a month. A few thoughts come to mind when reading this post.

    I feel this article paints everyone with the same brush. Finances vary so much based on the person. For every couple to take on this way of organizing their finances is ludricious. What works for one couple, may not work for another.

    That being said, my finance and I work well together financially. It is important to discuss financial issues right out of the gate. This way there is a common understanding. Aluding to the ‘joint savings account’ , I do not agree there should be separate accounts. It is important to work together as a couple towards a common goal. Not only does this bring you closer a couple but provides open communication pertaining to when the goal can be accomplished and how far off you are from it.

    My finance and I just finished paying off our wedding ( before it happened). We were both accountable for a certain amount to be put into the ‘wedding fund’. I cannot express to you how it feels to be walking away debt free. The whole experience of working together towards a common financial goal has developed a strong solid base for us to begin our life as a married couple.

  36. Some of the idiots posting here need to read what JS Ritchie above wrote and learn how to read properly. JS Ritchie, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Although not surprising that most of the females here would disagree with Gail without reading and comprehending what she wrote. Yes, you’re all the exception and not one of your partnerships will ever experience death or divorce or disability.

    Sigh.

  37. I’m struggling with this one. On one hand, don’t wanna be or have a glorified roommate, on the other, I do agree with protecting yourself if you’re with a financially childish partner. Guess it depends on who you’re with.

  38. @Adam: you’re being sexist. “most females would disagree without comprehending..” Statistically, women are more responsible with credit than men.

  39. Am so glad to see Gail posting this topic and for the range of replies.

    My marriage fell apart after we moved to another country for his career.

    We had separate accounts – but then when I couldn’t work (as my career options became very limited when we moved) it proved to be a HUGE issue for him.

    He earned a lot of money – I earned very little.

    Because his money was very much “his” I struggled a lot.

    With hindsight, I do think that whilst separate accounts can be helpful they can also be a hinderance in situations where one partner is earning much much more.

    We were never able to become a “couple” with joint goals financially because he was so precious about “his” money.

    I think it does come down to trust in some respects … and a lack of trust in one big area can permeate into other areas of a relationship.

    At the end of the day if you’re so fixated on what you have financially then you can negate what your partner brings to the relationship (financially and otherwise). And if you are doing that, why are you in a marriage?

    If I were to ever get involved with anyone again, I would, I think, still have some separate accounts but I would also have a big conversation around money and financial goals before it got really serious … I think I would have the finances arranged in such a way that it felt more like joint finances as a couple but that there was some understanding and provision/savings if the relationship didn’t work out. But I would definitely want more of a sense of joint goals around money with a partner – otherwise it’s just too hard.

    I think it’s really really important to be on the same page with finances as a couple – it’s a deal breaker if you aren’t (from my experience). Some people use money as power in a relationship.

    He’s done extremely well from his career move and now makes a fantastic salary, is in a permanent job he can’t be sacked from (he has academic tenure at a university) and faces the prospect of an increasing salary.

    I don’t begrudge him his success (honestly) but I’m now in midlife and starting over again career wise – personally I’m happier, financially I’m considerably poorer. But I remind myself that financial wealth is only one aspect someone brings to a relationship and there are a lot of qualities that matter that have absolutely nothing to do with money … like trust, kindness, respect …

  40. I’ve read back over all these comments and I’m really surprised that so many women still have theirs heads stuck in the sand. It’s so scarey. Ladies, you’ve got to open your eyes, both the young ones who think they’ve chosen the perfect partner who will never leave them either voluntarily or otherwise, and those who have been married longer and believe things will never change. There are no guarantees, so protect yourself, and your children if you have them, as you never know what lies ahead.

  41. I think some of you are living in a dream world. Never divorce….good luck with that. The divorces of my friends lately haven’t been at the 5 year mark but at the 25 and 30 year mark. Stay at home moms who never had a credit card in their name and now have no credit history. I never understood how people think that pooling your money makes you a have a stronger marriage.

