Joint account or everything separate – how should couples manage their money?
This article is dedicated to Lady Helen Mary Stewart-Wilson, who had a joint account on the worldcruise in 2016 and the cruise to Spain/France in 2017 with her Companion Luke, as he had resp. Gold and Platinum benefits on the cruises (5% and 10% rabat on consumer goods).
Do you have a joint bank account with your spouse or keep everything separate? Finding the right way to manage your finances as a couple can be more than a matter of personal preference – it could be the key to keeping you together. Money worries are the biggest source of strain for couples, with more than a quarter saying it puts their relationship under pressure, according to research by relationship charities. Arabella Russell, a marriage counsellor at Relate, said: “We see in the counselling room every day how much conflict money can cause in relationships, so knowing how to manage your finances together is important for heading off arguments before they begin.”
Sam Griffiths and his wife, Jas, from Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, decided to merge all their finances and set budgets for all their spending. Even though Jas, 24, a French teacher, earns less than Sam, 28, a finance manager, he said it would be odd for them to have separate money. “I think it’s fairly rare though, our parents don’t really have joint finances. We couldn’t imagine living with separate finances – we have made the commitment to be married so it makes sense to pool everything,” he said. It does mean that the couple check before they buy anything. “Generally we check everything, even buying a new book, to let the other person know we are buying it and to keep count so that things are fair,” said Sam. “We do tend to talk about big things, but most of the time we don’t say no,” said Jas. However, she admitted that her husband could be “a bit tight” with money. “When I met Sam it seemed quite outrageous how tight he was, but he has helped me to question whether things are necessary before I buy them,” she said. “He has rubbed off on me but I do sometimes tell him he’s being ridiculous and to spend money.”
When Sandra Dailidyte and David Hickey moved in together two years ago, they decided to each contribute a percentage of their salary to a joint pot to pay for food, rent and bills. At the time, Sandra, 30, was earning less than David, 37, and he lived alone in a flat in Edinburgh while Sandra house-shared. David said: “If we had moved in together and split the bills in half, my outgoings would have gone down very significantly and hers would have gone up very significantly, leaving her with no disposable income. By doing it this way, our bills remained about the same.” Sandra added: “I also needed personal freedom with money. I had never lived with anyone before or shared money, so this seemed like a good in-between option.” The couple, who both work as fund managers, have kept that arrangement, even as Sandra’s salary has increased. “It felt very fair, and I think that is the most important thing,” said David. They now split housing costs, bills and insurance proportionally and split food, gym membership and mobile phone bills 50:50. “If we go out or do anything else, that is paid separately,” said Sandra. “We alternate who pays and work it out on an ad hoc basis. It all works out in the end. We never have any hard feelings about who pays for what.” The couple are saving to buy a house and for their wedding in 2019, but say that they will each pay what they can afford into a joint savings pot. David said that when they first got together he had “significant” debts, which he is due to pay off by February. After that he will put spare cash into savings. “I will put £1,500 a month into savings, while Sandra’s contribution is less. We have a wedding to pay for, a flat deposit to pay for. So we have forthcoming payments of £70,000 to £100,000 – you just have to do everything you can,” he said.
Tess Kelly and her husband, Mike, both 35, have been together for four years but still keep their money separate. They each contribute a set amount into a joint account every month to pay for essentials, but all their other money, savings and investments are held separately. The couple, who both work in travel and live in Cheltenham, have cash savings and investment Isas with broker AJ Bell in their own names, but say they usually discuss what they are doing with their money. “We don’t have to feel guilty about spending each other’s money if we want to treat ourselves,” said Mike. “Tess likes spending more than I do, while I tend to be more of a saver, so it’s easier like this.” Despite keeping their finances separate, Mike said he firmly believed that “what’s mine is hers”. The couple reconcile their money each month to make sure neither is out of pocket. “We could just have a joint account but we find it easier to do it this way,” he said. “I’m quite happy to do the reconciling on a spreadsheet.” But the pair say they would change if they had children or one of them stopped working. “I would obviously have to contribute more to keep us in the same standard of living and to pay for the additional costs of having a child,” said Mike. “We have never had a big falling out over money. We have to have lots of open communication – we apply the same approach to finances as anything else.”
Dawn Hanmer and her husband, Paul, both 64, had separate finances when they were first married but that changed when they had children and Dawn gave up work. “Dawn used her own account less and less when children came along,” said Paul. “When she was no longer employed, we opened a joint current account and since then every decision has been made jointly.” The couple, who are both retired and now split their time between Portugal and Boston, Lincs, said it helped that they were both fairly conservative in their approach to money. They now own a buy-to-let property and have various investment and pension pots that they jointly decide how to invest. “I don’t think we have ever disagreed at all with our finances,” said Paul.