What If My Spouse Won't Combine Finances?

Serious couple discussing separate checking accounts
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Once you are married, it is best to combine finances. This allows you to work together toward common goals. When you are married, you have legal protections that allow you to safely combine finances. Before you get married, you should not combine finances.

Together, you can also work more quickly toward your goals if you are fully combining your finances. You can have the tax advantages of filing your tax return jointly, and also work towards your savings and retirement goals together. It can be frustrating if your spouse won’t combine finances with you. This may be one of the first financial mistakes you make in your marriage

Set up a Household Budget

If your spouse will not combine finances, you need to understand why, and then work towards a solution that will allow you to combine finances in the future. Even if they will not combine with you, you will need to set up a household budget and work on covering the expenses together, the same way that you would if you were living together. The way this works is that you each contribute the same percentage of your income towards your household expenses. This keeps it fair, especially if one person earns more than another. If you have children together, you will need to contribute the same percentage to cover your child’s needs and expenses. This includes clothing, food, and activities.

What to Include in Your Budget

Your household budget should cover everything from your rent to your utilities and grocery bills. If you are on insurance together it should cover that as well. It may not cover your clothing, the gas for your car or your car payment. If it includes one car payment, it should include both. When you are operating your finances like this, it is important that you work towards your savings goals on your own. Be sure that you are saving up an emergency fund and contributing to retirement each month.

  • Be sure to budget things on your own like retirement and savings.
  • You should each contribute the same percentage and not the same dollar amount.
  • Do not divide the money by expenses type (like you cover groceries, they cover eating out).
  • Pay the bills out of the joint account to keep things fair.

Reasons Your Spouse Won’t Combine Finances

Your spouse may not want to combine your finances for several reasons. One may be that they combined with someone in the past and it did not end well. Another reason may be that they are concerned about how you handle your money. They may also be reluctant to fully disclose the amount of debt that they currently have, and want to keep things separate to protect you.

All of these reasons can be addressed as you work together on your household budget. If you have been irresponsible in the past, it can take some time to build up his trust and to demonstrate that you are changing the way that you handle money. If they're having a difficult time because of previous experience, then the household budget will work to build their trust and you may be able to combine over time. Be sure to work through these problems because they may be signs of bigger financial issues in your marriage.

  • The key to making finances work in a relationship is honesty.
  • Holding past mistakes over your spouse's head will not help you address any issues and may cause him or her to hide future ones.
  • Consider seeking counseling if this is turning into a larger issue in your marriage.
  • Budgeting together for your household budget may help you resolve many of the issues that may be holding you back from fully combining finances.

What If I Don’t Want to Combine?

You may be the spouse that is reluctant to combine your finances. There are plenty of reasons why you may be reluctant to do so, but you should also consider the implications of not combining your finances. It may be more difficult to reach your financial goals this way. It may also negatively affect your marriage since you may not fully trust each other. If this is causing real resentment, you may want to visit a marriage counselor together and discuss the reasons that you feel this way.

You should fairly divide the household expenses and equally cover any expenses for any children that you have together. Fairly divide means that you contribute the same percentage of your income to the household budget. If you make less money than your spouse, you will not have enough leftover if you have to contribute the equal dollar amount to the household. Dividing by percentages allows both of you to continue to work on savings and retirement goals.

  • Look at the property laws in your state. Some states will make you responsible for each other's debts if you are married even if you do not combine finances.
  • Set out a clear plan that shows what needs to happen for you to feel comfortable combining finances.
  • Even if you do not combine, be sure to plan long-term goals together and on your own. Talking to a financial planner can help you decide how to plan for your future together and separately.