Husband and Wife: Who Should be the Financial Controller?

It’s said that 60-80% of failed marriages have money problems at their core. Especially for the newly-weds, some financial problem only surface after marriage. You might not know how deep in debt is your spouse, unless he or she told you before signing the marriage certificate. In this post, we are going to discuss about certain issues regarding combining finances for husband and wife. Topics include:

  • Should married couples combine finances?
  • Pros and cons of combining finances.
  • Who should be the financial controller?

Should Married Couples Combine Finances

Money is the root of most evil (if not all). In the US, it is very common especially for wealthy people to have a Prenuptial Agreement before getting married.

Prenuptial Agreement
A contract between two potential marriage partners specifying how the property owned by each prior to marriage and owned individually or jointly during marriage will be divided should the couple divorce.

It is definitely a hard decision to make whether you should commit a long term financial commitment with your spouse. When we are thinking of combining finances between spouses, it has a lot to do with individual comfort and trust levels. Some separates their bills and saving even after years of marriage. For me, I combine and manage my whole household finances even before we get married. My wife trusts me with all her money. The same thing happened to my parents, but my mother is the one who control the finance.

In order to decide whether or not you should combine your finances with your spouse, take these issues into considerations:

  • How much you trust each other with money?
  • Who spend more money? You or your spouse? I suggest to let the more frugal one to be the “financial controller”
  • What are your financial goals? Do you have the same financial goals? Short-list and prioritize them. You need to compromise to come out with a set of agreeable financial objectives.
  • What is each person’s responsibility? (such as handling bills, credit card, parents’ allowances etc.)
  • Discuss about the monthly cash flow, budget and net worth. Use this list of financial tools and application to help.
  • Make a commitment to discuss about your money at least once a month if not more frequent.

Advantages of Combining Finances


         Photo by shutupyourface



Love is about “us”
Try saving to your wife, “This is my money!” Most probably this will cause a major fight and hard to put off the fire for weeks. Combining accounts seems to be a major step to show that how much you care for each other. After getting married, my financial goals become “our” financial goals. My money becomes “our” money. If your spouse earn less or stay home to take care of your family, combining finances create a sense of security.

More efficient
When you are combining accounts, it is easier to manage. Either one can sign documents or withdraw cash during emergency. Besides that, you only need “one” instead of “a pair” of the material things. You only need one TV set, one audio set, one house to stay, one car (maybe). You only need to meet one really good financial planner to plan for both person assets.

Better Investment Opportunity
By combining your total income, your assets, you can better manage them. The more money you have, the more opportunity you are exposed to. Some investment such as buying properties, or investing in hedge fund overseas require larger initial lump sum. You will be able to invest in those larger investments which are not available to you before.

Better Tax Planning
This is even better for those who has business income. You can plan your account and distribute your income more evenly, so that your income won’t be at the highest tax bracket. For both working spouses, you can opt for separate tax assessment and claim for many relief. Ask your tax agent for advice.

Share the load

You will get to make financial decision together, usually through thorough discussions which will enhance bonding between spouses. You’ll share you opinion, before committing a whole life insurance plan. You’ll educate each other on money matters.

No more “I owe you”
When you are short of cash and ask your husband to pay for the meal, do you pay him back later? It’s ridiculous right? If you have combined your finances, you will by default, know that whenever you spend and save, the money is yours together. It was added or deducted from your “joint account”.

Who Should Control the Finances?

Usually, one person of a couple acts as the family accountant or “financial controller”. He/She will be responsible for managing investment, tracking expenses, budgeting, and making other financial decisions. If you are one of those couple who opt to combine finances, it won’t be hard to appoint the person responsible. Use these criteria as a guide:

  • Who is more frugal?
  • Who is better in accounting?
  • Who is better in personal finance knowledge?
  • Who is better in investment skills?
  • Who is more convenient to handle the accounts – attends seminar, meets financial planners, goes to the bank etc.?
  • Who is more dominant?

Do you combine your finances with your spouse?

I do combine our finances. My wife trusts me with all our money and assets. We both know that I am more frugal and smarter in financial planning. I make most of the financial decisions.

However, I still get consent from my wife to make major financial decisions, such as buying another house, or vehicle. My wife still has the freedom to spend, within the budget.

How about you? Who control the finances? Please share your experience and thoughts with us.

