“My wife and I pool our money together and plan our expenses monthly. I’ve been thinking about having separate accounts and paying our monthly bills 50/50 (we make almost the same amount). This way, I can pursue other ventures that don’t risk her earnings. Does anybody have any tips and tricks when it comes to budgeting separately? Who pays for vacations? Gifts? Is there anything to beware of? Has anybody tried both? FWIW, we are debt free except our home and rental property.”
I’m part of a financial Facebook group where this question was posted. To be clear, this particular group was not a Christian-specific group, and I am unaware of the author’s spiritual life. However, this question could have been posed by a Christian. Both Christians and non-Christians can find themselves in financially separate marriages.
According to survey results by Ally, around sixty percent of American couples separate a portion or all their finances. Twenty percent of couples are completely financially separate.
What drives couples to make such a decision? While the reasons can be numerous and complex, here are five common reasons why married couples separate their finances:
1. They want to avoid arguments caused by different money personalities.
A person’s money personality is often a combined result of a their God-given personality and their prior experience with money, usually formed during childhood. Common money personality types include savers, spenders, investors, and ignorers.
Most seem to find themselves married to someone with a money personality that differs from their own. Unless they have worked to understand and empathize with their spouse’s perspective, money conversations can become emotionally heated. Couples feel as if their spouse is attacking their personhood. To avoid such conflict, they separate their finances.
2. They want to avoid arguments caused by different financial goals.
One spouse desires a paid-off mortgage while the other desires to save for their children’s college. One spouse wants six months of living expenses in their emergency fund while the other desires one year’s worth of living expenses. One spouse desires to live on a barebones budget while the other likes an occasional latte.
Whenever two become one, it is not surprising to find each spouse with different financial goals. If there is no compromise, arguments are bound to occur. One financial goal often takes away from another financial goal. In an effort to reduce the tension, couples decide to pursue their own financial goals with their own money.
3. They want to avoid arguments caused by different financial management styles.
Different money management styles can be the result of personality differences. One spouse may be very organized while the other is, well, less organized. One prefers a budget while the other hates the feeling restricted by a budget. One is good with using credit cards (as long as it is paid off each month) while the other believes in the cash envelope system.
When both spouses are certain their management style is the correct management style, blow ups can occur. Like financial goals, there is a significant degree of difficulty to having two competing management styles. Instead of finding a compromise, the couple decides to split their finances, allowing each person to manage money in the way they see fit.
4. There are significant trust issues around the finances.
She thinks he can’t control his spending and doesn’t want him to ruin their finances. He thinks she is overly controlling and hides money from him. Each spouse looks at the other with suspicion. They don’t trust one another. And instead of working through the issue, they decide to separate their finances.
5. They want to surprise their spouse with gifts.
I know this one seems different from the rest. But from personal experience, this is often presented as the reason for separate finances. They claim a desire to keep surprise gifts, like for a birthday, a secret.
What does Scripture say? God’s designed marriages to pursue oneness in every aspect of the marriage, including finances (1 Corinthians 7:4). You do not get choose what part of your spouse you want to marry or what part you want to give to your spouse. It’s an all-in deal—You get all of them, and they get all of you.
Including the bank accounts.
Recently published findings revealed a combined approach to finances can increase a couple’s relational satisfaction. According to the words found in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “…couples who pool all of their money (compared to couples who keep all or some of their money separate) experience greater relationship satisfaction and are less likely to break up.”
It is as if God’s plan works.
To be certain—differing personalities, differing goals, differing management styles, and a lack of trust can cause arguments. But the response should not be avoidance. Couples should work through the issue, making their marriage stronger than before. This is an opportunity for greater unity, not further division. These are issues most married couple must work through.
Financial division is not God’s plan for marriage, nor will it bring about greater satisfaction in your marriage. Do not fight for financial separation—fight for financial unity. Place the marriage above management styles and personal financial goals. Fight for oneness.