Spouses Share Life, Not Checkbooks

By Bob Hansen
|  Monday, May 24, 2010  |  Updated 11:54 AM PDT
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Spouses Share Life, Not Checkbooks

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Should married couples keep their money is separate or joint accounts? Financial times are changing and more couples are going for separate but equal. Does that make sense?

Tradition has it that when two people get together, they pool their money into the relationship but wait --- not so fast.

Today, many couples are sharing their lives together… but not their bank account.

Pete and Terri Kansler have shared their lives together for 18 years, share two children but they do not share a bank account.

“I have my checking account and he has his,” said Terri Kansler. “I pay my bills and he pays his.”

Now that may sound harsh but the Kanslers say having separate accounts actually saved their marriage.

“If I didn’t agree with something he bought, I’d be like, why did you spend that? We could have used this on something I wanted,” she said. “He would be the same way.”

“One day I just came home and said here’s your other ATM card. I got my own account and that’s it,” said Pete Kansler.

“We come from different backgrounds but we have the same goals,” said Kristen Lindsay.

And those goals include a joint bank account. Ryan and Kristen Lindsay have been married nearly six years with two children and say they never even thought of separate accounts.

“It just keeps you on the same page and helps you be unified in your financial decisions which is important in keeping unity and working as a team,” said Kristen Lindsay.

Years ago it was common practice that a couple shared the family finances but that’s not the case today.

“When you join together in holy matrimony you’re supposed to be joining everything together, your household, your finances and everything,” said clinical psychologist Christina Zampitella.

Zampitella says the rules of the marriage game are changing with the times.

“Couples who are cohabitating or if one or both partners were previously divorced, they tend to have more separate accounts than a joint account,” said Zampitella.

But that's not to say it's the only way to go. Finances like marriage are very personal and for some people, keeping separate accounts works best.

“There’s times where I’ll say you know I really want to go to this place and she’ll say I really don’t have the money to pay for that, you have to pay for it. Okay, fine no problem,” said Pete Kansler.

For others, the tradition of keeping the money in a joint account is also the best decision.

“Both of our parents had joint accounts,” said Kristen Lindsay. “I think that served as a good example of how we would do our finances,” said Kristen Lindsay.

The key is to be open and honest about money. Financial problems can quickly break apart a marriage but even counselors can not say which financial plan is best for you.

“I would love to be able to say one is better than the other but it’s just not true,” said Zampitella. “Research is not supporting one way or another at this time.”

Money issues are common topics in therapy. Zampitella says couples get into trouble when they fight for control of the finances. She says when you're dating and things get serious in the relationship… it's never too early to talk about how you will handled your money.

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