References

TheGoldenParachute.com: Should Spouses Combine Finances?
The Simple Dollar » Love, Marriage, and Money: Should a Couple Combine Their Finances?
Should Married Couples Combine Finances? on Blueprint for Financial Prosperity
MsMoney.com – Marriage, Kids & College – Consolidating Finances
MyCity.com – Finance Blog » Love and Marriage (Combining assets & debt after marriage)
Many marriages today are ’til debt do us part – USATODAY.com
Long Relationships » Blog Archive » Q&A: Couples’ Finances

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5 Comments

  • fathersez

    Reply Reply December 24, 2007

    Hi, KC
    This is a very useful post. My wife and I have no prenups. Ours is an all for the family kind of financial planning. I am the FC.

    This year, we are taking the planing to another level. A joint budget has been done and there will be joint efforts to maintain it.

  • ChampDog

    Reply Reply December 24, 2007

    Some people said if your spouse has a great income difference from you, it is better to separate the financial. If both earn around the same amount, combining the finance is a better choice. I personally think this really depends from couple to couple. Especially for those like freedom and their own buying power, they usually prefer their finances to be seperated. For my case, I do combine my finances with my spouse.

  • Maggiemay

    Reply Reply May 3, 2009

    This article is good in theory…however…my husband is way beyond frugal. When he has control of the money he will let me and our girls go without things that he views as frivolous. Like shoes that are worn out and too small, threadbare clothing, skincare, I like to get my hair colored every two months. Sure, we wont PERISH without these things but they sure make life a lot more worth living! He is fine to walk around in pants that dont have buttons anymore and underwear that literally is crotchless because they are worn beyond thin. I am miserable like that. I am not an average woman that has to have designer everything. But I do want the basics. Its a big fight with us. Also when he controls the finances, he makes me come to him for every penny and then give a huge accounting for where I have spent it all…literally down to the last penny. It is very degrading and I resent it very much. I feel very neglected. What do you do when your views on what is necessary and affordable are? Yes, we have to pay the bills but clothing and grooming should be a normal part of the budget right? My children look like orphans at school and that is not right. I should have known years ago when we first married and I was expecting our first child and had literally outgrown all of my own clothing. He put me off for weeks until I finally convinced him that I needed some new things to wear. He gave me $100.00 and told me to go buy myself some stuff. I needed everything and he gave me a whopping $100.00. Im not a spending maniac. I have a rule about spending….I dont buy items over $25.00 for clothing, shoes, personal skincare, bras, ect…I consider myself a savvy shopper. He thinks Im frivolous. I wish he could see how so many of my friends and other women I know spend. He would pass out! I cant stand this anymore. Im tired of having to beg for my basic needs to be taken care of. Its so ridiculous!!!!!!!

    • KCLau

      Reply Reply May 6, 2009

      @ Maggiemay,

      I am sorry to hear about your situation. I suggest that you discuss about your family budget jointly with your husband.
      You will know if he is earning a lot and able to afford those stuff you need.

      Just my personal sharing – I love my wife and children. When they ask for stuff beyond my affordability, it will motivate me to earn more.

      • Smart

        Reply Reply August 20, 2012

        I agreed with you,
        This is my issue, i married not up to one year now, i got married to a rich family daughter, i am from average family who struggle and work hard to live, we takes hard decision, in my family we all have entrepreneur spirit, we like taking risk to create wealth, employ others, i made all these known to my wife before our marriage, i told her how i got my breakthrough all that, shortly before our marriage, i started a registration of one of my company, i developed the website, i opened bank account for the firm, she and her father was even made the two Directors of the company, not including any of my family member as a director at all . On this decision which i considered is right for us to build our wealth before children begins to come, meanwhile i am also working with an international school earning salary, but trying to have more sources of income, i am presently studying economics, she’s a graduate of English Lang… while doing all these she was feeling bitter saying i am re channeling the money we should have used to furnish the house, change our TV to LCD, change our stereo to Home theater, buy a car, rent more comfortable place higher than my present income, while i have a plan to establish a company, open a wine shop and getting more income….all that…i believe in investing before pleasure…but she believed in pleasure and living a comfortable life…. she said i don,t always put things on priority, i told her my priority is different from yours, i study economics i know how to put things on scale of preference, generate more income..u studeid English…..so she said she regretted getting married to me when she did, she shouldn’t get married to me from the beginning since i cannot make her all comfortable…. we are living in d staff quarters, which we have all night generating plant, chairs , DSTV, all the kitchen utensils are there, box TV, mini wifi deck, dvd etc……My opinion is lets develop business, cos we cannot rely on a paid job forever, as we are hired we can be fired…. Now we had mis-understanding concerning this, as she was talking furiously, i kept quite and gently leave the house for office……I am planning to satisfy her, pause on any of my business plan and ideas, buy her all the pleasurable things she needed, let her control the finance presently and then we can then have a separate account since she just started working. What’s your advice please!

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