As long as there have been couples, there have been spats over
money. Family law attorney Shel C. Harrington says money and
financial philosophy in general is one of the top three marital
problems she sees. She has witnessed the good, the bad, and the
ugly when it comes to marital money and provides some insight into
three common ways couples handle their accounts.
Harrington says the most problematic system is when couples have
separate accounts and divide up the bills. "If one side screws up,
the consequence affects both," she says. "If she doesn't pay the
electric bill, he's in the dark, too." Problems often arise when
one person's income changes, often resulting in resentment, or one
person makes significantly more than the other and has more
disposable income to play with.
Many couples who co-mingle all their funds delegate the money
management to one partner. "Where it gets to be a problem is if it
is done for controlling reasons or if the non-payor has no idea
where the money goes," Harrington says. This sets one partner up to
be shielded from bad decisions and incapable of handling the money
if something happens to the primary money manager. Best practice is
for couples to discuss finances periodically so both parties
understand where the money goes, how, and why.
Many couples pool all their money and then allocate an amount to
each partner that cannot be questioned by the other. "My favorite
model is most money into a shared pool for all expenses with equal
agreed upon amounts going into separate accounts for discretionary
spending," says Harrington. The simplicity of this method may help
couples communicate better about their money.
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