Marriage & Money: Yours, Mine, and Ours

When each spouse works and they can't agree on financial issues or even find the time to talk about them, they sometimes decide to split the bills down the middle or allocate them in some other manner that seems fair and equitable. Once the bills have been covered, each spouse can spend what's left as they see fit.

Sounds reasonable, but the process often builds resentment over the individual purchases made. It also divides spending power, eliminating much of the financial value of marriage. The couple who splits the bills probably hasn't sat down to plan for their long-term goals such as buying a home or securing their retirement.

It can even lead to relationship-ruining behavior. When one spouse hides money from the other, known as financial infidelity, it can be as serious as the term implies.

Bill splitting also tends to leave out planning for big changes, including setbacks. How will the couple handle it if one spouse loses a job; decides to take a pay cut to try out a new career; leaves the workforce to raise children, go back to school, or care for a parent?

Couples owe it to themselves to have a conversation about such contingencies well before any of them becomes an urgent issue.

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