I want to marry 68% of you.

An updated throwback that should piss half of you off…

I’ll never understand why some married couples keep their finances separate (yes, that is me quasi-judging some of you). Maybe it’s the traditionalist in me, but when I asked Girl Ninja to marry me, I asked her to marry ALL of me. This includes (but is not limited to) my sense of style, my obsessive compulsive behaviors, my smelly farts, my sucky artwork, and of course my finances.

Before our wedding, I wrote a about how Girl Ninja was not only marrying me, but also my student loan (I think at the time I still owed about $10,000 to Sallie Mae). Whether she liked it or not, my debt was now her debt. A handful of commenters, however, disagreed. They felt that since I had acquired my student loans before I even knew Girl Ninja existed, they were solely my responsibility to pay back. One comment read, “I agree also that GN should have no part of your student loan. That was contracted before your marriage and is solely your obligation.”

Alright commenter, I’ll play your game. Going in to the marriage I was making $63,000/year. Girl Ninja was hovering around the poverty line bringing in about $20,000/year. My income was over triple hers. It seems that if I followed the logic of the commenter above and kept our finances separate, I would then have three times as much influence in our financial decisions, or at the very least, should be allowed to spend three times as much on miscellaneous categories like entertainment and dining out. If she has no obligation to my pre-marriage debt, what right does she have to my pre-marriage income? You can’t have your cake and eat it to.

I know Girl Ninja had no legal obligation to my debt, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t have a marital obligation to it. The second she said “I do“, my debts became her debts. My income, became her income. And my love for California burritos, became her love for California burritos…oh wait…not so much on that last one, but you get the point.

I don’t even know how separating finances in a marriage would work. Do you literally say “Alright honey, you need to transfer $50 in to my checking account ’cause I just paid our cell phone bill”? Do rent payments get split right down the middle since you both share space equally or does the larger income earner have to pay a larger portion? How would it have even been possible for me to pay my debts back separately, since any money put towards that debt effects us equally regardless of whether it comes out of my account, her account, or a joint account? What is the point of separating accounts from your spouse?

Someone enlighten me? 

p.s. if you weren’t aware, I actually ended up paying off my student loans about a month before our wedding, so Girl Ninja never had to worry about Sallie Mae 🙂

p.p.s. I’m super pissed at Girl Ninja right now as she just committed the cardinal sin in the Ninja house. She put the toilet paper on the roll facing the WRONG way! Ugh, it ruined my night 🙁

38 thoughts on “I want to marry 68% of you.”

  1. We combined money, but I can see how people make other methods work. L

    We lived together about 1 year before marriage and kept things mostly separate. It was incredibly easy. Clearly, there are no rules about whether you split rent 50/50 or according to income – we talked about it and came up with what we thought seemed right for us. We used a joint credit card for all joint expenses/bills and split that according to how we thought was right too. (Rent was according to income, the CC was 50/50 – this was mostly just for ease of execution). This wouldn’t have worked if we were on totally different pages about money, spending, and the future.

    BTW, when I saw “we combined money”, I’m sort of lying, because we actually still each have our own checking accounts. We use them for cash flow purposes, and there is absolutely NO point to it. We just haven’t cleaned up our system and it works for now. ur savings accounts are legally joint accounts, but the rest is all joint in our minds & plans.

    • Yes! This is pretty much exactly what we do and what we have done. The joint CC then split the bill was exactly what we did and it worked very, very well for us.
      Now we have separate accounts, but all the money is “ours” and in general I pay off the CC bills each month and spouse pays the mortgage/condo fees. Then we move the leftovers to wherever we want them.

  2. We have semi-combined finances, which I think works extremely well for us.

    We each have a personal bank account, which the other doesn’t have access to, and then we have a joint account. Our paycheques are deposited into our own accounts, and then we transfer a proportion of our incomes into the joint account to cover joint expenses. These include bills and mortgage payments but also when we go out to eat together, go to the movies, etc.

    If I go to the movies by myself, on the other hand, I’d pay for it out of my solo account.

    Because it’s a proportion of income, it’s a bit fairer, I feel. Each month we end up paying around 45% of our incomes on ‘joint’ things. Because Frugal City Boy makes a bit more than I do at the moment, he pays more than I do. When I get a higher-earning job than him, I’ll pay more than he does. We decide together on joint expenditures, but each decide on personal expenditures.

    I cover my student debts by myself because I created them before I met him. He buys hundreds of pounds worth of geeky books about London transport history because it’s what he wants to do with his money. I buy champagne on sale sometimes because it’s what I want to do with my money.

