A lot of couples argue about money at some point in their marriages. It’s relatively common because not everyone’s financial values and beliefs align. Furthermore, a lot of individuals marry their financial opposites, which can cause more friction between them due to differing habits and thoughts about finances.
Solving financial issues in a marriage is not easy because it may require a shift in one’s beliefs and values. These beliefs are usually instilled in someone through their experiences or environment and upbringing as a child. For example, someone who has experienced bankruptcy is more likely to be very frugal.
As children, they might see their parent’s attitudes towards money and imitate it. Overtime, being constantly exposed to such behaviours, it becomes a habit. Once it becomes a habit that they have been used to for years or decades, it can be difficult to change.
So before you blast at your partner or someone for their financial beliefs, understand that it’s very likely to be years of being in a particular environment that causes them to behave or think a certain way. When couples argue about money, they are voicing out their subconscious anxieties that they themselves might not even be aware of.
Money can be one of the toughest marital issue to resolve.
For couples, they have to first acknowledge and appreciate what each other contributes to the household. Sometimes they may argue because one person earns substantially more than the other, which makes them feel like they have dominance over the family’s financial affairs.
But just because their partner earn lesser and in turn contributes lesser, doesn’t mean they are not playing an important role in the family’s financial affairs. They have every right to voice out their concerns regarding issues. Non-monetary contributions by the lesser earning partner is very common in such cases.
If a partner feels they aren’t in a position to comment on money issues because they earn lesser, and the partner who earns more doesn’t address this insecurity, it causes a hidden problem in the marriage. It becomes a grey area between them. These are the kinds of issues that start out small, and become full blown during arguments. So it’s best to find these insecurities and address them to smoothen the marriage.
One of the best ways to do this is definitely by sitting down to talk about it. However, do not force your partner into admitting their insecurities. People rarely let out personal matters under force. Let it happen naturally by asking the right questions and being patient.
Another financial issue is when couples have conflicts over what to spend money for. For example, going on a holiday or signing the kids up for value-added classes. Like I mentioned earlier, people may marry their financial opposites. This makes it harder to see the value in what your partner wants to do with ‘your’ money.
To counter this, make decisions based on facts and figures, not on emotions and impulse. Find out what matters to both you and your partner, and spend money on those things. Having short-term and long-term financial goals planned out can help this greatly.
Focus on the goals and possible solutions instead of attacking your partner’s financial habits.
Recently, we talked to couples who each have different types of bank account arrangements in their marriages and ask them for their feedback on what works for them and why.
Separate accounts only
Wilson and Angie, who works in real estate and the biomedical industry respectively, prefer having separate accounts. “We used to have a joint account but have since cancelled it. It made things more difficult in our relationship because every little bit of spending is scrutinised. It feels like you’re being watched all the time.” says Angie. She admits that she indulges in retail therapy ‘quite often’, and spends on little treats such as cupcakes, churros, and other small gifts. This made it harder for her when having a joint account because her spending habits are very different from her husband, she says.
Wilson also prefers having separate accounts because he already has a company account that he can use to treat clients and pay for other miscellaneous expenses. Being in real estate, he also works on commissions so his monthly income is not fixed. This will cause the amount he can contribute to a joint account every month to fluctuate.
“The company account is like having a joint account with my company, which makes me feel like i’m married to my job” he laughs. He says that having one joint account with the company was enough for him and he prefers some independence on his finances. They said that money issues were not a big problem for them because they earn independently and learnt to give and take when it comes to household and common expenses.
Joint and separate
This would seem like the obvious bet. Having joint and separate accounts would probably work well for most couples. This gives them the autonomy over their own spending via their personal accounts, and can use the joint account to pay for household expenses.
Hamzah and Nur, who are in their early 30s, are strong advocates of having both joint and separate accounts. “It’s the best of both worlds. But it took some getting used to at first because we’ve never had joint accounts before marriage. Deciding on how much each party would contribute to the fund each month was also something we had to discuss, on top of what the joint account would be used for.”
So they’ve decided to use the joint account to pay off big items like their 4 bedroom home, car, and shared expenses like electricity bills. The joint account is also used to give money to each of their parents every month.
Other personal items are paid for using their own personal accounts, such as personal phone bills. They also have a few hundred dollars set aside each month for their own personal indulgences, which according to them, is ‘no questions asked’. “That has helped to reduce the chances of any arguments because it is a buffer amount we set aside for ourselves anyway.” They agreed that having both types of accounts has worked well in their marriage so far.
This type of marital finance often works best for couples. It makes it easier to settle shared responsibilities like household and common expenses, while giving individuals the freedom to spend independently. The joint account gives the couples a sense of togetherness and makes them feel like they’re working together for the betterment of their household, and the separate accounts are for their personal use.
Lawyers.com found that those with joint accounts reported a slightly higher level of marital satisfaction. However, this doesn’t mean that it will work for all marriages. Each couple is unique and have to find their own preferences and solutions when it comes to finance.
We were unable to find a couple with only joint accounts between them.