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Should You Combine Your Finances When You Get Married?

By: Barry Choi

When you get engaged, there are a lot of important decisions to be made. What date should you pick for the big day? Where should you honeymoon? And, who are you going to invite? While these are questions you want to address as soon as you can, have you thought about how, or if, you're going to combine your finances when you say I do?

Figuring out how to manage your money as a couple is one of the hardest things to do. Quite often, couples have very different opinions about their finances, so trying to merge things can be tricky, to say the least. Some people will even prefer to keep things completely separate. What you decide on is up to you, but here are some things to consider. 

The case for combining finances

Let's be clear. There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to combining finances. That said, many couples do believe in having joint accounts for the following reasons:

There's full transparency

Some couples like the idea of having a single joint account, so there's full transparency. Suppose both people in the relationship have their money deposited into a single account. In that case, everyone can see what's coming in and what's coming out.

That's not to say that you should be judging every purchase that your partner makes. However, you might think twice before spending if you have other priorities where your money is better used.

You can learn together

Managing your money as a couple can be tricky, but doing things alone can complicate things even further. Quite often in relationships, only a single person is responsible for all the bills. While this may be handy to ensure everything is paid on time, it could present a problem if health issues or death occurs.

The last thing you want is for your partner to wonder what bills need to be paid when dealing with an emergency. With joint accounts, you can both see what payments are being made each month. 

It helps you reach goals

Having money goals is part of any relationship, and when you combine your finances, it's easier to reach them. Let's say you want to buy a home in the future, but one partner has outstanding consumer debt. It doesn't make sense for the other partner to save when you can both focus on clearing that debt. 

Why you might want to keep your finances separate

Even though combining your finances as a couple seems like the most logical thing to do, some people decide against it. Here are some of the reasons why keeping everything separate would make sense.

You're responsible for someone else

Okay, so we established that focusing on reducing debt as a couple makes sense from a financial standpoint, but not everyone feels that way. Some people are adamant about not paying for someone else's debt. To them, it's ludicrous that they should help pay down a debt that they didn't incur. 

You'll need to compromise a lot

Compromising in a relationship is often seen as a win, but it can also feel like a negative if you seem to be continually giving up more than what you're getting. Just because your partner is a better saver doesn't mean you should feel weird about buying three lattes in a week. If you feel like you're always being judged, having separate accounts may actually benefit the relationship.

You're concerned about the future

No one thinks about divorce when they get married, but it happens. There's no denying that things might go smoother if you keep everything separate from the start. That said, there are still many local laws that determine how household assets are split when couples split. Don't use a potential divorce as the main reason for keeping accounts separate.

To combine or not to combine?

You've likely realized by now that there are both pros and cons to combining or keeping your finances separate. But here's the thing, there's no reason why you need to go all-in on one decision or the other. It's perfectly acceptable to have a combination of the two.

Both partners can have their own bank accounts where their paycheques are deposited. They could also set up a joint account and transfer in money as needed to pay any bills. When it comes to short and long term goals, having regular discussions and deciding on the best way to reach those goals is the way to do things. 

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert based in Toronto. He frequent media appearances Canada and the U.S. His website Money We Have is one of Canada's most trusted sources for all things related to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter: @barrychoi ​