    If I were you in your example, I’d be paying much more into the joint account (because of the income difference) but have much more left over to pay my student loans (because I was making so much money). The effect on my spouse’s finances wouldn’t be very much.

  3. We have separate finances, and our incomes have a ten grand gap. We pro-rate the rent and utilities, and the higher earner usually pay more for the groceries when we go shopping, but that’s where the sharing ends. We usually pay our own tabs when we go out to eat (the higher earner occasionally foots the entire bill), we pay our own cell-phone bills, we pay for our own toys and hobby items. We keep our own paychecks and we pay our own debt. This works out nicely because we have VERY different ideas on finance. I’m frugal; He’s not. I budget, he doesn’t. He just bought a new car; I’ve never had a car newer than ten years old.

    We’ve been doing this for about five years. The only time we’ve ever argued about money was when I was only part time and we were making a combined $26K less per year than we are now. It’s worked out nicely.

  4. Before I got married I always wanted to keep my accounts separate, then I got married and it was just stupid thinking. I made more money and had more (much more) savings than my now husband. But I did not hesitate to combine our finances. Funny is that my husband now makes as much as I do and he will surpass my earnings in the next few years for sure (his industry is different than mine).
    You should not marry someone just to reproduce you marry because you want to spend the rest of your life with that special one and share it all.
    No wonder we have some many divorces these days, everyone wants to be so independent in relationship that nobody compromises any more. Marriage is all about compromising. (Ok that was my rant)
    Please tell me you are OVER and not UNDER family – it took mu husband few years to learn to face TP the “right” way, the OVER way.

  5. I’m with you Ninja – on the finances and the toilet paper irritation.

    I think all this dividing is silly. A marriage is a PARTNERSHIP in all areas.

    I make about $10k less than my husband, but he has student loans and I don’t. Still, all our money is OURS.

    My husband and I have always wanted to share, so it’s never been an issue. Even when we were dating (and not living together), whoever was closest to the register usually just whipped out the debit card, regardless of whose groceries we were buying.

  6. Ours is all combined, and it works for us. I make about 75% of our household income, whereas he only makes around 25%. However, it works!

  7. I can see why people keep the finances separate – my partner has almost 4x as much in student loans as I do at this point – but I’m inclined to agree with you, Ninja. His loans become my loans if we ever say “I do.”

    Even if they’re not legally my debt, his constant payment of an almost four-figure sum to the government effects every aspect of my life: what kind of mortgage we qualify for (if we ever buy property), how much we can put away for retirement, what kind of vacations we can take, how often and where we can eat dinners out, what kind of furniture we buy, etc.

    In married life, there is separate money, but there is also the process of building a life together, which requires joint financial decisions. One’s inability to contribute to those decisions because of past debt (that the other partner somehow absolves themselves from) bears on both people, whether they recognize it or not.

  8. We combine our income into a joint account, but our credit cards (1 each) are not joint, but any and all payments are made from the joint account. Hubby and I make about the same amount of money when you factor in his overtime, but even when I was making about $10K more than him, it didn’t matter.

    It works for us, but I do have friends that have separate accounts; 1 friend’s husband is HORRIBLE with money and is self-employed. Since this is a 2nd marriage for both of them (and given his attitude towards money), it’s best for her to keep her money separate.

  9. Fantastic subject, Ninja. I too also wonder why there are so many married couples who keep finances separate. Why even bother getting married? I take it to another level which for some reason is difficult at times. I put my wife before my family. It’s true that she does care for my family, but there are times when my family might irk my wife. That is kind of a big dilemma because I grew up always putting family first, even though my wife should be my number 1. Do you ever defy your wife and defend your family if there is a disagreement or is your life that perfect? 🙂

  10. My fiancée and I have joint chequing and savings accounts, but we each have our own chequing accounts and credit cards. We split household expense 50/50 right now, but that will likely change in the future as our incomes evolve. Anything we do together, we pay for together, but if I want to blow some of my hard earned cash on some clothing, I don’t want to have to ask him for permission to do so. He feels the same way about the record collection I disapprove of. It works out perfectly.

  11. I agree with you. We have our own personal money but other than that we do our finances jointly. My really big debt (that is slowly getting paid down) is his and his little debt is mine. On the other hand, I make more than him but we pool our money together so it works out well in the end for us. The personal money is so that I can buy whatever I want that I know he doesn’t necessarily want and vice versa.

