5 Financial Mistakes Married Couples Should Avoid

For richer or poorer. That line is often included in the wedding vows that most people make. If the recent divorce statistics can be believed, that part of the vow does not always hold true. Money has always been a potentially explosive topic for married couples. This particular minefield is usually the number one reason why couples end up fighting or getting divorced. To prevent that from happening, it is prudent to exercise caution when making any financial decisions.

Here are five mistakes that married couples make when dealing with financial matters.

Pooling All Your Money In A Single Joint Account

One of the most sensitive topics that you have to deal with as a married couple is how to handle your disposable income. Most of the time, you won’t be making the same amount of money. This might make the person who is making less money feel insecure or defensive.

Most people combine their money to make things much easier. However, should you combine all your money into a single joint account? Quite frankly, the answer is no. You should always have several accounts, one for you, one for your spouse and a joint account. I talk a little more about this in my article about my marriage misconceptions. You should always have some autonomy over a percentage of what you make to spend it on whatever you want. There should be some things that you can buy without first asking permission from your spouse. Talk it over and agree on the amount you should set aside just for yourselves.

There seems to be a lot of confusion about point #1.. I am advocating a joint account.. just a separate account to put fun money in for each spouse. There is absolutely no need to have fun money in the joint account. All money goes into the joint account, then each spouse gets a monthly allowance for fun money in their personal account. This insures each spouse can have fun, but doesn’t mess up the joint account transactions or goals.

Running Up An Enormous Credit Card Bill

The first year of getting married can be expensive. You might have spent way too much on the wedding of your dreams. You might have also bought a new house or redecorated your place to reflect both of your styles. It can be so easy to run up thousands of dollars in debt just by using that credit card. This all coming from the credit card king 🙂

Debt and an uncontrollable spending habit is probably the most common issue that causes fights between couples. Most people will not see eye to eye when it comes to how much credit card debt is acceptable.

The problem with debt in a marriage is that you are now fiscally responsible for the debts that you incur as a married couple. That means you will also be held legally responsible for any credit card debt your spouse racks up. Even if you decide to keep separate finances, your spouse’s credit score is a consideration when you apply for joint credit. If your spouse has a low credit rating due to a high credit utilization ratio, then it will definitely affect your chances of getting approved for a joint loan.

Nagging About Spending

Couples usually have stereotypes when it comes to spending habits. One person is the spender while the other is known to be the saver, and never the two shall meet. The saver will keep on nitpicking on what the other spends, blaming that person for everything. The spender will also end up getting mad because the other person is being irrational. Studies have shown that most of the times there aren’t any spenders and savers. Each person just spends differently. When compared, most married couples will each spend the same. Often times, it will be the wife who will be buying household necessities and the husband buying the big ticket items. To avoid any arguments, just set a budget on how much each person is allowed to spend.

Keeping Money Secrets

Trust is an integral part of any marriage. Without trust, your marriage will be just full of suspicions about your spouse’s activities. It will just cause your relationship to quickly fall apart. One of the worst offences that can break the trust in any marriage is to keep money secrets. This would range from hidden banks accounts, to credit cards that your spouse does not know about, to debt problems that have escalated. In some extreme cases, you might not even be aware that your spouse has taken out a second mortgage on your home or wiped out your joint bank account. These secrets can definitely break your trust in one another and may be hard to repair.

Failing To Set Aside Emergency Money

You are both young, earn a good living, and are relatively healthy. Your main goal is to enjoy your new life as a married couple. You can always save later once you decide to have kids. However, life is unpredictable. The economy might tank, your spouse might lose his job, or an accident might happen. You should always save for a rainy day because you never known when you will need it.

Have you made any financial mistakes as a couple? How did you recover? What other financial mistakes do you think couples should avoid?


5 Financial Mistakes Married Couples Should Avoid — 28 Comments

  1. A big mistake is to adjust to the biggest spender’s lifestyle, even though one spouse makes less money. If the girl was going out every night and spending lavish vacations then the guy comes along and starts spending too much too. They move into a house and suddenly “need” the softest sofa and the biggest TV, instead of sitting down, figuring out what each already has and having a common plan.

    • Living on both incomes is a horrible idea! I know tons of people who get hurt because of the lifestyle inflation 2 incomes can bring

  2. Making “money assumptions” is a killer as well… What’s important to us as a couple? What are we willing to sacrifice? What are we NOT willing to sacrifice? These are the kinds of questions that should be considered prior to the marriage, but assuming they haven’t been, better late than never.

