Whose money, honey?

Something New

When it comes to marriage in this day and age, married couples operating their finances from only one joint bank account seems to be a dying tradition.

After talking to my parents, bosses and older colleagues, it seemed to be a no brainer that when they got married decades ago there was no question that bank accounts were combined immediately after getting married, regardless of income discrepancy, children, or living scenarios.

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Now we’re seeing all sorts of alternatives to financing in a marriage, especially more roommate-like scenarios where young couples have separate bank accounts, debt, credit cards, etc. but divide rent, mortgage and bills 50/50 (sometimes 60/40 depending on income discrepancy) and carry on.

It’s no longer assumed that the day after you say “I do” that you combine all your finances. If anything, it’s become one huge sticky mess, and a lot of that is because of couples getting married at older ages with individual mountains of debt they’ve accrued along the way. Years of being independent before marriage could also lead to habit and a sense of entitlement when it comes to income, like an “it’s my money, I earned it,” attitude, rather than “it’s now our money, we’re married.”

It’s a more independent world out there, especially with women choosing to marry at the average age of 30 instead of 20 because they’re getting their educations and careers in order before they settle down and marry. That could quite easily evolve into an independent attitude towards their earnings; “I worked hard for this, it’s mine to do with what I want, but I don’t mind splitting rent with you.”

Things get even more complicated when there’s a large income discrepancy, especially for the person who earns the big lump of money (hence the increase in pre-nuptial agreements) if their partner is just scraping by. There can be feelings of injustice in that regards and perhaps resentment on both sides, but that being said, everyone is different, and some partners who make the money think it’s their responsibility to provide for their spouse.

Separate bank accounts can also provide a level of privacy that you cannot have if you lump your incomes together. Some people figure that as long as you’ve paid your part of the rent/mortgage/bills, you’re free to spend YOUR money on what YOU want without answering any questions or having to explain why you bought that new 80” LCD TV. And yes, that is a growing sentiment as well (which seems to baffle older generations).

Another big reason for the increase in separate finances in marriages is related to personal security. Considering the divorce rate in Canada is at 33 per cent (as discussed in last week’s column), couples might think it’s safer and easier to keep their finances separate ‘just in case’ things don’t work out down the road. After all, the more combined your incomes and assets are, the more difficult and messy it is to divorce.

It sounds like we have one big independent, paranoid and cynical generation on our hands, but maybe they have their reasons for being this way.

After watching a high percent of their parents get divorced and the mess that followed due to joint accounts and assets, maybe these younger generations have learned they can never be too careful when it comes to money, that there’s nothing wrong with protecting themselves, and that there’s not much harm in having their separate accounts – so long as the bills are paid, that is.

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