I just read a post at Plan Your Escape about one couple's approach to handling their finances in marriage. Ahhh, this one took me back. This is exactly the illusion under which my husband and I operated when we started our life together 20 years ago. When we first started living together, we each had our separate bank accounts. We split all the joint costs, just like roommates would. Later, we opened a joint bank account together and each contributed half the projected joint expenses into that account, keeping the rest of our money separate.
When we got married four years later, we continued this "yours, mine, and ours" approach as we could see that we were much better off than those couples that argued about money all the time. We were so smart to do it this way and avoid all that conflict over the number one reason couples fight, right? Wrong!
Over the years we came to a few realizations:
This was a lot of work! Maintaining 3 separate checking accounts, making sure the joint account had enough money, and making more transfers in when unexpected joint expenses came up. We're both accountants, the last thing we wanted to spend our non-working hours on was more accounting work!
It made saving for common goals harder. When we started saving for our first home, we each contributed to a joint savings account (yes ANOTHER bank account) in an agreed-upon amount to save for that house. But the truth is, if one person wants to save even more (to get there faster), and the other is spending their "separate" money, one feels the sacrifice more than the other. In trying to save for any goal, it's a lot easier just to dump all the money in one place and then make joint decisions (perhaps talking the other out of that new pair of boots) to keep that goal in mind (and know that you're getting there TOGETHER.)
You are either a couple that argues about money or you are not. No amount of bank account gymnastics will change who you are. I have a friend that still (25 year of marriage and 2 kids later), to this day handles their money in this separate fashion, and they argue about money all the time! It's not the clever way you divvy up your money, how many bank accounts you have, or how the cash flows in and out of them that determine how a couple deals with money. It's much more basic than that. You either argue about money or you don't.
At some point, we just took the leap (and YES, it felt like a giant leap at the time) and threw all our money in the pot together. It not only made life a whole lot easier without all that back and forth, it ultimately made it easier to save for an early retirement. Putting it all together makes you more open about money, not less open. And in marriage are you really aiming for what is "even" or are you a team, working to achieve joint goals for the joint life that you are building together?
The other thing to remember, is over the many years of a marriage, things change. For us, my husband lost his job. If we were still under the old methodolgy, he would have been made to feel that he was no longer "contributing" since he wasn't making deposits to that account anymore. That may have caused him even more stress at an already stressful time in his life. Ultimately we decided together that our life was much better with him staying home, so the convoluted money strategy wouldn't have worked anymore anyway.
Don't fool yourself into thinking that this is the reason you don't argue. Toss it all in the same pot and I guarantee it won't change the way you relate to one another about money. You are a happy, well-adjusted couple because you're a happy well adjusted couple, not because you've figured out the money secret of a lifetime.