Research consistently finds that financial compatibility and harmony is one of the biggest predictors of long, happy marriages.
So when you get married, the choices you make around your new, blended finances are high stakes.
What’s the best, most practical way to combine accounts and efforts? That’s what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.
How Should Married Couples Blend Finances?
How should a newly married couple blend their finances?
A listener put that question to Clark on the Jan. 4 episode of the podcast.
Brad in New York asked: “I am getting married this summer and was hoping you could give some suggestions for blending our finances. We want a joint checking account and joint credit cards but are not sure what banks offer joint checking accounts. Do we close all previous personal accounts?”
To start, you don’t have to rush to eliminate yourself as financial individuals as soon as possible and share every penny and credit account by the end of the honeymoon.
Clark does not recommend closing accounts.
“When you’re early in a marriage — I don’t know what age you and your intended are [when you’re] getting married — but particularly if you’ve been out in the world for a while living alone, I like for you to have stuff that’s yours, stuff that’s hers and stuff that’s together,” Clark says.
“There will come a time generally in a long-term marriage where you’ll decide to just combine-combine. And that’s fine.”
Clark’s wife still has her first credit card. Clark doesn’t see what she charges on it and doesn’t pay it. “We’ve been married 27 years and she still likes having that separate card,” Clark says.
Joint Checking Accounts and Credit Cards
Sharing a joint checking account is super common. But joint credit cards have become increasingly rare.
Clark likes the notion of a joint checking account that allows both spouses to deposit to it, withdraw from it and write checks (if that’s still a thing in your life).
Speaking personally, my wife and I got married in 2018. We set up a joint checking and savings account with one of the best online banks. But we maintain our individual accounts as well.
If we want to get fast food for lunch, splurge at the mall or buy the other person a present, we don’t have to feel judged. But we communicate often about our goals as a couple and we’re strict about contributing to those goals first and foremost.
Banks, Clark says, don’t enjoy being caught in divorce arguments over joint credit cards.
“And so now what banks do is they will offer an account that you own and you can designate your spouse as an authorized user. The authorized user is not legally responsible for the debt run-up on that card. But they are allowed to use that card.
“It’s up to the owner of that account to grant or revoke authorized user status.”
Just got married? Clark’s advice is to split your finances into three buckets:
- Your account(s)
- The accounts of your wife or husband
- Your accounts as a couple
That’s especially true if you’re getting married after you’ve lived some years as a single adult.
If eventually you combine everything into joint accounts, great. But it’s possible to keep a credit card or some other account at an individual level for decades and feel happy doing so.