Why My Husband and I Have Separate Bank Accounts and How to Make it Work

Can having separate bank accounts make for a financially happy ever after?

A joint bank account after marriage is considered a symbolic gesture of trust and commitment. Of telling each other and to the world, “What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine.”

At least, that’s what society has trained us to think!

In our case, not really. And 1 in 4 married couples who have separate finances agree. 

Compared to older generations, millennials were the least likely to be in favor of opening joint savings accounts.

For my husband and me, it doesn’t mean we don’t trust each other. Ironically, we think it’s our way of showing we trust each other more, especially when it comes to handling our separate incomes.

Arguments about money are the second leading cause of divorces  behind infidelity. However, money is the number one issue married couples fight about.

So far, having separate bank accounts as a married couple has eliminated so many of those fights for us. 

Here are other reasons we and other millennial couples are keeping our bank accounts separate:

You Don’t Have to Constantly Explain Yourself

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There are many reasons couples choose to open joint bank accounts aside from making budgeting and sharing bills easier to manage. However, arguments over unexpected online purchases and gaming subscriptions tend to cause a lot more friction.

To be honest, my husband and I don’t always see eye to eye on spending and saving. My husband can be very frugal to the point of being somewhat of a minimalist! While I am now an advocate of budgeting and frugal living, I still set aside money for life’s simple thrills and frills. After all, I am still human!

Related Post: Why I Started the Frugal Living Journey

I used to own the mobile number my husband uses now, and that number used to be connected to my personal bank account. When I switched to a new postpaid plan with a different number, I thought notifications from the purchases and withdrawals I made using my debit card would be sent directly to my new mobile number. After withdrawing a huge amount of money from an ATM, I came home meeting my husband’s questioning look. The notification about the withdrawal was sent to him, and all other notifications about my purchases after that.

Money is the number one issue married couples fight about.

To make the story short, I had to call my bank and ask them to update my mobile number so I won’t have to explain myself to my husband anymore. My husband was more than happy about the change. He said he’s glad he won’t be bombarded with texts about my financial shenanigans anymore.

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Having Separate Bank Accounts Only Proves You Trust The Other More

loving couple drinking milk tea
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I salute Dave Ramsey and his 7 Baby Steps to Financial Freedom, but the man is a devout Christian. That could only mean that for him, married couples with separate bank accounts are B.S.! 

Traditionalists support the notion that having a joint account is the “ultimate symbolic gesture of financial union”. They believe that this will prove you trust your partner with your money. 

Well, quite the opposite.

When both of you have access to your money, the other one might track the partner’s every financial move. This may make you or your partner feel a loss of financial independence. With separate accounts, each spouse keeps an individual degree of autonomy over their finances.

As my mom used to say, “A woman has to have her own money, baby”.

We are both aware that anyone’s acquired assets during the marriage are considered as conjugal property. According to Lawyers in the Philippines website, a conjugal property is the property that belongs to both spouses. When you marry, part or all of your property becomes conjugal property. Part or all of your spouse’s property also becomes conjugal property.

Still, holding on to our bank accounts helped us maintain a sense of identity in both our individual lives even though legally we know he owns what I own and I own what he owns. This money management system is mostly psychological, rather than legal.

Holding on to our bank accounts helped us maintain a sense of identity in both our individual lives .

With you not being able to see and control what the other has accumulated or spent in their account, this proves the high degree of trust you have put into your spouse’s money habits.

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It’s also about having trust that, if needed, I can cover my husband’s end, and he can cover my end, too.

Joint Accounts Can Be Messy When the Marriage Ends

man and woman signing divorce papers
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When a marriage ends poorly, the other co-account owner can drain the account before you can freeze the funds or withdraw them yourself. The funds in the joint account can be a headache to separate. Each spouse has all the rights to withdraw the funds and close the account without the consent of the other! If you have put all your money in that account, you’ll be left penniless tomorrow if you and your spouse aggressively decide to separate tonight.

If you have a tumultuous relationship with your spouse, having a joint bank account may not be a good idea.

With separate bank accounts, breaking up is easier. Although this doesn’t protect your bank account from your spouse should they bring in the lawyers, you’ll have quick access to your money and not fear your disgruntled spouse will lock you out.

Money, the No. 1 Cause of Marital Arguments

couple arguing about money
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Do you have huge fights over money too often? Financial arguments are cited as the number one predictor of divorce or separation according to a Kansas State University study.

Having separate bank accounts eliminated all financial-related arguments and made it easier for us to save together. We also avoid fights about who brings in more to the household and by not resorting to blaming, shaming, finger-pointing, or otherwise making the other feel “wrong” or less.

This is part of the reason I call our marriage a little bit “weird” and non-conformist.

How to Make Having Separate Bank Accounts Work

couple budgeting money
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Having separate bank accounts doesn’t take away responsibility in the household for either spouse. After all, there are still bills to be paid and groceries to be bought. 

Filipina celebrity Solenn Heussaff and husband Nico Bolzico admitted they have separate bank accounts, but has one joint account for all their bills and other household expenses. This is a pro tip if you want each spouse to contribute to pay for household expenses.

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On the other hand, if both of you have specific financial goals together like saving for a house downpayment, you can open a joint savings account for that all while maintaining your separate accounts. You just have to agree to deposit a portion of your income to that joint savings account.

Budgeting can be an ugly word for couples, but for us, it’s a carefully laid out plan on how we spend the money that’s coming into our household. We usually budget for our expenses, except for utility bills, in cash and we use cash envelopes for this to work. We’ve explained how this unique budgeting system works in another blog post.

Related Post: How I Saved 60% of my Monthly Income in 1 Month Using Cash Envelopes

We may have separate bank accounts, but that doesn’t mean we don’t work through our financial issues together.

Currently, my husband and I share the same values when it comes to managing our finances. We’ve committed to living frugally now so we can save as much as possible for the future. When spouses come together on the same page financially, they’re able to reach their financial potential quickly.

This separate bank account thing wouldn’t have worked if my husband and I didn’t trust each other so fully and communicate with each other well. It would also have been a disaster if both of us are bad at handling money. 

The majority of married couples might disagree with the things mentioned above, and that’s okay. This will probably not work for many. There are no one-size-fits-all rules when it comes to planning and managing finances as married couples. It truly depends on the circumstances and the beliefs and values shared by the couple. 

We are still in the early stages of our marriage with fewer bills and no debt, so our system might change someday as we go through our married life. For now, this is working for us incredibly well and has preserved the harmony of our marriage. With my husband’s tremendous self-control and my goal-driven personality, I am positive we can make this through!

Page Thrifty
Nikkah of Get Financed Lab is a caffeine-fueled work-at-home ninja, hustling her way to financial independence before she turns 40. Like most millennial, she dabs on blogging, starting side-hustles, freelancing, and slaying the mommy life. This blog is her personal finance journey peppered with her words of wisdom, which should always be taken with a grain of salt.