Married Money



My recent conversation with Scott Halliwell, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner with USAA, about newlyweds and finances got me thinking. What if we’re not newlyweds? What if we have been married for years? Shouldn’t we have it all figured out by now? 


Granted, my husband and I are long past the initial shock of integration of our personal financial footprints into one set of feet. Yes, we have had the hard discussions of who will handle the finances, whether or not we should have joint checking, if and when we should invest, and even most of those initial large purchases that you swear you won’t live through. That doesn’t mean we’re done talking finances. 


We have our basic budget established. We know what we want to afford and what we can afford. Every major life event, every holiday, every vacation, every pay raise, every change in rank, every permanent change of station (you get my drift) we have a financial talk, again. 


We both have personalities that work well together when it comes to finances so we seldom argue though I will admit to some disagreements from time to time. We are lucky though, because arguments about money hamper many marriages. There have been many studies that show couples fight more about money than they do about sex. Whether those arguments stem from the budget, the division of the money, who is earning/spending the money, debt, or an array of other financial issues, they’re prevalent.


Many financial blogs and advice columns say communication is key to keeping marriage strong when it comes to money. I completely agree. Just the other day my girlfriends and I were talking about finances and our spouses. I won’t lie I was feeling a bit out of place as they discussed how things weren’t working well in this area of their marriage. 


The topic of spending money on themselves and the kids came up. I asked them what their “must talk about” spending limit was that they had agreed on with their spouse. They both looked at me strangely. I thought everyone had this limit. 


Our agreed upon spending limit is one of the golden nuggets of advice I tucked away from my mother-in-law. She said that there will be times that each of us just wants to spend outside of the budget. Whether that expense be a new dress, some extra ammo for the range, or even a gift for a loved one. What we needed to do is agree on an amount that we both felt comfortable with that we could spend without talking to the other one about it. Anything over that amount had to be a joint decision. My husband and I set our limit. It has been a savior to our relationship as it is a ground rule. 


Money is never fun to talk about unless you’re swimming in it. Chances are you’re not swimming unless you’ve won or been given money or you’re celebrating your hard work and achievement of saving some. That hard work has to start somewhere and it has to have a plan and established boundaries. Whether you’re a newlywed or you’ve been around the block for years communicating frequently and openly and establishing those agreed upon rules is something that I would encourage.



Do you and your spouse disagree when it comes to money? 

What “ground rules” do you have for your money marriage? 




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Frequent Visitor

I don't normally share like this but this article hit so many points I agree with, already practice and attempt to teach others, I just had to support it.  First a couple specific points I do that Tara does:


- Agree the number one issue in marriages seems to be about finances.  This is why my wife and I merged all finances from day one.  This includes full disclosure complete with power of attorneys both ways.  It was hard but there is no his and her money, it's always our money.  A marriage is about trust so why stop at money?


- We have also set a specific amount of money to spend without comment from the other spouse.  If it's above that amount?  We each get a veto and a veto means we just don't get it.  I feel it is really necessary to research each purchase above the specific amount to "sell" the purchase to the spouse with logical reasons why we should get it.  Even a passionate plea of "I gotta have it!" can suffice if you remember that one rule, "everything in moderation".  An example would be if you buy more of something, maybe it's time to get rid of an older/non-used same thing as a replacement instead of just accumulating more.  As I mentioned above it's our money, not mine, not hers.


I would like to share a few more things we do.  Your mileage may vary:


- We have a list of big ticket items (closer to "want" things, not "need" things) in prioritized order.  We save until we can afford it, then get it and scratch it off the list.  Typically it contains neat toys, appliance upgrade (typically not replacement), oversea vacations, etc.  Since it often takes years to save for them, it's important we set these as goals and work toward them without other "want" distractions.


- Each of us has something we want that the other will veto, like for a hobby.  We have a way out of this as well even though it is something that may occur only a couple times a decade.  We will set aside a same amount for each of us and we can spend as we like without a veto.  These are not bigger than the big ticket item list but they are far above the specific-amount-of-money-to-spend limit.  Since these are easily "wants", the money must be saved before getting it.


- Obviously the typical savings (401ks maximized, student loans for kids being paid into, etc.) and paying bills (all loans converted to low interest loans like a 15 year mortgage, never carrying over a credit card balance of anything other than $0, etc.) needs to happen first before spending most of the money mentioned above.  It's all about priorities.


Good luck.

Guest Author
Guest Author

Thanks for the feedback! I truly appreciate it. 

New Member

We do just the opposite of the previous poster.  We keep all our finances separate even though it is community property, so that no one feels guilt over making those "want" purchases.  We still actively communicate about our income, savings goals, whether we are on track, and how to divide up expenditures.  Both of us feel that this gives us more of a comfort level over our money than joint accounts do.


Not so good...?¿

Occasional Visitor

During my first marriage, we had joint everything and it was a strain on our relationship.  We had drastically different salaries, interests, spending habits, and definitions of "needs vs. wants."  As a result, I had to either be quite when my ex spent money or be accused of "lording my salary" over his head.  Mostly, I stayed quiet to avoid fighting and we were never able to save.  My "now" husband also had a negative experience with his ex when it came to differing values on how to spend / save.  Because of those experiences, we have decided to keep our funds seperate, but still be open and honest about those topics.  We each have our own personal accounts, and then put an agreed upon amount in to a joint account to cover bills.  We also have a joint credit card for groceries and expenses that are mutually benificial.  This strategy works very well for us so we don't have to feel like anyone is financially dominant or gets the "veto".  Having said that, we do discuss large purchases when they are joint or individual to support one another and provide a "sanity check." 


My advice on the diecision to keep joint or mutual funds is simple...  Have open and honest discussions about your financial and purchasing philosophies and if you do decide to mix funds, allow each person a slush fund so that allows each person to spend on whatever they want.  Every couple will be different and align your funds in accordance with how closely those values align.

Briana Hartzell USAA


Thank you for your comment. It is great to see another way that a family successfully manage their finances. Thank you again for sharing!