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April 30, 2021

Should couples merge their finances or keep things separate?

20 years ago, merging finances after becoming a couple wasn’t something people thought about much. Most of them married young and quickly opened joint bank accounts, got a mortgage in both names, and shared credit cards.

Younger people are marrying less and less these days, and when they do marry, they're generally older than in generations past. It’s also much more likely that both people will work and have their own sources of income.

As well, with common-law relationships becoming much more common, the whole 'merging-money' issue is simply a little more complicated than it once was. If you get together when you're older, for instance, you're likely already financially established and merging your finances may seem like too much trouble.

That's the rationale for keeping most of your finances separate, except for perhaps one joint rent/utilities account to which both people contribute equally. Other times, each person picks certain bills and expenses to pay for -- which may not necessarily be equal.

If they do merge at all, some couples do so proportionally. If one partner earns two-thirds of the household income, say, she contributes two-thirds of the joint account. After funding the joint account, both partners can do whatever they want with the balance.

One thing is sure though. If one of you has a problem, everybody has a problem. Money resentments tend to spill over and spoil relationships.

How do things work in your house? Are you happy with such an arrangement? How have things changed over time?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...