Many new couples -- married or not -- wonder about combining finances. They seem to think that this is an expectation based upon trust factors and what the "Joneses" are doing. They hear their friends talk about joint accounts and combining assets, and they think that they should do the same thing, and be doing it right away; however, this doesn't necessarily have to be the case. Combining finances -- as my wife and I found -- doesn't have to be an "all-or-nothing" proposition.
Like a Hot Bath…We Just Eased into it
My future wife and I were together for a number of years before getting married. There was no hurry. We loved each other and that was enough. We didn't need rings and a piece of paper to tell us that. Therefore, we took our time, and when the time was right we finally got hitched.
We took the same attitude with our money. We both trusted one another and we were both responsible adults; we were also both responsible with our money. So what was the hurry to join all our accounts at once after marriage?
If nothing else, it was a pain in the behind, and there wasn't really any big hurry. However, over time, and as we relocated and realized that some things were just easier to deal with -- handling accounts, expense tracking, bill payments, address changes, etc. -- with fewer accounts, we slowly began combining and consolidating accounts until the vast majority of such items were in both of our names. However, there are still things like the family credit card and certain utility bills that arrive in just one of our names; but really, in a trustworthy financial relationship that's working, who cares?
Doing what Works for Us
As I mentioned, we took our time with our account consolidation because that's what worked for us; however, that doesn't mean that this is what will work for everyone. Some people might find it simpler and easier just to move everything into joint accounts right away. Others might have reasons for keeping things separate (i.e. credit issues, business related accounts, legal issues, etc.). It really just depends upon the relationship and financial situation of the couple.
Personally, I still like to track certain things for myself since I have an interest in personal finance and make a living writing about such items. My wife on the other hand, really couldn't care less about personal finance. Combining accounts can be more of a personal situation that should often be based upon preferences and needs rather than what everyone else is doing.
Making Changes Moving Forward and Based Upon Our Situation and Convenience
We continue to this day -- even after being together for over a decade -- to make changes to our personal situation when it comes to accounts and account preferences. As I mentioned, a large number of our accounts have been combined for convenience. After spending hours at the bank each time we relocated though (which was relatively often in our younger days), we gradually pared down the number of accounts for simplicity's sake.
And one thing to bear in mind is that while convenience can play a factor in such adjustments to accounts, so can safety and security. Putting the information of just one family member out there at a time can help reduce the exposure that information is receiving and the chances of it falling into the wrong hands. The risk of someone calling an account and pretending to be a wife or husband can be diminished if only one name is on that account.
Therefore, while I don't think there is anything wrong in combining accounts after marriage, I do think that it's more of a personal situation that should be handled based upon the needs of the couple. It doesn't have to be anything that is rushed into unless it's for the betterment of that couple's personal and financial situation.
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The author is not a licensed financial or relationship professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, financial or relationship advice. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader's discretion.
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