Separate Checking Accounts Are Dangerous

Katie says her husband is pushing hard for separate checking accounts. She would rather keep the accounts combined. Dave warns Katie that this isn't a good sign.

QUESTION: Katie in Dallas says her husband is pushing hard for separate checking accounts. She would rather keep the accounts combined. Dave warns Katie that this isn’t a good sign.

ANSWER: It’s really not good. Jesus said, “Your treasure is where your heart is.” When you do your spending together and we have an income and we have expenses and we have goals, it keeps it being we. It creates unity. When you’re in agreement on where the money is going—your treasure is where your heart is—then you’re in agreement about your life.

Marriage counselors often use a budget to force people to communicate about life’s most important things where they were ignoring them before. It is vital in a marriage for you to learn to work together and set goals together and deal with your fears and challenges together—not just have a roommate that you happen to sleep with. This is not a joint venture; it’s a marriage. The preacher said, “And now you are one.” As a matter of fact, the old marriage vows, which not that many people use anymore but some do—The Book of Common Prayer—say, “Unto thee I pledge my worldly goods.” It kind of comes around in that “for richer, for poorer” section in the vows. “In sickness and in health.”

No, this is very dangerous, and Katie, this is very bad—especially that he is being this pushy and this exacting in his verbiage on it. I will tell you that … anecdotally, I haven’t marked it down and I haven’t actually kept up with it in research, but over the years of 20 years of financial counseling, when I have a spouse who is demanding separate accounts, a disturbing number of times I discover an affair because they’re planning to leave. They’re wanting a separate life because they have a secret life. They already have a separate life that they don’t want to be discovered. It’s a little tough to have “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” or whatever as an envelope. That one usually doesn’t pass muster.

I’m not saying your husband’s having an affair, but I am saying this is a very disturbing thing relationally and spiritually that he is this adamant about separating your life. You should want to combine your lives. Intimacy is part of a high-quality marriage.

No, I would not settle for that. I would take this as a sign that you guys have some work to do on your communication, that you have some work to do on the give-and-take in your marriage, and you may even need to sit down with a good marriage counselor—not because it’s at the end or just before divorce but because we probably need a tune-up here. The car’s running rough.

Something’s going on that’s causing him to want this separate identity from you versus like when you first started dating and you were all in love and he couldn’t get enough of you. Now he wants to be separated from you. That’s what we’re calling this. That’s what this is. “It’s just easier dealing with his money.” Yeah, right. I’m sorry, Bubba. Not buying. I’ve been down this path too many times. Something else is up. I hope it’s not something extreme like I outlined there. It’s a problem.

Couples need to learn to work together, so we suggest you combine your finances. Is it okay to have a separate checking account? Yes, but you don’t run your household and your life separately. This is not your freaking roommate. His job is to love you well. Your job is to love and respect him well and to be working together and have some shared goals. You give up some things so that he gets some of the things he wants. He gives up some things so that you get some of the things you want. You both give up some things so that we achieve higher goals like giving. We live like no one else so that later we can live and give like no one else. We learn to work together.

Separate accounts are a bad idea.

Jump-Start Your Goals!

Jump-Start Your Goals!

Get our 8-Day JUMP START series and weekly newsletter that are packed with articles and tools to help you win with money.

Reach Your Money Goals

Reach Your Money Goals

Start with a budget. Join the millions already budgeting with EveryDollar!

Create My (FREE) Budget

Thank You!

Your 8-Day Jump Start is on its way to !