Everyone who knows me well is surprised to learn that I don’t have a single bank account all to myself. Yes, their fiercely independent friend who’s never wanted to rely on anyone else—the same person who would rather keep her awkward last name than adopt her husband’s—shares 100% of her finances with that spouse, Paul.
There’s a simple reason for this: From the time Paul and I moved in together, we felt 2 people could share a life while keeping separate identities—distinct names, careers, and social media accounts—but that life might be easier and happier if we merged finances. About 18 years and 2 kids later, we’ve found this path has been right for us.
If we’re sharing a life, we reasoned, we’d share expenses too. Sure, it might have been easy enough to split everything 50-50 from separate accounts when we were earning similar paltry amounts as recent college grads, living in a modest rental with just food, utilities, and the occasional night out to think about. Do you know what was even easier? Not thinking about it. We are notoriously lazy and having our paychecks direct-deposited into the same checking account from which we paid bills suited us well. This laziness later inspired our joint savings accounts, joint credit cards, and joint investing accounts too.
Fair warning: This works only if you’re comfortable with someone else seeing your every financial move. And we are. We’ve had a no-secrets policy since we started dating in middle school, and sharing accounts is a low-effort way to maintain that.
Still, there are downsides, such as when we were merely dating, and I noticed a substantial amount was suddenly deducted from our not-ample shared checking account … weeks before our trip to Paris. I correctly deduced an engagement ring was in my future, and spared Paul the questions I ordinarily would have asked.
That’s actually one of the beauties of shared accounts: There are always 2 sets of eyes on money coming in and going out, so we have double the odds of spotting something amiss—such as when someone several states away was buying weirdly named party games on our credit card. Plus, knowing someone else sees what we buy means we feel comfortable justifying our expenses, which could help keep our spending under better control. We still aim to discuss any buys over $100, but if we forget, we literally have the receipts to spark a conversation if we care to.
A divorced friend advocated strongly that I keep at least some pre-marital money in my own account. After all, no one can predict where their relationship will go in the future. But because we’ve been together since we were 13, we have a deep trust that, even if our marriage went south, we wouldn’t wage a financial war against each other. Besides, if we divorced, we’d still have our house, kids, and a million other shared things to split—what’s a few more assets? Seriously, though: No matter how hard it would be to divvy up accounts later, it wouldn’t overshadow how much easier sharing finances has been for all these years.
Making money decisions out of laziness is probably not a universally excellent strategy. But if your life gets more complex from homeownership, different incomes, and children, you may crave arrangements you can simplify. This is one of them. We continue to contribute all our earnings to that same years-old checking account, we pay many of our bills from that same place, and we jointly decide what to do with whatever cash is left over. We don’t worry about who has paid how much toward our joint expenses, whether that contribution amount is fair or should change when our salaries change, or whether someone spent too much on their own items. Accountability, openness, and fairness are built into our system. Even though that system might have been a happy accident, I’m so grateful that, with adulting and parenting taking up so much brain space, how we split and pay for expenses isn’t adding to that heavy mental load.
Want to see the other side of this coin? Here's why one couple decided not to combine any of their finances. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing for you and your partner. You could go halfsies and combine some, but not 100%, of your accounts.