Ask Stacy: Should My Wife and I Have Separate Checking Accounts?

Whether to combine or maintain separate accounts is an age-old battle. But the solution is a simple one.

Ask Stacy: Should My Wife and I Have Separate Checking Accounts? Photo by Victoria 1 / Shutterstock.com

Welcome to “Ask Stacy,” a short video feature answering money questions submitted by readers and viewers.

Today’s question is one I’ve gotten many times over the years. It’s about whether a married couple should maintain separate checking and/or savings accounts. Do an online search, and you’ll find this question addressed in multiple ways by a plethora of financial writers and experts.

As far as my marriage is concerned, the solution is simple.

Watch the following video and see if you agree. Or, if you prefer, scroll down to read the full transcript and find out what I said.

You also can learn how to send in a question of your own below.

For more information on this topic, check out “What’s the Right Way to Mix Money and Marriage?” and “11 Essential Money Matters to Discuss Before Marriage.” You can also go to the search at the top of this page, put in the word “marriage” and find plenty of information on just about everything relating to this topic.

Got a question of your own to ask? Scroll down past the transcript.

Don’t want to watch? Here’s what I said in the video

Hello, everyone, and welcome to your money Q&A question of the day. I’m your host, Stacy Johnson, and this question is brought to you by MoneyTalksNews.com, serving up the best in personal finance news and advice since 1991.

Today’s question comes from Alan:

“My wife and I shared a checking account for over 30 years. We had a recent change in our income, and have been re-working our budget. One idea we’re tossing around is for my wife to have a separate checking account, where she gets a monthly transfer from our primary account. And then she pays for things on her side of the budget. Do you think that’s useful and wise?”

Alan, welcome to one of the biggest battles in the personal finance trenches. There’s been a lot of disagreement on this issue for years.

I’ll start by telling you what happens in my household.

My wife and I have completely separate accounts and don’t mingle anything at all. We divide up the bills, and we each have our own checking accounts, savings accounts and credit cards.

This may work best for us because we got married relatively late in life, were both used to managing our own money and both make a good income.

Other people, however, do the opposite. They commingle everything and have no separate accounts. That can work just fine as well.

Keeping everything together has advantages. First, when everything’s combined, it’s faster to get a quick, complete overview of your money. It’s also harder to keep money secrets, which can be a source of friction for some couples. Finally, if something should happen and one of you becomes incapacitated, the other has access to all the family funds.

There are also advantages to separate accounts. For example, it’s possible you’ll have fewer fights about money. As I said, some people are used to managing their own money and feel a little put upon when they have to start explaining their purchases to their spouse.

Fortunately, there aren’t just two choices. You can also try a hybrid approach. You can each have a separate account, and also have a joint account. That sounds like what Alan’s exploring: a joint account for the two of them, as well as a separate account for his spouse.

Another idea: Have separate accounts, but have both names on both accounts. That way, you may never actually see your spouse’s account; however, if something happens to your partner, you can access the funds.

My suggestion? Try different things and see what works best. I’d also advise that you don’t embrace some “expert” opinion suggesting there’s a right or wrong way to approach this. I’ve seen it before. I’ve actually read articles that state in no uncertain terms that if you truly love and trust one another, you’ll have joint accounts. Hogwash. Experiment until you find what works best for you both. Be flexible, be honest and talk it out. That’s the way to solve most marriage issues, financial or otherwise.

Now let’s close with our quote of the day. This comes from Craig Ferguson, comedian and television host.

“It’s easier to feel a little more spiritual with a couple of bucks in your pocket.”

Very true. Make it a super-profitable day, and meet me right here next time!

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The questions I’m likeliest to answer are those that will interest other readers. In other words, don’t ask for super-specific advice that applies only to you. And if I don’t get to your question, promise not to hate me. I do my best, but I get a lot more questions than I have time to answer.

About me

I founded Money Talks News in 1991. I’m a CPA, and have also earned licenses in stocks, commodities, options principal, mutual funds, life insurance, securities supervisor and real estate.

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Got more money questions? Browse lots more Ask Stacy answers here.

Stacy Johnson
Stacy Johnson @moneytalksnews
I'm the founder of Money Talks News and have spent the last 40+ years in the personal finance trenches. I'm a CPA, author of a few books and multiple Emmy recipient. I'm ... More

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