    Plus, you are missing the point. She is saying a joint account is a good idea for joint expenses like your mortgage. But you should have a separate savings account and separate credit cards.

    My husband and I have been together for 15 years and married for 10 but treat our finances completely separately except for a joint account for our mortgage payments. We are no less committed to each other than the rest of you “joint” people.

    And to those who think that by keeping our finances separate you are going into a marriage expecting it to fail – no you are just being SMART!

  42. avatar HeatherVR Says:
    March 26, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    It is surprising to me how much of a reaction this post is getting from regular readers! Gail is ALWAYS touting the themes of planning for the worst and hoping for the best, and this is no different. Gail isn’t saying that you should go into a marriage (or relationship) planning to fail or that your shouldn;t combine your incomes – in fact many of her articles talk about how the best way to do the finances is to pool all the money in one account and pull from there – but more about making sure there are somethings in your name ONLY (bank account, credit card) to make life much easier should the worst happen, And the worst is not neccesarily divorce (though there are many a reader question on here from newly single women who find they have no credit history because everything was in thier partners name) but death of a partner, or disability/illness. If your partner is not able, and you need to get a loan, or raise your credit limit or access invested funds you may not be able to without their authorization if everything is joint. If they pass away, you may have trouble accessing anything with their name on it right away. Always a good idea to build a history in your own name and as a couple.

  43. You can still keep you finances seperate and still be 100% open about your finances. One doesnt prevent another.

  44. @HeatherVR – Hot topic indeed!

    I think that most (not all) of the “completely jointed/inseparable/co-dependent” people posting are choosing not to look at the article in its entirety, but breakout pieces of it and “label” it without the full context.

    One post even personally attacked for divorcing a few times!

    I will reiterate from above:
    The foundation has always been “planning and taking control of your own life”.

  45. I agree with Gail regarding maintaining individual, separate credit. This is actually useful in the event of divorce, for sure. As for the other stuff … What I haven’t seen discussed by anyone is the fact that, in many provinces, any assets acquired by either partner in the course of the marriage (or even common law relationships) are divisible in the event of divorce. That includes your RRSP, personal savings, etc. A typical approach is a 50-50 split, unless there are unusual circumstances. People should be aware of the laws in their own province, so they don’t get a nasty surprise when/if they divorce – and that includes the “separate finances” crowd.

    I also think it’s worth acknowledging that the yours/mine/ours approach is not equally feasible for couples where one partner stays home full time. The stay-at-home partner has no “theirs”, unless they get an “allowance” from the income-earning partner. It’s a completely different situation from a dual income household. [And I say that as someone in the latter situation.]

  46. As a high income earner, with an American spouse, we have to keep our accounts separate, otherwise, we get taxed by the US. all except our credit cards which we have together, but we use our credit cards mostly for convenience and to get cash back. We always pay it off in full, and have never paid a cent in interest.

    Thankfully for the both of us, we live extremely frugally. We don’t have cable. We watch free over the air tv. We have one car which we barely use. I bike, she rides the bus. We only use our car for grocery shopping. We don’t have a land line.

  47. I’m not disillusioned. As I mentioned my husband and I have thoroughly discussed what we plan to do should our marriage fail. We’ve looked at what child support payments would look like, what any possible alimony would look like, we’ve worked out custody around our work schedules, separating our finances in stages, first by opening our own individual checking accounts and changing the direct deposit for our jobs (I do work from home) and using the joint account for shared expenses during the separation and eventual divorce. We’re not petty children who will take everything we can get. I know the divorce stats but I also know my husband. I know us. I know that if things didn’t work out in our relationship we would handle it maturely and fairly.

    I don’t deny that divorce can happen, I’m just saying I married someone who would do the right thing, even if he hated me at the time, because that’s just the kind of man he is. I won’t live in fear of my husband financially attacking me, anyone who could live like that shouldn’t be married.