  12. My bf and I are moving in together in September, and since we have a future marriage on the table we started talking money. I make consistently more than he does (he works for himself as a carpenter, so his income fluctuates from large sums to small) but I have a ton of student debt. We talked about merging our checking accounts once we’re married, then each having our own account for “play money” that we allocate a certain percentage too each month separately after bills, etc.I.E., I like to travel, so I save up money to visit the best friend in Texas, while he loves his toys and would rather spend the money on a bike. His parents do this, and I’m entertaining the idea of it working out…

  13. We have combined finances since we got married. We bought a house together before we got married, and kept finances separate then, but there was no reason not to combine them when we were legally bound. Plus it made it easier for me to organize IRA contributions, automatic deductions, etc, as I take care of the finances for our family.

  14. I have discussed this several times from an academic perspective on my blog and asked how people manage separate finances. I’m still not convinced it’s a long-term healthy setup. (My husband and I are 100% joint – not even separate allowances.)

    I can easily see how people manage in the short-term to keep finances separate once they have a system in place that they both think is fair (proportional contribution or 50/50 contribution). However, I have no idea how they would do long-term planning for their life together such as home ownership, vacations, retirement, children, emergencies, giving, periods of un/under-employment, etc. How can you really dream together if you keep your money partially or completely separate? How can you really support one another if you have lines drawn in your money to divide “yours” from “mine?”

    I also think that keeping separate accounts is a luxury that can only be afforded by people with moderate to high incomes. If you can’t agree on how your money should be spent, the purchase is obviously not a “need.” Our budget is so tight that we wouldn’t be able to find room for any purchases we aren’t both 100% on board with! And furthermore if two people can’t agree on how their money should be managed and spent to the point that they find partial pooling or separate money necessary, I think that really calls into question their compatibility and whether or not they should enter into a marriage. My parents approach money very differently (though they keep 100% joint finances) and while they are still married it has caused continual strife in their relationship.

    • Well, separate finances aren’t always an indicator if people are compatible or a relationship will work. My grandparents have been married over 50 years and have separate finances (and they still love each other & have a great relationship). So it can work.

      It’s not my cup of tea; my husband & I’s finances are joint. But each person/couple is different, so different things work for different people.

      • Agreed. My great grandparents were like that and were together their entire lives (even died 3 months apart) and my parents are like that and still together. You have to do what works for you. Combined, not combined or a hybrid!

  15. My hubby and I are separate at the moment, it just seems easiest. We have worked out who pays what bills in such a way that at the end of the month no one owes the other one any money, but we both pay about half of our expenses (for example, he pays the rent but I pay for electricity, internet, and groceries). When there was a huge income disparity, the rent was proportional; now that he owns his own business and makes less, it is 50/50.

    There are several reasons we don’t combine, including (1) this ensures that debt that each of us brought into the marriage is being repaid by the person who incurred it (and we have significant debt) and (2) he prefers to pay for everything out of his checking account with a debit card, and I prefer to put everything on my credit card and pay it in full every month. Re: #1, yes obviously him paying off his debt (or me paying off mine) benefits both of us, but legally debt brought into the marriage is the responsibility of the one who incurred it (and I married an attorney, so this is a big deal to him). Re: #2, probably because he made so much more than me for such a long time, I don’t think we could use the same checking account because he sometimes makes what I consider fairly expensive purchases that aren’t predictable (like electronics). I don’t think he’d agree to consult me first, either. So I could never be sure what the balance actually was.

    We have been together for six years and living together for four, so our system is pretty fine-tuned at this point. The next step is to buy a house, and at that point it may make sense to have some joint accounts, but for now we’re using the system that’s been working for us for years.

  16. We have separate accounts, but we do our monthly budget together. Each of us pays certain bills, and we put our combined “extra” money each month to our Debt Snowball – doesn’t matter who the debt came from. We call it “our” debt and “our” income.

    So while it’s separate in logistics, it’s 100% together on paper and decisions. Works for us!

  17. All in together is what my fiancee and I have talked about for when we get married. And I prefer the TP to face out, but my fiancee has convinced me that under is much safer from cats and the like, you win some and you lose some 😉

  18. It took us almost a year post-wedding to combine, but we finally combined everything. Everything not being much on my end, since I’m the one with all the debt (and still paying it off), but for some reason I saw that tiny checking account of mine as some kind of financial savior if something went wrong. But it didn’t make sense to keep them separate, especially since Husband never saw my debt as only mine. We’ve made several large contributions to pay it down together — which I never could have done if it was only “my” debt.

  19. The best solution is to enter marriage without debt, but is that realistic? If there is debt by one or both spouses, you need a plan for repayment. Without the plan, you will add to it and it is a little like adding weight to a sinking ship.

  20. I think keeping the finances seperate is to much of a headache. Also if you can’t share every aspect of your life together, maybe you should look into whether you should be marrying this person.

