Want to know how to haggle? Then please make sure to check out my staff writer post at Beating Broke today, The Golden Rules of Haggling!
This post was featured in Carnival Of Personal Finance #288.
In my family we always had a common pot of money. We didn’t have a bank account but we would put money in a big brown envelope. Yes, I still remember the color! My grandmother was in charge of it, and she would do all the necessary budgeting. If I needed money for school lunch, I’d have to ask her for an allowance. If my mother needed a new coat, my grandmother would decide when the family budget could afford it. I grew up with one brown envelope, or I’d rather say one “joint” account.
Years later, when Beaker and I moved in together, we opened one checking account and one savings account, with both of our names on the accounts. I did not question our decision. Neither did Beaker. It seemed natural for us to combine our finances and move towards our common financial goal – building our lives together.
My friends however questioned every step of this process. That’s when I discovered that some people draw a line when it comes to finances, opting to keep separate accounts. My friend, the one who hides purchases in the trunk, told me that separate accounts are necessary for separate spending. “There is our money, and there is my money,” she said. Understandably, she is very protective of her savings. Probably because having separate accounts prevents arguments about overspending.
I understand that people want to preserve what they had, what they have accumulated before they became a couple or a family. Having separate accounts gives some level of comfort and peace of mind knowing that “what was mine, remains mine.” Especially if you were financially established, owned some assets and investments, you could decide that having separate accounts works better for you. However, I believe thathaving separate accounts also discourages the development of shared financial goals.
Neither Beaker nor I had accumulated assets, houses and investments when we decided to start our lives together. We brought our debt into this relationship, so the natural choice was to have joint accounts to pay the bills, save and plan our financial future. We decided to share everything: our debts, our bills, our paychecks. We decided to share our lives.
I think that in the end, it all comes down to a question of trust. Marriages are built on trust and commitment, right? It is all about sharing, isn’t it? So, why do we need separate accounts? Is it because we don’t trust each other completely? Is it because we think that the other person will go out and spend our money? Or is it because we want to preserve a piece of us, we used to have before we were committed? Something that would show us that we have not totally dissolved ourselves into the relationship?
I am a huge believer in joint accounts because they create a concept of “our” instead of “mine.” They reinforce trust and commitment, and ultimately they create a sense that “ we are in this together.” Isn’t that what marriage is all about?