How to keep finances from hurting your new marriage

Joint or Separate Finances for a Second Marriage?

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

Joint or Separate Finances for a Second Marriage?

I am getting remarried. My ex and I had a lot of money problems that I do not wish to repeat the second time around. One of our most frequent fights was about who was spending what out of our joint checking account. I'd like to know how others handle their finances in their second marriage. I am wondering if keeping separate checking accounts might result in fewer arguments about a spouse's spending habits. And what about joint credit cards and loans? It was a lot to untangle after my first marriage ended. Is keeping finances separate a smarter way to go the second time?

Have Financial Talks before Marriage

How you set up finances in your second marriage is not as important as the discussions you have about finances before you marry. Do you agree on how to spend money and on what? Do you agree on saving goals? Do you agree on how to manage credit?

Discussing these questions now can save you a lot of heartache later. In any case, I suggest that women in particular keep a savings account in their own names even if they have other accounts in common with their husbands.

You also need to consider whether you live in a community property state or not, which will affect your finances if the marriage fails.
Barbara in SC

Joint or Separate Finances for a Second Marriage

Keep Them Separate

If your salaries are similar in size, break down all the bills into two equal parts and each of you should contribute to them. If not, break it down proportionality. You could also do what my husband and I do. We have two accounts and we each get an allowance each month to spend on whatever we want with no questions asked. This works very well for us.

Related: Inheritance in a Second Marriage

Mine, His, and Ours

When my second husband and I got married, we agreed to keep our finances separate. We each have our own checking accounts and savings accounts, but we have one "house" account with dual access where we each put in our share of the mortgage payment or if we need to transfer funds from one person to the other for whatever reason. We also split up the bills (electricity, cell, cable, etc.) and each has designated bills to pay. I pay for the cell phones and garbage/water/sewer, and he pays the electricity, cable and car insurance bills.

We don't have access to each other's personal accounts. We just have dual access to the "house" account. We've been together for nearly 20 years, and this has worked really well. We don't fight about money at all.

No Arguments in 33 Years

My husband of 33 years and I have always kept our own checking and savings accounts. Each of us was responsible for certain bills, and if we had anything left over, it was our own business what we did with the money. It has worked very well. We have never had an argument about money. We have even had friendly contests to see who could save the most. As long as both partners are responsible, it works beautifully.
Dot in CT

Related: How Not to Fight About Money

Be Sure to Discuss Large Purchases

I remarried last summer. My new husband and I kept our separate checking accounts since our paychecks and pension checks are automatically deposited and we pay certain bills through automatic deduction. We divided our bills according to our incomes in a way that we both felt was fair. We have a joint savings account and contribute to a retirement account. We discuss large purchases. I feel so blessed to have a spouse that is more careful with money than my previous experience. I am finally debt free after several years of debt. It feels great. We are preparing ourselves for retirement now so we can make the best choices when we are ready to retire.

Keep the Financial Peace

In my first marriage, all money was kept in one account and that worked fine. When I got remarried, it was harder since we had our own obligations, such as loans and child support. In addition, we had both become accustomed to being independent with our own money. We ended up doing a hybrid. We each kept our own accounts at first and shared the joint expenses according to what percent of the family money each earned. Later, when we had children and I became a stay-at-home-mother with little of my own income, we opened a joint account, keeping our individual accounts open as well. Now, 15 years later, we still keep our own accounts to receive money we earn on the side, while the joint account receives our paychecks and is used for all of the family expenses. Each of us having our own accounts lets us spend on things the other might not deem important, which keeps financial peace in our marriage.
Katie in Tucson

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The Importance of Talking and Listening

My husband and I chose to have joint accounts. We had both been married before so were aware of possible problems. We talked about the pros and cons before marriage. We also talked after marriage before either of us bought anything. We did a lot of talking and planning throughout our 30 year of marriage about everything, not just money. The marriage didn't end until his death. I still find myself thinking about our talks and using them as a guide. In marriage, friendship, or any other relationship, both talking and listening are so important.

Get on the Same Page

I highly recommend that you take Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course together. It will help you get on the same page.
Michele in Daytona Beach, FL

Related: When Your Spouse Doesn't Care About Money

Set Limits

I married my husband (who was previously married) in my early 30s. From the very beginning, we set a limit on how much either of us could spend without discussing it with the other. Our limit is $100. Anything over $100 needs to be discussed. This does a few things for us. First, it prevents some impulse buys and what can turn into buyer's remorse. Also, it starts a conversation about needs versus wants and what category this $100+ item falls into. After doing this for a few years, we opened our first joint account because I felt more confident about his/our spending habits.
Nicole from Canada

Address Issues and Keep It Joint

When I got married a second time, I worked hard to address money issues beforehand. I, too, had money troubles in my first marriage. Most of the time, however, it was because of lack of communication and a common goal. Work hard to work together on this and maybe seek premarital counseling to work on issues that have happened to you both, so they are not repeated. Don't separate your money. That keeps you separate instead of joining together to become one like marriage is intended.
Julene M.

Reviewed March 2018

Take the Next Step:

  • Consider these suggestions to make your second marriage's finances run smoothly.
  • Stop allowing debt to cramp your lifestyle and rob you of peace of mind. The TDS ebook How to Conquer Your Debt No Matter How Much You Have can give you back both. Get started today!
  • Funding an emergency fund now can help prevent debt problems and even bankruptcy later. Start saving today with these 11 easy ways to find $1000 for an emergency fund.
  • Get control of your financial life. Subscribe to Financial Independence, a free daily email that provides you with the tools to help you gain that control and achieve financial independence. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist for FREE!

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