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Marriage & Money


A marriage is the joining of two people, this should include full transparency of their finances. Too often this isnít the case. Financial counselors will tell you, it is too often they counsel married couples in financial peril that have separate financial accounts, living separate financial lives. This is a recipe for financial disaster. What is common with married couples living separate financial lives, is most have no idea what their spouse is doing financially.  What their household debts are, what their expenses are, some donít know their household income. In some cases spouses are denied access to the finances, not seeing the income, debts, or expenses.    


There are several dynamics with households of separate financial accounts, or when one spouse has total control of the finances restricting access for the other spouse. Trust, greed, maturity, culture, infidelity and control are some of the dynamics at play.   


Scenario 1: Married Millennials, both with postgraduate degrees, household income well into six figures, they keep separate financial accounts. Both drive new European sedans and they just purchased a new home. They each have a trusted financial advisor who has them maxing out their retirement accounts but neither knows what the other is doing financially. They donít have shared financial goals because they havenít set any. They enjoy a high standard of living of wining and dining without a care, but they donít have a cash financial reserve. Expensive vacations, top of the line cloths and high credit limits. With one sudden income loss during an economic downturn this house of cards crumbles fast. One income fails to cover half of their debts, they fall behind on their mortgage, car payments and credit cards. Soon the debt collectors and banks are knocking on their door, with judgments wanting their money. They see an attorney who recommends bankruptcy. This is a common occurrence many financial counselors saw during the last recession.


Had they put together a serious financial plan with financial transparency by first firing their financial advisors, reduced their lavish lifestyle, set financial goals together, saved together and planned for the loss of an income by building a proper emergency fund, like a true marriage should. Odds are they could have survived financially without filing for bankruptcy.


Scenario 2: A single parent during financial difficulties remarries not fully knowing the person they marry. There is no transparency of the finances. One spouse takes total control of the finances, not allowing the other spouse to see or have access to the financial accounts. Many times in this type situation the spouse is working and their pay goes to the controlling spouse, who takes control of all the financial duties. The controlling spouse uses the good credit history of the other spouse to open accounts. Itís obvious this scenario doesnít end well, many times in bankruptcy for one, or both.


These examples are not uncommon. Trusting your gut instincts may prevent a lot of financial hardship. Itís always advisable to seek professional help from real financial counselors, and a marriage counselor. Counselors without a vested interest in the outcome of the counseling sessions. Their only interest is your financial success and personal wellbeing. If you are stuck in a marriage with separate financial accounts with no transparency, or feeling trapped, seek help. A good place to start is the AFCPE.org, a professional nonprofit organization that can truly help.



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