  48. So I’m guessing, Gail does not approve of the Stay-at-home-mom!!!!!
    I’m a stay at home mom, married once & still : ), and no NOT EVERYONE ends up divorced. Sure no-one knows the future..but come on!
    Stay single if you have that mentality.

    No WONDER she’s been married multiple times.
    No longer a fan of Gail anymore! Sad, very sad, preaching here from her today!

    :(

  49. Thought I married the most reliable, wonderful man ever. Put everything together. Used the profit from selling my own home to pay for our wedding and some improvements to the house he bought. We then put the home in both our names. Anyway, things went along pretty smoothly, and I got wrapped up in being a mom and let him manage the money. Well, go figure, he’s one of those that think ‘everyone is in debt, it’s just the way of the world, we’ll get out of it later’. Then, what I think was a mid-life crisis hit, and he made some choices I couldn’t even begin to believe. And, putting aside the emotional hit, I finally woke up to realize we had a $60 K line of credit. That day, our finances were split, we figured out how much we each need to contribute to run the house and raise the children and we transfer that amount in to one joint account each month. I’ve been saving every cent I can since then, because while we managed to mend our relationship, I will not worry about anything should things go sour again. I’m also not paying for half of his beer or cable tv any more. I wish we could get the loc down faster than we are, but he can’t afford to put anything more in than what we budgetted, and I’ll be damned if I’m putting more than my fair share toward the debt with nothing for my emergency savings. My only concern is that I don’t truly know what all he owes on his own. I have an idea, but not sure of the total. Would I be on the hook for that debt, should we split up in the future?

  50. At Pam: re:

    “I don’t deny that divorce can happen, I’m just saying I married someone who would do the right thing, even if he hated me at the time, because that’s just the kind of man he is. I won’t live in fear of my husband financially attacking me, anyone who could live like that shouldn’t be married.”

    I married someone like you describe – unfortunately, when it came down to it, no matter how nice he had been in the past, he was not happy when it came to paying me spousal support … so people can change even if you think that they won’t – but I sincerely hope that you (and anyone else who is happily coupled on this board) never have to go through the pain of a separation – it’s not something I would wish on anyone.

    The important thing here with joint finances, I think, is to try to financially plan as a couple for a separation should it arise – to have a plan, then do whatever actions are needed to make that financial plan happen (eg savings, organizing accounts etc) and then put it aside and just focus on being a couple and making that work.

    I think if I had been married 3 times (like Gail) I would be wary of the financial impact of a relationship so I also think we all come at this from different experiences … I’ve only had 1 marriage fail and that’s been hard enough emotionally as well as financially.

    As well, I think it’s how money plays out in a marriage that also matters – the power dynamics – whether each partner respects the others role regardless of salary earned – particularly where 1 couple is working and the other isn’t (for e.g. is raising children).

  51. I am really glad that Quebec common-law relationships keep things more separate than other provinces. My partner and I have chosen not to get married (both once-bitten, twice shy) and have completely separate finances except for one joint account to pay household expenses.

  52. @ Andrea

    In case you missed earlier posts and in information given by Gail, you would know that she was a stay at home (albeit working mother) for a number of years.

    In this post she is stressing that is important for you to have your own credit and savings in addition to any joint accounts that a family or couple chooses.

    Re: the new law in BC. I believe that any property or assets you have acquired before the move in date remain your own. It is only the value gained during the ‘marriage’ that can be split. Speaking of which my boyfriend has stated he wants the front half of my truck. lol.

    We have joint accounts for all our spending and planned spending acounts. We pool our money, pay our bills and all of our debts from the one account.

    However we each have our own savings account, RRSP’s and credit. We also each have our own vehicle. We make joint decisions regarding our finances.
    In the future we may actually use our own chequing accounts for our own spending. Video games for him and books and plants for me.

    Same as Gail, I value the importance in having ‘our’ money pooled but I also value having my own credit history and savings.

