Married with separate finances, how do you work it?

For the married (or might-as-well-be-married) who own a property and share a life together but keep separate finances, how do you manage it? Who pays what for things like groceries, utilities, mortgage (or rent, I guess)? How does it work if you need to do something like put a roof on the house or buy a new couch?

And as an addendum, has anyone ever started with combined money and then split it? And what if the incomes are vastly different?

I don’t want to air dirty laundry here, but the basic scenario is that after years of my husband earning the $$ and me doing everything else (quite literally), I find that for my own mental well-being I need to get my own job and be financially independent. Once we go this route I need an equitable plan for who pays what.

Any and all thoughts appreciated.

Could you define “keep separate finances”?

For example, my wife and I each have our own separate bank accounts and credit cards, but we don’t see ourselves as keeping separate finances; our current division of who pays what bills has evolved more than been planned, and we shift those responsibilities just depending on what makes sense, and occasionally shift money from one’s bank account to the other’s, if the need arises. In short, our money is ours, not hers or mine, regardless of whose account it’s in.

Separate incomes, separate bank accounts.

Obviously in a stable relationship it’s more “ours” than “yours and mine”, but when one person is irresponsible and that affects both …

we have seperate bank accounts and a 3rd for joint stuff - house bills, food shopping and so on. We pay in the same amount into that account every month. It works OK :slight_smile:

Separate bank accounts here. I pay utilities, insurance, the mortgage (back when we still had it), tax balance at end of year, car repairs, restaurants, most medical bills, and about 97% of retirement saving. We each do some grocery shopping and each pay when we do. We each buy our own gasoline and clothes. We both work but I make triple what she does. I have no debt of any kind, but she has multiple credit card debts and a car loan; under local law I’m responsible for these but have no control or ability to find out about them (unless she dies).

That’s what we do too. We both have debit cards for the shared account when we need to purchase groceries, etc. For large shared expenses (e.g. we just replaced our HVAC system), we both transfer an equal amount into the joint account to cover it.

That’s a problem I haven’t had to contend with, so I’m not sure I have any useful suggestions.

One question, though: is the more irresponsible party in denial about his/her irresponsibility, or do they admit to having a problem? If the latter, you may be able to work out some sort of arrangement to limit the damage the more irresponsible party can do. If the former, I’ve got no suggestions at all.

We have quasi-separated finances. My wife makes her own money and I make my own money and they have their own accounts. Ours just evolved naturally. I make about twice what she does and she stayed at home with the kids for many years without working, so ‘my’ account pays all of the bills - mortgage, gasoline, groceries, etc. If we need it to survive, that’s from ‘my’ account. ‘Her’ account pays everything else. Vacations, entertainment, piano lessons, sports camps, etc. I don’t really have access to her account (my name is technically on it, but I don’t have a check or debit card. No idea how much she has in it,) so I don’t actually use her account for anything. She uses ‘my’ account whenever she wants, but mostly it’s for ‘needs.’

It works for us largely because she doesn’t like to have to justify when she spends money on something and I have very few wants or needs. I probably spend somewhere around 25 bucks a month on things for myself and most of that is just replacing fishing lures that I’ve lost. I guess a couple of times a year I make a big purchase of wood for woodworking projects, and occasionally sports tickets (typically to minor league or non-revenue sports, so in the five-ten dollar range) but that’s about it. She has many more wants, so it’s good for her to have her account for it. We’re also fortunate that we make enough money not to have to scrimp to the last dollar so don’t need a strict budget.

My logic on the whole thing is that all I really want is her and the kids and since I’ve got those already, everything else is hers for the taking.

I guess it’s worth noting that she’s not irresponsible and has no outstanding debt nor a propensity to get things she can’t afford.

It sounds like there are some underlying issues going on. Maybe that dirty laundry should be addressed first. Consider counseling or maybe a marriage-specific message board. Financial issues can often be contentious, and if there are other underlying problems, trying to tackle this financial issue could just make things worse.

One issue that you’ll still have with separate finances is conflicting financial goals. One spouse might want to save a lot for retirement and the other wants to live in the moment. One spouse might want to have luxurious furnishings and the other thinks that frivolous. One spouse wants to go on simple vacations and the other wants five-star resorts. Those kinds of things will still cause contention even if there is a 50/50 split and they each make the same salary.

From what I infer from your post, you would like to have some money of your own that you can spend as you wish. A lot of marriages do that even with joint finances. Each spouse will have an account with some amount of their own money they can spend as they wish. Getting a job yourself will be good for many reasons. I’m not sure you should think of yourself as “financially independent”, since marriage finances are generally considered legally shared regardless of which account they are in.

But for the best long-term result, I think you guys should try to get on the same page about financial matters. I’m not sure that separate accounts will really solve the issue you may be dealing with.

