Merge Your Money Seamlessly


Author Martha Baer does the math on sharing finances as a couple.

It becomes, perhaps, more sacrosanct—much harder to blow on other things—and more shared. Now, spending that $100 on a nice lunch might not only be a violation of their savings plan, but also a belittling of their vacation time and, consequently—at the deepest level—of their commitment.

Personally, my partner and I aren't ones for a lot of buckets—which may be just as well. CPA Steve Deutsch in San Francisco points out that consumers can be easily fooled by hidden "convenience" fees and penalties when they sign up for multiple accounts. "How do you think the banks are making so much money?" he asks. "They're not doing extra paper work for nothing."

But when Tricia's husband puts money aside for each of his children, he's caretaking. Logically, there's no difference between a lump deposit of $400 and the separate $100 deposits he makes in each credit union account. But internally, for whoever is listening, he's saying something pretty profound about family.

Ultimately, though, the really sensitive banking area is not the number of accounts. It's the decisions that involve sharing. No choice at the teller's window is as freighted as the one about joint versus individual accounts.

Many partners immediately see the preference for separate accounts as indicative of a lack of trust. If both mates feel their union is for life and that their values, hopes, and dreams are shared, why split up the dollars? Unless we're unconsciously planning a breakup, they reason, each of us will want the same things and act in the interest of the marriage.