  3. Great tips, especially for some that might be adjusting from being a big spender or is not disciplined financially.

    I would say though that I disagree, to some extent, with #1. I know this can be a touchy issue for some, but when you get married you’re part of a team (in my opinion). Saying that you need to “have autonomy” over a certain percentage of your income can lead to a dangerous predicament. I completely agree with having a certain amount set aside for each partner to do with as they please. But, when done out of a shared pot it can be much more harmonious (again in my opinion). I think when you start looking at it as I make a certain percentage and you make a certain percentage, you set yourself up for problems that can be easily avoided if just viewed as a team effort.

    All that said, you have to find what works for you and your spouse. I think being on the same page is key with financial issues.

    • I agree! All of our money is pooled because it is “our money.” None of it is his or mine. We share everything. I have seen more arguments about money between couples because they have seperate finances. Having your money seperate means that you don’t have to be accountable to the other person for your spending. I think this is a set-up for failure.

      However, I totally agree with the other points!

    • That was my point of #1.. For example, my wife and I have a joint account and 2 personal accounts. All money goes into the joint account and we transfer agreed upon fun money to our personal accounts. The personal accounts are not tracked via yodlee (transactions) so we can spend whatever want in our personal accounts.. until it runs out. This works flawless for us.. I don’t care what she buys, she doesn’t care what I buy.. why? well that’s your personal money and not house funds.

  4. Opening up a conversation about money is really the foundation to a happy financial marriage. My husband and I started out with very little, dug ourselves a hole, then had to talk our selves out of it working together paying off debt. And we did it without fighting – a miracle indeed!

  5. I say all of the money goes into the joint account first and then individual spending money is agreed upon by both people and distributed to an iindividual spending account if they wish. Nothing should go straight to an individual account first.

  6. I’ll chime in with the others that say that #1 isn’t necessarily a mistake. My husband and I have been married for 26 years and we’ve always pooled our money. We rarely have money disagreements, so it works for us.

  7. I almost disagreed before I read the one about pooling money. I agree have several accounts. One for joint expenses, one each for personal and another for joint savings.

    Though I agree with never keeping financial secrets the sad truth is that more people do it then you would think. Working in the financial industry you wouldn’t believe how many people have account their spouse didn’t know about.

    What I found most interesting that more women think its ok. I have had more then a few say I need money for a rainy day or my mom said that women should always have a backup. Just a mess if you ask me.

  8. I guess there are a lot of people who are guilty of mistake number 4 – keeping money secrets. For me, there is an advantage as long as the intention is not for selfish reasons but for entire family wellness. Secret money could be a life-saver one day.

    • There seems to be a lot of confusion about point #1.. I am advocating a joint account.. just a separate account to put fun money in for each spouse. There is absolutely no need to have fun money in the joint account. All money goes into the joint account, then each spouse gets a monthly allowance for fun money in their personal account. This insures each spouse can have fun, but doesn’t mess up the joint account transactions or goals.

    • There seems to be a lot of confusion about point #1.. I am advocating a joint account.. just a separate account to put fun money in for each spouse. There is absolutely no need to have fun money in the joint account.

  9. I think it’s interesting how many people find the idea of having separate accounts in any form (even a separate account + a joint account) such an indicator of not having joint goals or not being on the same page about money. I’ve found it exactly the opposite in my marriage. We are very much on the same page, with his/hers & ours accounts. In contrast, my ex and I pooled all of our money and it was nothing but trouble. That said, I don’t think it’s how you hold your money that’s the critical difference.

  10. You have very good points. It is really important to build a practical lifestyle or else you will incur a lot of financial problems along the way. This is an eye-opener for young couples. I like your tip regarding credit card bills. It is important to maintain your credit rating. Purchase only essentials. Make sure to pay your bills on time. By doing this, you stay away from bankruptcy.
    I also agree with your suggestion to set aside emergency money in case financial problems come along. We all have to save some penny for a rainy day.

  11. I would have to say we are guilty on all of those except the money secrets. We have an emergency account but occasionally will empty it on debt but then try to replenish it over the next few months.

  12. Your points are well taken, but I too disagree with #1. My wife and I are happily married and we have a joint savings and joint checking account. We go at money together. We don’t nag each other, but we do discuss money and track our spending. I think #1 might be a good idea if you’re a couple with differing financial philosophies or you can’t agree on what your money should be spent on. But like it or not, when you’re married, you’re married and two have become one. I fundamentally disagree with the idea that your finances should be separate. Instead, work together to get on the same page with your money.

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