Hi Eddie, my newlywed wife and I are going through the crazy process of combining our lives (name change, figuring out how to live together, etc.) and one of the things that we’ve actually had a hard time with is whether or not to combine our bank accounts. Friends have told many times us that we should. But my wife and I don’t agree. Any thoughts?
This is such a great question, and one that I’m certain many couples before and after you have wrestled with. Thanks for asking it! Additionally, I’d like to affirm what I’m guessing you already know, which is that how we handle our finances has massive implications not only on our marriage, but also on our relationship with God. So saying that it’s important to get this right can’t be overstated.
To your question, I need to start by posing a few questions to you:
Do you trust your spouse?
Now, I know you trust your wife, I mean, you married her for Pete’s sake—I hope there’s trust there! However, trust isn’t a binary feeling. It’s an emotion that exists on a gradient.
For example, I trust a cab driver, and I trust my wife, but do I trust them equally? Of course not. I need to trust one of them just enough to drive me to my destination safely, while I need to trust the other with my very soul, my life, my hopes and fears—you get the idea.
And so my first question for you is, Do you fully trust your wife? I mean completely, 100%, there isn’t an issue I could bring up (for example, finances) that you wouldn’t place your full confidence in her in knowing everything about. Deep, unwavering, trust. Do you trust her that way? If you do, keep reading. If you don’t, your question isn’t about joint checking accounts, it’s about the state of your union, and it’s time to start getting some help with this problem.
But, assuming that you do trust each other completely (congratulations on this, by the way) you’re ready to move on to the next question:
Will you be radically, unquestionably, fearlessly transparent with your spouse?
This is where it get’s tricky. Because it’s one thing to trust completely, but it’s quite another to let someone into every room of your life. Yet this is what we have to do to maintain a healthy marriage.
Seth, as you didn’t mention any red-flag type issues in your relationship, I’m assuming things are rolling along pretty smoothly—which is great. However, when (not if) those issues arise, will your wife have enough access to you to know about them and possibly even help?
This access not only comes in an emotional form (i.e., you being incredibly honest with her, even when it won’t be fun to do so), but it also comes in a more practical form. For example, will your wife have every password to every social media, email and whatever else kind of account you own? She should. Because while I’m sure you’ve got nothing to hide, giving her access to all your hiding spots will make it easier to ratchet up that trust to where it’s supposed to be.
Or how about another example: Will you allow your wife to see every penny you spend? Every. Single. Cent? I hope so. And really, you have to. Because if you don’t, you’ve married the cabbie, and your relationship is transactional and untethered.
Seth, transparency builds trust, and trust anchors the relationship. I hope you’re radically committed to eliminating every hiding place. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Settle down! I was just asking a practical question about combining our accounts and now you’re hitting me with questions about trust and transparency?!”
Yes, and I’m asking you those questions because, while you’re friends may not be verbalizing it the same way, they share a common concern that keeping finances separate means more than just not wanting to be inconvenienced. We fear (because we’ve seen it happen to others) that separate accounts may be a symptom of separate lives. Which is why they (and I) are asking you to remove this hiding spot.
But maybe your desire to keep the accounts separated has nothing to do with any of this, and you really are incredibly trusting of each other. Well to that I’d say a few things:
First, I’m sorry you had to read this whole article just to get to the forthcoming answer.
Second, while it does seem easier and more advisable to have a single joint account, I get that there are extenuating circumstances that may necessitate more than just one joint checking and savings account (like your wife owning a company that, for tax purposes, needs to have separate accounting from your personal resources).
But at the end of the day, I would do all you can, in every sphere, to err on the side of caution. Does your wife need your email password right now? Probably not. She’d find nothing but fantasy football emails and Amazon orders. But, the safeguards of transparency are best erected when you don’t really need them.
Seth, plenty of good marriages have separate accounts. But they do not have separate lives. My hope for you is that you prioritize radical transparency, and then and ask yourselves what the separate accounts really mean in your heart.
All about the Benjamins,
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Eddie Kaufholz is a writer, speaker and podcaster and serves as a director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He also hosts and produces "The New Activist" podcast. You can find on Twitter @EdwardorEddie.