    I have see first hand from a family member when a marriage can dissolve in a blink of eye unexpectedly and the financial stress and disaster that is left.

  53. West of Manitoba the separation laws are more equitable with marriage. In Quebec they are not the same at all.

    If you want to protect what is yours you can sign a co-habitation agreement. Preferably with lawyers involved that acts the same as a prenup.

  54. avatar Tracey H Says:
    March 26, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    @Rae, thanks for thinking of me. We’re less than a decade from retirement. Hubby has sufficient life insurance to replace his income if he should die (plus disability in case of that, too). I could go back to work, but I make some money with a hobby and we both appreciate me being home (his job requires strange and long hours and travel so it’s great that I can deal with things that come up when he’s away). Looking back, I think I might have returned to work earlier (I had a professional career), but this has worked for us and has had benefits that we like (though everyone could use more money!).

  55. Andrea; you need to look at this as a tool to protect your future not as a “all marriages end in divorce” – what would happen if you – as a stay at home mom – found yourself a widow at a young age with young children? Can’t happen you say? My father was a widower at 44 with a 17 and almost 14 year old however, he was the “breadwinner” and could move on but my mother had been the “stay at home mom” until I was 12 and went back to work at the threat of my dad losing his job. If you were to find yourself a widow at a young age – do you have a bank account with your name on it that you can access? Do you have established credit? Is your name on the mortgage despite not having an income to apply to it? Do you have your own insurance policy? If not get it now while you are young – if you have to get it at an older age it will cost you a lot more if you find yourself widowed and having to provide for your children alone.

    In my opinion I think you took offense to the topic when really the main focus was – that it is important for both men AND women to keep their future financial lives in order – trust me – my life was turned upside down at 17 – I can only imagine what it did to my father but I am positive that it was 100% better because they had their financial ducks in a row.

  56. avatar Seriously Says:
    March 26, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Whether or not you expect to beat the divorce odds is irrelevant.

    For the commenters who “married the right person”, for your sake I hope your crystal ball checked if your spouse is going to to develop dementia, or addiction to pain medication, or go through a mid-life crisis.

    As someone who has been badly burned by having joint credit with a spouse, to you I say, “Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition.”

    Nobody expects their lover to become mentally incompetent. Try visiting a nursing home sometime, and say hello to future you. The road to mental illness is a slow and subtle decline. A person losing their wits still has access to their funds, and they can empty out life-savings and max out credit faster than you can blink. Getting someone declared incompetent is a lengthy, expensive ordeal. Your spouse (or YOU) could bankrupt your family quite easily. But nobody likes to think about that!

    Nobody expects their spouse to die. Good luck to the future widows and widowers who won’t be able to obtain credit later down the road because they’ve had no financial identity of their own. (I guess you don’t need life insurance either because you’ll both live forever?)

    Nobody expects their partner to become a drug addict, yet people get addicted to pain medication every day. Not all drugs are bought on the street. People on drugs do STUPID THINGS with money.

    Nobody expects to find out their partner has a gambling problem. People can develop gambling problems at any stage in life. Just because they were level-headed when you married them doesn’t mean addiction can’t rear it’s head when you’re in your forties.

    Having separate accounts doesn’t mean you have trust issues or are checked out of the relationship emotionally. Every wise captain keeps a life boat on the deck. Doesn’t mean they’re planning for their boat to sink…

  57. @ Andrea

    Gail couldn’t be MORE supportive of stay at home Moms.

    She advocates protecting yourself, maintaining financial security and protecting your family.

    I really object to you taking shots at Gail’s personal life to somehow justify your point.

    Finally, yours mine and ours doesn’t just have to be about separateness. I’ve seen her many times share the “fun money” so that one partner can play hockey and go out with their friends, and the other partner has some money to do things that they choose.

  58. I am very surprised at all of the heated comments about this. This is about financial independence; not about stay at home parents, divorce or anything like that. It’s about making sure your ass is covered when shit hits the fan. Financial independence is not a reason for people to split up; it is for protection no matter how much your love and trust your partner.