This. Completely this.

It’s commendable that you want to get a job. But if you are already doing everything around the house, you already have a job.

Actually what I want is security. We’ve been together for 38 years. In the last 15 or so he’s earned 99% of the money and I do 99% of everything else. He is 60 and I’m close to it so old age plans are looming, and constant job changes are not good for either the bank balance or my mental health. If I need to walk away I need my own income to do that. I’m not at that point yet, but it has to be considered. I am just absolutely OVER having the rug pulled out from under me.

Yes, but my job won’t pay bills if he can’t keep his.

My reaction to these types of threads is always, “Why?” Unless there are some underlying issues within a couple, I don’t see any benefits from maintaining multiple independent financial accounts, rather than fewer joint accounts.

We’ve always held everything jointly. When we married, she made more than me. Then she stopped working for a while. And then she resumed working part-time, earning much less than me. All that time, whatever each of us earned went into joint accounts. Same when we each inherited from our parents. To hold things separately always suggests to me that you are not committed to the relationship lasting.

I guess we are fortunate that our spending/saving preferences are consistent, and neither of us has a need to “hide” expenditures from the other. We both regularly carry cash we can spend on whatever we wish, and long had an agreement as to the amount we could independently spend w/o consulting the other (I don’t even know what it is now - maybe $100.) Just about any time one of us wants to spend anything larger, the discussion is simply “Is there money available? Are our expenses, safety fund, and planned large expenses (vacations, home repair, etc.) covered? If so, then spend it if you want.”

IMO, even if one of a duo is the primary breadwinner, if that person says their income is MY money rather than OUR money, then that person is a jerk and the relationship has issues.

IMO, managing and reviewing financial accounts is not so simple and fun that I wish to unnecessarily multiply the experience. Nor do I see a benefit from having different utility/financial accounts in different names. But that is just my experience. Different couples manage their finances in countless ways. Hope you find the one that works best for you.

Sorry - on EDIT I see recent responses indicating that the OP’s relationship DOES have what I would consider serious issues. Best of luck. Most importantly, I wish you luck in being able to find a decent job after time out of the workforce. IMO, it is horrible the way the job market discriminates against mature women who have been out of the market, and grossly undervalues their experience and skills

Yeah, job hunting has not been fun. I’m not stupid, nor am I incapable of learning, nor am I a weakling. Frustrating doesn’t begin to cover it.

Astounds me that employers so consistently give NO credit for having bought/maintained multiple cars/homes, raised kids, managed a household, etc., who WANTS the job and wishes to hold it for the long term, and would rather hire some youngster w/ no practical life experience, and who is out the door as soon as something new presents itself.

If I were in a hiring position, I could imagine largely staffing w/ mature women re-entering the job market. But that is just another of the myriad ways I seem to be out of touch.

Actually, this is one of the myriad aspects of sexism. Back when I was looking, older women generally had less of a problem re-entering the workforce after a break than older men. I was told I had to prove I hadn’t been in prison!

Anyway, to address the OP. I knew a couple (now separated) who used to keep everything separate. This was done for tax reasons. At first both, then later only one, were IT contractors and they used parts of their home for their work. It was all quite complex and they had to be able to account to the taxman for pretty much everything. It worked for them.

I cannot imagine being married and maintaining separate finances. I say this as a married man who’s always earned at least double my wife’s salary. She and I are a team, with shared financial goals, regardless of which individual makes more money. All household income is pooled in joint accounts, where we both manage the household finances. Actually, I manage the finances, but she is completely aware of all related information, and has equal voice in all decision making.

Again, we’re a team, working toward shared financial goals… not two individuals living together with separate financial goals. Of course, we have individual interests, and friends, etc, but we’re MARRIED. Financial success is a shared goal of marriage. Want to fly solo? Don’t get married.

While we are not MARRIED, we are in a long term relationship (15 years) and plan to be together forever. That said, we have totally separate finances and it works well. She is a VP in an advertising agency, I own my own small business. She makes over double what I make a year.

She pays all the utilities and groceries. She pays the mortgage (actually it’s paid off but there is a home equity LOC).

When the house needed a roof, I paid for that, mostly to give myself “equity” in the house. The house went from her house where I live to our house.

I pay for all the “fun stuff”. When we go out to eat, I pick up the check. I paid for our boats and the marina fee for our pontoon boat. Because I don’t have utilities to worry about, we can be pretty extravagant about dinners out, vacations, concerts, etc.

It works for us!

Why do you have to be dismissive of people who expect different things from marriage than you do?

Where were you 28 years ago with that advice?
I don’t WANT to fly solo, but I may HAVE to or lose my mind to anxiety and panic attacks.