combine finances

Combining finances with a spouse marks a significant milestone in any relationship, symbolizing a union of hearts and a melding of financial lives. While full of promise, this step brings complexity that demands careful consideration and planning.

The decision to combine finances with your spouse can pave the way for a harmonious partnership, fostering transparency and shared goals, or it can lead to discord if not navigated wisely. Understanding the key factors in this process is essential for couples looking to build a stable and prosperous future together.

Couples must deliberate on several aspects before plunging into shared financial waters. From assessing individual financial habits and obligations to setting mutual goals, the process requires a level of openness and honesty that may not have been previously tested.

These considerations are not just about the logistics of merging bank accounts or splitting bills; they’re about aligning values, priorities, and visions for the future. In this context, we will explore nine important points couples should consider when combining their finances, ensuring that this critical step is taken with both eyes open and a shared understanding of the path forward.

Things to Consider When You Combine Finances With A Spouse

1. Know where you stand financially

Before you combine your finances with someone else, you must clearly understand your personal finance picture. How else can you have a meaningful conversation about your new financial life together if you don’t know what’s happening with your money? The amount of information your new partner will want largely depends on their personality.

Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself before you have the money talk:

  • Do you have credit card debt?
  • Are your debts on one card or ten?
  • How about student loans, auto loans, or a mortgage?
  • Do you pay them on time?

What about savings and retirement planning? Are you sitting on a large stash and counting the days until financial independence? Are you drowning in consumer debt and wondering when you can file for bankruptcy (maybe even again)? Or is it something in between?

2. Why do you want to combine finances?

While this may seem like a silly question, many people don’t take the time to think this part through. They jump into how to combine finances without ever considering the why. Articulating the reasons you want to combine finances may not change your decision. But it can help you get in the right frame of mind and may ease the process.

Are you combining finances because you think you must? Maybe you’re doing it because that’s how your parents did it. Perhaps you’re considering it at your partner’s (or someone else’s) insistence.

3. Benefits and drawbacks

Maybe you’re not even sure you want to combine finances. There are certainly some pros and cons to both sides of the argument.

The biggest pro to the joint finances argument is probably convenience. Combining money generally means having at least one joint bank account. Having a joint account means that either or both of you have access to all the money in the account all the time.

This can make things like paying for groceries and other household expenses nice and easy. You no longer have to discuss who will pay or how to split the bill.

The potential benefit of having a joint account is that both partners have equal access to the money. The potential downside of having a joint account is that both partners have equal access to the money.

4. Are you both comfortable with each other’s financial situation?

Often, revealing the details of your financial life to another person can make you feel vulnerable. This can make the money conversations difficult at first.

Opening up your books to your partner and taking stock of each other’s finances is only part of the equation. Once you have laid all your cards on the table, you must decide whether you are comfortable with each other’s financial situations.

Maybe your partner still has six figures of student loan debt, and you have a million dollars in retirement accounts. Or perhaps you’re both debt-free but have no savings. What about your financial and life goals?

It is important to ensure you can get on board with each other’s plans. Life will look much different for two individuals working full-time and aiming to retire early than two people with summers off looking to take month-long adventures every year. Even if you don’t have the same goals, ensuring those plans are compatible is important.

It doesn’t matter what individual pieces you both bring to the table. Ultimately, you both need to be comfortable with the new picture that takes shape when you start to put those pieces together.

5. Are your money-handling styles compatible?

Maybe you’re worried because you are a saver and the other a spender. (This is much more common than you might think.) Maybe one of you is a Type A personality, and the other isn’t sure what day it is.

As the saying goes, personal finance is very personal. So, as you might expect, we all have our habits and techniques for handling money. In this regard, there are a lot of things to consider.

Do you both budget every penny? Maybe you check your account statements for a few minutes each month. Likely, it’s something in between.

Learn More: A Simple Approach to Budgeting

Having different money styles is normal and is generally not a cause for concern. The real sticking point will be whether your two styles can coexist in a way that works for both of you.

6. How will you divide up the jobs?

So, you’ve decided you are comfortable with each other’s financial pictures. You’ve identified each other’s money-handling styles and decided you will do the whole two become one thing. You’re done.

Nope. This is where the how comes in. All those big and little details still need to be figured out. Here’s a table that might help you figure out who is going to be responsible for what.

Financial TaskSpouse 1 ResponsibilitySpouse 2 ResponsibilityJoint ResponsibilityNotes
Bill PaymentsAutomate when possible for consistency.
Budget PlanningMonthly meetings to adjust and plan.
Savings & InvestmentAlign goals for future planning.
Debt RepaymentDivide based on income ratio or debt ownership.
Emergency Fund ManagementContribute proportionally to income.
Major Purchases DecisionDiscuss purchases above a certain threshold.
Subscription & MembershipsReview annually to cut unnecessary expenses.
Financial Goal SettingSet short-term and long-term goals together.
Tax Preparation & FilingConsider hiring a professional if jointly filing.

Which of you will write the checks and lick the stamps regarding bills? (Or, for those living in modern times, which of you will monitor the electronic bill payments?) How about keeping track of the daily personal and household expenses? Will you even track them? What if you both love creating and updating spreadsheets!?