  21. I agree with Ninja. I can’t help but think that keeping separate finances is a hedge against things going wrong, and if you feel you need that then perhaps you should rethink getting married. I think it’s totally reasonable to have some separate money (where each person gets some agreed upon amount they can spend without consulting spouse), but having everything separate seems silly.

  22. Well, we combined our finances! It’s definitely hard. I mean someone always wants to have more say because of bringing in a higher salary. While I was in grad school, he was technically bringing in a paycheck, even though I had scholarship stipends that were worth more than his monthly paycheck. Now that I am going to start working, I will be making 6X more than him a month. When he gets a better job, I will still be making 2X as much as he makes. Guess it’s the graduate degree! My savings are his savings. Any big expense we both agree on. I am trying to make him more of a saver instead of a spender.

  23. My husband and I have been married for just over three years and together for seven. When we started dating I had around 45,000 in student loans, he had no student loans as he was full scholarship but had a lower income as he was working on his PhD.
    I strongly felt that my debt was my debt and have paid it off and now have around 45,000 saved. He has around 30,000 saved. We both like our finances separate we discuss everything and adjust according to income differences. I still have the higher income, in part because I choose to have a second job, which will stop soon. He will have a higher income in the next few years as he moves into the next level of his career.
    We have a joint account that we place money into to pay our combined expenses, we also have combined saving goals. We are fully open and have regular discussions about the progress on our goals and our spending. We have never had an argument over money, we each know exactly were we are and what our goals are.
    This works for us but recognize that it isn’t for everyone.

  24. I totally agree with the whole marrying 100% of the other person logic. My parents share everything, from finances to debt to children to life experiences. I don’t understand why someone would say that their debt is not the other person’s. That’s why people talk about finances before tying the knot. You have to know each other’s financial situations and together, you work on them together. I don’t get how someone can plan to just pay off their student loans or debt without making it the responsibility of the other person. I am going to join finances completely when I get married.

  25. We’re a hybrid. All of my income, minus $310/paycheck, goes into the joint account. $100 is personal money (I mean, how am I going to surprise him if he has access to everything?), and $210 is for my student loans. I kept my student loans in a separate account before him, so there was always money ONLY for paying loans (no commingling, no chance of overdrafting, etc.), and there was no reason to change that. He does the same thing with his income.

    And we could care less who makes what. I made $50k more than him for 2 years, then I started my own business so he makes $30k more than me now. He’ll go back to school next year and I’ll make $30k more than him, then when he finishes his residency he’ll make $100k more than me. I mean, really, who has time to reconfigure who has to pay what with all that going on?

  26. I know some people (my mom and my stepdad included) separate finances, but I don’t think it would work for us. When we got married, hubby had about $7k student loans and I had none. He was still in school and worked as a pizza delivery driver, and I worked as an administrative assistant until I lost that job and started doing odd freelance jobs. Together, we paid off those loans, and all the money we made was pooled. If we had tried to separate the finances, it wouldn’t have mattered because our incomes were so low and inconsistent to begin with that one of us wouldn’t have been able to pay for his/her half, so the other would’ve had to pick up the slack anyhow.

    Now that the loans are gone and things are more stable, we decided that he would work at his job (he loves what he does), and I would work at home to manage the household (cleaning, cooking from scratch, budgeting, shopping to get the best deal for things we need, errands, etc.). I also do music lessons and dogsit to bring in a little cash. To us, we are both working equally toward our future in our different roles, and the finances being pooled reflect that. I plan to stay home with the kidlets when we have them.

    Speaking of kidlets…when there are separate finances, what happens when they come along, especially if the mom (or dad) is staying home to care for them to avoid daycare costs?

  27. I’m not sure if I understand what is meant by keeping finances separate…my husband and I each kept our own bank accounts (at different banks) when we got married but put each-others names on the accounts (so we have two joint accounts) and our paychecks are still direct deposited into our separate accounts. We each pay for our various debts out of our accounts (student loans, cc, cars, etc…which we are aggressively working toward paying down and have a plan that makes the debt ours, ie, the first item we are aggressively paying down is “his” credit card, next mine, then my car, then his, etc). We split the expenses without really worrying about fairness, it’s more who is involved with whatever it is, for example the mortgage comes out of my account because I owned the house before we got married. We talk about big purchases before we make them and regularly check-in about our finances together. I guess it seems more complicated than having one joint account but this works for us. I think good communication is the key regardless of what system is used. I will also say that I don’t think having separate accounts is hedging our bets or a knock against our marriage, it’s just our system.

  28. I use billmonk.com to separate finances with my live-in boyfriend. Everything is completely separate, anything we do together (dinner, movies, etc) goes into Bill Monk and at the end of the month, someone ends up “Up” by a certain amount and the other person just writes a check for the difference.

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