Today, many newly married couples like to retain a bit of independence by keeping separate financial accounts. But a recent study suggests that might be bad for their union.
Married couples who go the old-fashioned route and manage their finances together might be happier, according to researchers at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.
Such couples fight less about money and are more satisfied with how the finances are handled, the researchers found.
For the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers recruited 230 engaged or newly married couples and kept tabs on them over the early years of their marriage.
Some of these couples were asked to join their finances, and others to keep money matters separate. A third group was instructed to choose whichever of these options they preferred.
Couples who were asked to open joint bank accounts reported “substantially higher relationship quality” two years into their union than those who maintained separate accounts, according to a summary of the findings.
In the summary, Jenny Olson, assistant professor of marketing at the Kelley School of Business, says couples who merge their finances report “higher levels of community” and feel more like they were “in this together.”
Olson added that couples who share finances hold financial goals that are closely aligned and experience a greater sense of transparency around money matters. In the summary, Olson says:
“I think it’s a pretty powerful testament to the benefits of merging. On average, merging should warrant a conversation with your partner, given the effects that we’re seeing here.”
By contrast, those who kept separate finances view money decision-making as “more of an exchange.” Rather than working together, they take an approach that is “more common in business-type relationships,” Olson says.
In fact, the researchers note that among couples who separated during the study period, a significant percentage kept separate accounts.
Previous studies have found a similar link between sharing finances and happiness, but this is the first study to find a direct link between happiness and joint finances, the researchers say.
For more about how to merge love and money, check out “10 Tips to Talk About Money With Loved Ones.”