Read About Setting Up a Cash Flow Calendar

7. Which accounts will you keep?

I call this the “Do we need two toasters problem.” When combining households, most people combine their belongings as well. It is not uncommon to end up in a situation where, after the dust settles, you have a lot of redundancy in the things you own. Do you keep your toaster or your partner’s toaster? Or do you throw them both out and buy a new toaster that you pick out together?

Combining finances often results in the same type of situation. Which means you also have a lot of choices to make. In short, how will you figure out which accounts to keep, which to close, and whether to open any new accounts?

Bank Accounts

As you might expect, there are a few schools of thought on combining bank accounts.

Ours: Some people feel that having only one joint checking and one joint savings account for the household is the only right way to combine finances. Some of the advantages of a system like this are simplicity and equality. If you have one account, there is no question about where the money goes when it comes into the household, and both partners have equal access to use that money.

Mine: Others prefer to go the opposite route and keep all bank accounts separate. In this system, household expenses are divvied up in some manner, leaving each partner responsible for their share of expenses and free to manage their accounts. In marriage situations, this is more commonly seen in second (or third) marriages or unions where one or both partners are older and more set in their ways financially.

Additional Resource: The Best Savings Accounts of 2024

This system is not without its drawbacks, however. Unlike the shared account system above, the separate nature of this system can create financial hurdles if one partner needs access to the other partner’s accounts, especially in times of job loss or serious health issues.

Yours, Mine, and Ours: Another way to tackle this issue is to use a hybrid system. Each partner has a separate account into which their income is deposited, and a household has a joint account with both partners named on the account. Each partner transfers money from their accounts into the household account, and all household expenses are paid from the joint account. This leaves each partner with an intact sense of autonomy and control over their finances while allowing for more convenient management of the day-to-day household expenses.

Credit Cards

Generally speaking, the same systems that can be used for bank accounts can also be used for credit cards. That being said, decisions regarding credit cards should be made with care as credit because opening and/or closing them can impact your credit.

If keeping your credit scores intact is one of your goals, consider both partners keeping all their cards open. That is because closing accounts can negatively impact your credit score, reducing your available credit (which can affect your utilization ratios) and your average age of accounts.

If you also want to have the simplicity of the one-account method, there are a few ways to handle that. The obvious solution might be to open up a new credit card account as joint cardholders. In that scenario, you would be legally responsible for all debt accumulated on the new card, which would appear on both partners’ credit reports.

The other way is to pick one card held by either partner (maybe the one with the best cashback, best airline mile earning potential, or lowest interest rate) and add the other partner as an authorized user on the card. Unlike a joint owner, typically, an authorized user has permission to spend on the card but is ultimately not responsible for paying it back.

Remember that in a marriage situation, state community property laws can affect this significantly. By adding an authorized user, you avoid the temporary hit to your credit that comes with an application for a new card, and you keep the number of accounts you have (and have to keep track of) from growing.

8. How will you track your finances?

Whether you keep one account or many, you will need some system to know where your money is and what it is doing. Thankfully, nearly all of the tools available for tracking your cash can be used for households just as well as one person and the we’ve highlighted two of the best budget apps for couples.

Rocket Money

rocket money

Rocket Money is a comprehensive budgeting app with features that effectively manage personal and couple finances. It provides expense tracking, budgeting, bill negotiation, subscription management, and credit score monitoring.

With both free and premium plans, Rocket Money caters to a wide audience, claiming to have saved its customers over $1 billion. The app also integrates with Rocket Mortgage and Rocket Loans, offering unique benefits like a credit card with rewards towards home purchases or mortgage payments. Users highly rate it for its diverse services and ease of use.

  • Monthly Cost – FREE for the basic version of $4-$12 per month for Premium

Read our Rocket Money Review



Empower is a financial management platform that offers a free Personal Dashboard and a Wealth Management service for more in-depth investment management. Serving nearly two million users, Empower provides extensive investment tools, even in its free version, such as asset aggregation, budgeting, and cash flow analysis.

The wealth management service, catered to clients with significant assets, offers personalized investment strategies and access to financial advisors.

  • Monthly Cost – FREE

Read our Empower Review

9. Nothing is set in stone

Maybe you decide all these things upfront, or maybe they happen. Regardless, every financial partnership has some amount of delegating and co-managing. It’s just a matter of finding the balance.

That being said, it can be wise to reevaluate things occasionally to make sure you are both comfortable with how things are going. If not, you can use the power of teamwork to come up with a new plan!

Should You Combine Finances With Your Spouse?

Combining finances with a spouse is a highly personal decision that depends on each couple’s unique circumstances, values, and financial goals. While merging finances can foster a sense of unity and simplify money management, it is crucial to have open, honest discussions about each partner’s financial habits, goals, and expectations before making such a decision.

Establishing clear communication and mutual understanding can help mitigate potential conflicts. For some, maintaining separate finances or adopting a hybrid approach may offer the flexibility and autonomy they desire. Ultimately, whether or not to combine finances with a spouse should be a collaborative decision that supports the couple’s overall financial health and relationship harmony.


  • Evan Gautier

    Evan is an attorney licensed in California and Oregon. Though his legal practice is mainly focused on civil litigation, Evan has a passion for tax, retirement planning, and personal finance. When not in court or at the office, Evan can be found hiking around Southern California or tending his suburban backyard farm with his wife and daughter. Evan earned his J.D. from Western State College of Law, and an LL.M. in Taxation from Chapman University.

    View all posts