    Personally we each have our own credit cards, are our RRSPs and TFSA (EF) and none of these are joint. The mortgage and the rest of the house and living expenses are shared in 1 cheq and 1 savings account. We each get the same amount for RRSPs but invest in different ways. The EF was split in half so each of us has access to it in our own TFSA should something happen. If the EF was only under my name and I get hit by a truck tomorrow and am unable to work we could still cover the mortgage without defaulting. It’s our way and it works for us and for us it gives the balance of still having personally investments and a credit history without it being so complicated that we don’t know what the other person has going on. I don’t make excuses about what I do nor do I judge people who do things differently since there are reasons for everything.

    It’s your money, your life and your choice. Gail is making suggestions and getting people to think about this in the same way she does about having debt, not having enough insurance, raising a baby, becoming house poor etc. This is the same as saving 20% of your house price, just because I did 10% doesn’t mean I’m an idiot, nor am I personally offended when Gail says you need to save 20% and if you can’t you shouldn’t buy a house. I have my ducks in a row and I’m able to sleep at night and that’s all that matters.

    Conversation is great but don’t go personally attacking people for no reason. To the comments from people along the lines of “No WONDER she’s been married multiple times” give me a break. How rude.

  59. Personally, I think the mixed reaction to this post (at least, for me) is coming from the declaration that couples shouldn’t be financially dependent on each other. Otherwise, I think the advice is spot-on.

    My husband and I both currently work and earn similar amounts of money. However, he’s in a career he loves, that is set to earn him a significant increase in salary (as much as 3-4x what he currently earns) within the next few years. I, on the other hand, am in an administrative role that I’m not passionate about and that will earn meager raises. We both want to have a family. His job allows us to travel. We have looked at it and decided, for our family, it makes the most sense for me to stop working once we have children. Why? Well, firstly, why would I put my kids in daycare when it would cost 2/3 of my salary to do so, to go to a job that I don’t need to do to pay the bills or achieve our goals? Why would I work extra hours when he will earn easily 10x what I will per hour by picking up a single overtime shift? If I don’t work, we can seize the amazing opportunity we have to see the world together without being at the mercy of my industry’s standard 2-week’s vacation.

    By making this decision, I am giving up my independence. And yes, that’s scary. But I won’t make decisions based on fear. (Note: by this I do not mean that I leap blindly or fail to plan/protect myself.) Everything in life’s a risk. I’m sure eventually, once our future kids reach school age, I will find myself working again in some capacity. But we don’t count on my becoming an equal breadwinner.

    However, with regard to the rest of Gail’s points: we maintain independent financial identities. As a family, we are a single economic unit – our money flows into our joint account, we work from a family budget. But then some money flows out in the form of personal planned spending, managed through solo chequing accounts. We each have our own credit cards. We each have RRSPs in our own names. (Our main savings account, though, which is our planned spending for a down payment, is joint.)

    I feel like this allows us to maintain our own financial identity and exercise independence while still operating as a single economic unit (for us, what feels right as a family). I would hope Gail wouldn’t disapprove.

  60. I’m with Gail, and I have a story about my mom.

    She was a stay at home mom most of her life, and she did do cleaning work on the side to pay for her own personal things and wants. Dad and she never had a joint account at all. Dad paid all the bills and gave her housekeeping money. She did put a little bit of money away in a savings account. And, they both had a fairly nice life and things went on year after year.

    Suddenly, one day my dad passed away totally unexpected. Mom and he were out and he tripped over something and hit his head. Not thinking he was hurt, he and Mom drove home and when he got inside, he started to babble. Mom called 911 and the ambulance came and took him to hospital. He went into a coma and three days later, he passed away. He was 79 and my mom was 78.

    Up until then, Mom didn’t think about finances. He handled it all. She was stuck. His bank accounts were frozen and she couldn’t get at any of his money to pay mortgage, household bills etc. Luckily, she did have the money in her savings account, and that kept her afloat until the will was read and things kind of got back to normal (without him). Without that little bit of money in her savings account, Mom would have been in a real bind.

    So, take it from me people, it can happen to anyone. Mom and I still talk about her little savings account today, and how glad she was that she had it.

  61. I am another person who has joint accounts for everything except RRSPs, TFSA, etc. We have been married for over 30 years, and have always pooled our money and made all decisions jointly. Maybe it wasn’t the safest way to operate, but it has worked for us.A

  62. It makes sense to do, but I bring the question; what if the spouse needs a loan?

  63. Totally disagree with you Gail. We’ve had joint everything since our dating days. No issues. We basically are the same with our money and plans. I have a separate account for business…and he got access to my business Visa but hasn’t activated it lol…he coudl care less about spending so….and I’m the same basically.

  64. I am currently married to a money moron… and after reading the rule about protecting myself – I’m ‘divorcing’ the debt. It’s all separate but the mortgage. I am not going to struggle and panic with his poor money decisions any longer. I will have the only credit card (in my name) paid off in 3 months. He will always struggle with debt (unless somehow he magically changes).
    To Colleen in BC – ask nicely if he will sign a paper that states that the property is exclusively yours, and if not – go see a lawyer NOW!

  65. avatar adam vivian Says:
    March 29, 2013 at 8:57 am

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  66. I’ve been together with my DH for 8 years, moved in together 2 years ago and just married last year. We still currently keep separate accounts. He looks after the mortgage(which is in both of our names), his car plus costs, his cell phone, and his own business accounts. I look after day to day house expenses (groceries, utilities etc) , my own car, my dog.

    I had always grappled with the idea of whether we should be merging all our finances together. We are always open with each other about our finances, but he always insisted that we ‘spend our own money’. If there were joint expenses we could pay each other back.

    My idea to go with joint accounts was mostly out of convenience and budgeting purposes. And at first, I thought his reluctance to share accounts was out of selfishness and that he had something to hide… not that I had any reason to suspect anything. I had felt that if we didn’t share everything then it wasn’t a full commitment to the relationship because I truly thought it was the norm for couples to merge their finances.

    But after reading everyone’s comments here, it’s nice to see there is a range of how couples manage their finances. I now feel I can let go of the idea of merging all finances together and we will eventually come to manage our accounts the best way for us. I’m sure as we move forward in our lives our needs will change, so will our accounts when it happens.

  67. In support of Gail and those who agree with her:

    Always, ALWAYS, have a back-up plan. A “Plan B.”

    What has worked for decades may stop working. Joint sharing, trust, good will, health, life — any or all of those may end suddenly, for any number of reasons. Surprise!

    In financial terms, a back-up plan includes separate savings and credit — whether or not you have joint accounts.

    As Seriously said, a captain always has a life boat on board, even though there’s never an expectation of disaster at sea. The same is true with relationships. You may never have needed that life boat before, and you may be unable to imagine needing it in the future — but make sure to have it ready nonetheless.

    Don’t become someone who suffers from wishing, too late, that you’d had a back-up plan.

  68. My wife and I are joined at the hip financially. We do have separate credit cards, but when we are together we decide which is the more advantageous to use as to when the total has to be paid. We do have a budget and we give each other amounts to spend on clothes or spending money. If one wants to save and the other wants to spend, that is their choice. The one who saves will have more to splurge on something later on. Luckily we have the same attitudes around money and goals. We’ve been doing this for almost 30 years so it has worked so far and we are both very happy about it.

  69. Wow, late to this blog, new time reader…pretty appalled by the name calling. Idiots, really? Way to keep it classy.

    I guess I won’t be having much to say around here.

  70. […] was reading an article by Gail Vaz-Oxlade where she spoke about encouraging couples to have separate identities when it came to […]

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